On Veterans Day, I would like to honor my first cousin, Richard Drayo, who passed away in 1991. He served as a corporal in World War II in the European Campaign as a combat medic.
Richard Drayo was awarded the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, the Purple Heart and the Combat Medic Badge with three stars.
He served with the 324th Infantry Regiment - 44th Division.
His photo appears in the St. Anthony's 1945 commemorative book honoring WWII veterans from its parish in Fredonia. The book was given to me by James Dengler of Fredonia.
Richard Drayo was a great guy, easy to know and well-liked by all that came to know him.
After the war, Drayo became a doctor using the G.I. Bill. Although his family settled in Detroit, he loved Fredonia and resided in the village in the summers while growing up. He would stay with my grandmother and aunt on Cleveland Avenue in the neighborhood often referred to as "Little Italy." He worked in Chautauqua County during those summers at Dunkirk Allegheny Valley (DAV) Railroad. His close friend, former mayor and fellow World War II veteran Charles St. George, often talks to me about my cousin. He related stories about their friendship in Fredonia.
Richard Drayo was a first-generation American. He loved St. Anthony's Parish, whose parishioners at that time were almost all Italian Americans. The parish was not only the religious center, but also the center of many social and athletic activities. It was important for this first generation of young Italian Americans, as well as for other first-generation Americans, like Polish and Irish Americans, to be known first and foremost as Americans. They worked hard in school, sports, at work and in the Armed Forces.
There were many veterans from the Dunkirk-Fredonia area who selflessly and honorably served their country during World War II. Many of them are now deceased. These young Americans underwent great sacrifices for their country. Many of them spent anywhere from two to four years away from home with no way to communicate with their loved ones back home in Chautauqua County other than the occasional letter. No cell phones or email existed. They endured much hardship. For their sacrifices, hard work ethic and contributions to our country, they are now referred to rightfully as "The Greatest Generation."
From the small St. Anthony's Parish in Fre-donia, 168 young Americans courageously served their country in World War II. In 1945, the Bishop of the Buffalo Diocese, John F. O'Hara, wrote a letter to the Rev. Pio Parolin, parish priest of St. Anthony's, stating, "My congratulations to the young men and women of St. Anthony's Parish who are serving their country all over the world."
The names of the 168 veterans of World War II appearing in the 1945 St. Anthony's commemorative book are as follows: Barth J. Adragna, Joseph Ameno, Ernest Andolina, Eugene Andolina, Michael Andolora, Sam Andolora, Anthony M. Anzalone, Louis G. Anza-lone, Philip Anzalone, Russell Anzalone, Rocco Ardillo, Samuel F. Baldi, Charles S. Bardo, Joseph A. Bardo, Sam C. Bardo, Sam Bardo, An-thony C. Barone, Edward Barone, Henry J. Barone, Joseph Barone, Leonard Barone, Louis Barone, Sal-vatore Barreca, Charles Battaglia, Joseph Battaglia, Joseph R. Beckmann, George A. Borzilleri, John A. Borzilleri, Frank N. Buffa, Albert Buffo,
Peter Caccamise, Carl J. Cash, Frank A. Cash, John Cash, Thomas G. Castellana, Vincent J. Castellana, Steven Castilone, Samuel Castilone, Alfred Castle, Alexandro Catalano, Marion Catania, Thomas Catania, Joseph Cecala, Gandolph Christina, Charles Collesano, John Collesano, Joseph Collesano, Jess S. Coniglio, Joseph W. Coniglio, Leonard J. Coniglio, Louis Coniglio, Leola Coniglio, Vincent R. Conig-lio, Joseph Conte, Louis Ross Conte, Ross Conti Jr., Joseph Charles Conti, Louis Croce,
Frank DePasquale, James Detolla, John Detolla, Joseph Detolla, Richard Drayo, Guy H. Epolito, Victor R. Epolito, George J. Fadale, Joseph Fadale, Louis Fadale, Peter Fadale, Santo Fadale, John C. Falcone, Sam Faso, Andrew Ferlito, Sandy J. Foti, Tom Foti, Russel A. Gangi, Cpl. John Gennuso, Pfc. John Gennuso, Peter Gennuso, John Giambra, Sam Giambra, John Granata, Anthony Gugino, Anthony C. Gugino, Anthony F. Gugino, Anthony J. Gugino, Carl Gugino, Nicholas P. Gugino, Salvatore J. Gugino, Domenic Guzzetta, Joseph A. Guzzetta,
Rudolph H. Hoisington, Charles A. Joy, Frank A. Joy, John R. Joy, Michael J. Laurito, Rocca Laurito, Charles J. Lazarony, Charles Leone, Horace Leone, Julius Leone, Louis Leone, Russell S. Leone, Joseph Loguidice, Nelson Maggio, Anthony S. Mancuso, Frank O. Mancu-so, James A. Mancuso, Louis G. Mancuso, Salvatore Mancuso, Anthony Manuel, Joseph Manuel, Louis Manuel, Vincent Manzella, Russell Martarano, Julio N. Mele, Angelo Mellonzi, Frank Millonzi, Philip Millonzi, Orazio Millonzi, Richard Mosher, Charles R. Muscarella Jr., Charles Muscato, Russell Muscato,
Peter Nasca, James Oddo, Frank A. Ognibene Jr. , Peter A. Ognibene, Carl Pennica, Frank Pennica, Leonard A. Pollina, Russell Polvino, Salvatore A. Privitera, Guy Provenzano, Joseph C. Provenzano, Marion Ran-dazzo, Salvatore D. Ran-dazzo, Alfred Ricotta, An-drew Russo, Anthony M. Russo, Stefana Saccamano, Joseph Scanio, Ross Scanio, Carl Schibetta, Charles S. Sedota, John A. Sedota, Marion A. Siragusa, Marion H. Siragusa, Angelo Siracuse, Anthony Siracuse, Joseph Siracuse, Louis Siracuse, Louis Skelley, Charles A. Spera, Anthony C. Spero, Charles St. George, Joseph St. George, Lawrence St. George, Louis St. George, Pfc. Sam St. George, Pvt. Sam St. George, Angelo Tramuto, Joseph Tramuto, Carlo Trippe, Samuel F. Trippe, Anthony Valone, Joseph Vecchio Jr., Frank Vinciguerra and Samuel Vinciguerra.
All American veterans of every ethnicity and religion who served our country in any war or conflict or who served our country in the Armed Forces in any capacity should be recognized and honored for their service, especially on Veterans Day. God bless.
Sam Drayo Jr. is a Fredonia resident.