Memorial Day Connections in Rye
By Terry McCartney
I grew up in a military family, went to a military college, and served in the Marines. Both my mother and father and several of my siblings and their spouses served in the military as well. Nearly all of my college classmates served in a branch of the military and some are still serving. Some of them didn’t make it home.
Because of those many military connections, Memorial Day and Veterans Day are important to my family. Over the years, I have tried to share these holidays with my friends in Rye, a place where military service is not as common on resumes as it is in many other towns.
One particular group of my friends, my golfing buddies at Rye Golf Club, has attended the Memorial Day Parade and the Ceremony we hold on the Village Green every year. That group has also made it a tradition, for several years now, to get together after the official ceremonies, meet up at the Club, and play in a Memorial Day Golf Tournament to benefit Rye American Legion Post 128. Everyone wears a hat representing a branch of the service, we have a toast to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and we even have a cannon salute before we tee off.
A few years ago, we started out with about 20 players divided into five teams representing the different branches of the armed services and we raised about $1,000 for the Legion. We have expanded the field every year and started selling hole sponsorships. This year, we have 48 golfers, 40 sponsors, and hope to raise close to $8,000. Rye Post 128 uses our contributions to help finance the scholarships they award to Rye High School students every year and for annual expenses, but that is not why I write this article.
This year, when I sent out the invitations for the Tournament, I also asked the players to let me know if they had any familial connections to any of the service branches so that I could assign each person to a team that might have more meaning to them. As I started to read their replies, I thought the entire Rye community should hear their stories, too.
Rye has an incredibly strong tradition of military service and sacrifice. If you’ve attended Memorial Day ceremonies and listened to the Roll of Honor being read aloud, you already know that. The stories from the Rye Golf Club Memorial Day Golf Tournament players give another small glimpse into the heart and soul of our American hometown.
Mitch Pineault’s father served in the United States Navy in World War II and drove a landing craft that put the soldiers ashore on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Think about that scene in the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, Mitch’s dad was one of those brave men making repeated trips into mined and obstructed beaches in the face of withering machine gun fire and artillery bombardment.
Both of Mike Hull’s grandfathers served in World War II. William P. Hull was a tail gunner on B-17 bomber missions over Germany and Italy and survived a crash landing in the Swiss Alps. Vincent Frisicaro, 94 and still going strong, served in the U.S. Coast Guard and was stationed at Cape May, New Jersey to protect the American coast from German U-boats. Later in the war, he was sent to the Philippines to operate on a PT boat.
During World War II, Willie Totten’s dad served in the Army and was stationed in North Africa for two years.
Mack Cunningham’s father, Colonel John K. Cunningham, was another World War II veteran. He served in the Army under General Omar Bradley in Normandy and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. During the war, Col. Cunningham met his future bride, Anvilla Prescott, who was working for British Intelligence. Mack’s grandfather also served in the Army, as a Captain in the Signal Corps.
Mike Bassett’s uncle Jack, 20-year-old Army Sergeant John E. Bassett, was killed on December 24, 1944 when his troop ship, the <SS Leopoldville>, while on route to Cherbourg, France to reinforce the troops at the Battle of the Bulge, was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat. Mike’s second cousin, James Taylor, was a pilot in the United States Air Force who went missing in South America, when his squadron flew into a cloud bank, and was never seen again.
Keith Turco’s father, a retired Air Force Colonel, served during Vietnam and afterward as a pilot in the Strategic Air Command. Mike Wing’s dad served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War aboard the <USS Eversole>.
My dad, Eugene A. McCartney, served in the Air Force in both Korea and Vietnam. He is buried in the Veteran’s Cemetery in Hampton, Virginia.
Tom Quinn’s father was an Irish immigrant who had lived in the United States for less than two years but loved his adopted country so much that he enlisted in the Army and served during the Korean War.
Gary Basso’s dad was an Army Staff Sergeant, and his father-in-law served in the Navy Seabees on Midway for two years during the Korean War.
Greg Hale’s father served in the U.S. Army, and his grandfather served in the U.S. Navy. Myles Lavelle’s dad was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor (which explains a lot if you know Myles).
Steve Nye’s dad was in the Naval Air Corps, his uncle also served in the Navy, and his brother-in-law is a Marine. Al Vitiello served in the Army, as did his brother who was an Airborne Ranger for 15 years.
Eric DeGraw’s brother-in-law was an Air Force pilot; one of his nephews is in Air Force flight school; and another will be a cadet at the Air Force Academy in the fall. Tom Codispoti’s cousin, Lt. Col. Joseph Codispoti, is currently serving in the United States Air Force.
Lou Kangas served in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, from 1969 to 1974. Anyone who knows Lou knows that he is a Marine through and through, but his son took a different route. Lt. Colonel Lou M. Kangas graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army in 2000. He has served four separate fourteen month-long combat tours, two in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. Through all of those deployments, Lt. Col. Kangas also completed a graduate degree at Georgetown and the Army War College. In keeping with his status as one of the brightest young officers in the entire Army, Lt. Col. Kangas was recently awarded command of the 25th Infantry Battalion at Scofield Barracks in Hawaii.
Sanjay Patel’s best friend, Tommy Carlo, is a Marine who served as a Drill Instructor in Parris Island for 18 years. He later lost his leg in a car accident and has devoted his life to inspiring soldiers and Marines who have also lost limbs. Tommy was recently diagnosed with cancer but he doesn’t let that slow him down; he plays on the Wounded Warriors Softball team with his prosthetic leg. Sanjay will be playing on one of the Marine Corps teams on Memorial Day to honor his friend Tommy.
Happy Memorial Day, Rye. Have a great day, but please take a moment to think about those brave souls who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our great country and teach your children the true meaning of the day. Rye is more closely connected to that sacrifice than you might think.
Terry McCartney with his mother Lyn
Colonel John K. Cunningham, circa 1945
Jack Nye, circa 1945