GREEN ISLAND, N.Y. (NEW10) — Many brave young men and women are enlisted in the military at a very young age, and some were not able to finish high school and receive their diplomas. For the third year in a row, the Green Island Union Free School District awarded five honorary diplomas to veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II and the Korean war.
“There’s a program called Operation Recognition, it’s a state-sponsored program and says that any local school district can give a diploma on any veteran who left school early to do military service,” said event organizer Tom Mullins.
This year marks the 23rd Green Island Veterans Assembly. It was held at the Legnard Curtin Post 927 American Legion of Green Island. Nineteen local veterans were awarded, 18 of whom are deceased. Their families were able to accept their awards and medals.
Veterans received various awards posthumously including the New York State Liberty Award, Purple Heart Medals, a POW Medal, New York State, Conspicuous Service Crosses, and other awards including enrollment in the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. One Vietnam War veteran has had his name added to the Vietnam Memorial Monument in Monument Park on Green Island.
“Getting these awards to my uncle over the last, I’d say, 15 years, has been something that warms the heart,” said Mark Bodnar, nephew of WWII vet Joseph J.Kucskar. “For not just me but for the whole family.”
Private Joseph J.Kucskar is a WWII vet. While in the Army, he and 70,000 U.S. and Filipino soldiers were captured in the Philippines in 1942. They were forced to March in the Bataan Death March. Pvt. Kucskar survived the March, only to die as a POW at Camp Cabanatuan from amoebic dysentery and malnutrition brought on by being subjected to drinking polluted water on a regular basis.
“To know that we were buried in a shallow grave at first, but over the years we’ve been able to get his body back he’s buried now in St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands—it’s just very fulfilling to know we have taken care of my Uncle Joe,” said Mark.
Pvt. Kucskar was also awarded the New York State Liberty Award, it’s one of the highest awards a vet can receive in New York. Mark has all of Pvt. Kucskar’s awards and medals at home, and they are something he cherishes dearly. “It warms the cockles of your heart.”