Editor's note: This is the second of two parts.
Two years of cruising the streets of Dunkirk and Fredonia and watching all the pretty girls were winding down to an end. It was 1959 and Charles Triaga enlisted in the U.S. Army along with Dunkirk resident Dave Killian. The two packed and left for Fort Benning, Ga., for their eight-week boot camp stint. It was at Fort Benning that the Army figured Triaga could best serve his country by being a tank driver, operating their M-48 or M-60 tanks. Triaga was then sent to Fort Knox for Army Armor Infantry School. He was trained to drive tanks, along with learning how to operate the .30 caliber and .50 caliber machine guns.
Triaga was also given the responsibility to train and direct men under him who were given the duties of loading and ammunition bearing. On top of all of this, Triaga also had to train in the operations of the military's M1A-1911 .45 caliber pistol and the M-1 carbine rifle, because while the tanks were in hostile areas the drivers had the added responsibility of stopping any unwanted personnel from getting on or near the tanks.
Charles A. Triaga, U.S. Army
When Fort Knox training ended, Triaga was given orders which read "Report Commanding Officer U.S. Army base Ayers Kaserne, Germany." Upon arriving there, Triaga checked in and was assigned expectedly to the tank crew. His duties included the protection and maintenance of his tank. He had to monitor every fluid level, track turrets and the engine. The auxiliary engine (a smaller engine that helped the larger engine start to turn over) was the most important part of the tank. Without it, no tank could start. Being on call at all hours of every day meant that no one on the crew hit the rack if the tank wasn't 100 percent ready to go. Besides being the driver, Triaga was also trained on the Army's track vehicle. Given his assignment in the European Theatre, Triaga's tour of duty lasted 18 months.
After months spent in Germany, Triaga was granted a 30-day leave. Immediately after their Christmas breaks, other soldiers returned to their duties and Triaga was free to take his. He decided that he would return home unannounced in early January, and while there, he proposed to his girlfriend Jaye Aliamo. Aliamo said yes, but it was a bittersweet occasion. She knew her fiance would have to return to duty to serve his country. The morning came when Triaga put on his Class A uniform, checked that his bags were packed, and left his family and future wife to return to Germany.
Triaga spent his time in Germany performing the duties of his position and preparing himself for his November wedding. The days seemed like weeks, the weeks like months each day longer than the last. And when short-timer Triaga's calendar was almost full, the bad news for this young couple came over every radio and television set in the free world. Even before Triaga was given his officially revised orders, Aliamo heard the news back home.
The world watched with sinking hearts as John F. Kennedy announced that the trouble brewing in Europe was escalating, and that all military personnel in the European Theatre were forced to extend their duties by three months. Aliamo and Triaga would have to spend another 90 days apart, all the water of the Atlantic Ocean between them. Those 90 days felt like the longest of Triaga's young life.
Eventually though, Triaga's discharge duties came, and he was sent back home to the arms of his fiancee and family. Triaga was ready to once again be a civilian, and for the first time, a married man.
The newlyweds found their first apartment in the 500 block of Park Avenue in Dunkirk. Triaga landed a job with Dudley Motors as a car salesman. From there, he went to work for the Kraft Food company. He held positions there such as food production clerk in Dunkirk, then senior clerk in Palmyra, Pa. and production supervisor in Philadelphia. He returned to Dunkirk as a senior office supervisor, then traveled to Michigan to end his career with Kraft in Grand Rapids as the office manager of sales. After 13 years of moving, Triaga and his family decided that it would be better for him to find a job with which it was possible to settle down in one place.
Returning to Western New York, Triaga got a job with Allstate Insurance Co. in West Seneca. He held the position until his retirement in 2000.
Retirement came and the Triagas moved to the villages of Lady Lake, Fla. This community is a "golf cart community," and it is referred to as "The Disneyland for Adults." The Triagas stay busy and active there, and have something to do every day. Over 80 people from the Dunkirk-Fredonia area live in the community, so the Triagas can always stay up-to-date on hometown news. Each summer, the Triagas come home to Chautauqua County to spend a few weeks on Chautauqua Lake. In Florida, Triaga enjoys playing golf, pickle ball, and for a day each week, he volunteers at the village's VA outpatient clinic.
It was an honor for me to write Triaga's story. He loves his family and his country. Triaga is a man with even more friends now than he had in his youth, and not many people can claim that. He feels lucky to have one of his best friends from his high school days, Rich Notte, also living in the Villages. They played basketball together at Dunkirk High, and love reminiscing on how they joined together to ensure the team's many wins!
Triaga defended freedom when we were at war with another country. Being known as the world's peacemaker means that the U.S. is obligated to protect the world from any wars that may start again. Just like the U.S. did in Korea, we always need to have two feet on the ground, just in case trouble ignites again. Splitting Germany up after WWII and giving part of it to the Soviet Union meant that we had to protect our half from communism. Keeping a country free from communism means standing guard 24 hours every single day. Troops are always on the ready. The United States Air Strategic Command's chronological records show that during the Cold War, the U.S. had two B-52 bombers in the air at all times, every hour, every day, protecting the country. We kept our military posts in foreign countries and at home guarded 24/7, making sure that in places like Germany and Korea, the U.S. was never sleeping.
Chuck Triaga joined the Army not knowing what his duties or fate would be. He didn't know where he would be going or a clue about what would happen to him when he got there. He joined anyway. He went to Germany and stood guard while everyone at home enjoyed the free world! That alone makes him a hero. Chuck "Trigger" Triaga is our Hero of the Week.