By Jasmine Willis
WAYLAND — Those who have sacrificed all for our freedoms were honored at a special dinner.
The Wayland American Legion held a Veterans Appreciation Dinner on Nov. 10 to honor all the area veterans who served and are still serving.
Korean War Veteran, Joseph Taylor, U.S. Army served from 1952 to 53. Before he was drafted, he worked at Foster Wheeler in Dansville.
“They had told me my job would be there when I got back, but it wasn’t the same when I came home. They gave me a job cleaning the plant instead. I decide to quit working on the plant, and I went into driving truck. I drove truck for over 60 years,” he said. “I got the experience driving truck in the war. I was in charge of driving the ammunition and machines to the frontlines every night.”
Taylor had to spent eight weeks in training learning how to drive truck before he could do that in the war. He has been part of the legion for 45 years. He is also part of the Dansville VFW and Dansville Moose Lodge.
“What I remember most about Korea is that it was about 50 degrees below zero there, and it was the coldest place I have ever been in my life. We had to wear a lot of layers to stay warm,” he said. “They would rob you blind there too. You were told to be really careful and hide your belongings. I was robbed twice while I was there by fellow officers even. To this day I hate rice since all we had to eat there was Spanish Rice for every single meal.”
Korean War Veteran, Osceola Wherton, U.S. Army, served from 1955 to 58. He was drafted right after college. He had a four-year deferment from service since he was in college at the time.
“I was really glad to be drafted after college. I had a passion to want to serve my country. I studied Social Work in college, so when I came back home, I did that for about six years,” he said. “I always wanted to be able to help people. I responded to the call of being a pastor later on in life. I started that in Rochester in 1983. I was in Andover for 11 years after being in Rochester for a while. I have been at the Methodist Church in Wayland for 23 years now.”
Wherton’s father, Osceola S. died after coming home from WWII. He served his country courageously as well. He was killed in an explosion at work in 1947 when his son was 14-years-old.
“I was an Engineer during the war and stationed in Texas. I was never sent over to Korea. We were being trained to purify the water in the rivers and streams, so that we could go over there and show them how to clean water,” he said. “It took me 11 weeks to train down there. I didn’t like being down in Texas so much. I have a son who lives down there now, and I have to go down to visit him.”
Wherton is very grateful for his congregation wo has always been there for him.
“I nurture them, and in turn they nurture me,” he said.
Korean War Veteran, Norbert Lang, U.S. Air Force was part of the Rochester Squadron. He served from 1951 to 54. There were nine others from Wayland who went in with him. When he came home, he joined the fire department. Lang was honored for 60 years in the legion.
Joan Belanger, Wayland Civilian of The Year, said that she has always done what she can to support the veterans and the legion. This was the first year she sat at the Honor Guard table with her son, Ed Belanger Jr., an Honor Guard member for 20 years.
“I started out sending flowers to all the business in Wayland a while back to thank them for all they do in the community. I thought about the fact that no one ever stops to thank them for what they do,” she said. “I thanked everyone from the Post Office in town to all the restaurants for their services to the community. I did that for about six years until I couldn’t afford to do it anymore.”
Belanger is known by many of the young men in the area for employing them at the Gravel Pit on route to Loon Lake outside of Wayland. She worked there with her husband for over 22 years.
“Jane Mark was my best friend for many years, so I watch her children grow up. I remember doing a lot of wonderful things with her. I have done flowers on Fridays for the Golden Agers Dinners,” she said. “I was announced as Civilian of the Year once. They had over 70 people there and told me it was the biggest turnout they ever had.”
Belanger lost her father when she was 13-years-old and said that the community really came together to help her mother. She has always been very grateful for the kindness shown to her family in the place she calls home.
Post Commander Kevin Mark said this year was different since he allowed each veteran to share their story.
“The interaction with veterans was different this year. I went to every one of them and let them tell us their name, rank, time of service, and where they served. We recognized every single veteran in this room. I think it is important to give every one of them a voice. Some of them got choked up since they are not used to that,” he said.
The winners of the legion awards this year; Red, White and Blue, Wayland Legion Ladies Auxiliary; Americanism, Kelly Harrison; Legionaire, John Schuyler.
The next event is the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Luncheon on Sunday, Dec. 8 with doors open at 11:30 a.m. and lunch at noon. The Southern Tier All Star Jazz Band and The American Bombshells will be performing at the event. Free for all veterans and active duty military and $7 for non-military. Music goes from 1 to 5 p.m.