REAL LIFE STORIES OF LOCAL HEROES WHO WILL BE BURIED AT THE SAMPSON VETERANS MEMORIAL CEMETERY
from Senator Mike Nozzolio
In a few short weeks, a lasting, permanent memorial honoring our Nation’s veterans will be established on the site the former Sampson Naval and Air Force Base where over a million sailors and airmen trained in preparation for battle to defend America.
Saturday, July 30th will mark the official opening of the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery. The cemetery will be a final resting place for veterans who have sacrificed to keep our Nation free.
Heroes don’t strive to become heroes. People are called to heroism, and the heroes are those that answer the call. Every one of the 60 veterans who will first be buried at Sampson answered that call, and all served with honor, dignity and valor. In the days leading up to the cemetery opening, I would like to share some of their personal narratives of courageous service to our Nation.
The dedication ceremony will take place on Saturday, July 30th at 11:00 a.m. at the Sampson Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery, just south of Sampson State Park along Route 96A in Romulus.
In anticipation of the opening of the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery, I present to you the real life stories of three local heroes who are to be laid to rest on this hallowed ground. Many more narratives of those who will be interned at the cemetery will follow in the days and weeks ahead:
Gerald H. Rickard
“Integrity First; Service Before Self; Excellence in All We Do.” These are the core values of the United States Air Force. First Class Airman Gerald H. Rickard lived by these virtues. Serving and defending our nation for five years during the Korean Conflict, Gerald took great pride and satisfaction in knowing he was giving back to the Nation he loved and cherished. After his service, he stayed in the Air Force Reserves until 1960.
Jerry was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, and moved to New York State in order to serve in the United States Air Force. He trained at Sampson Air Force Base, and later served at Sampson Hospital and as a member of the flight crew at the Base. After his term of service, Jerry chose to stay in the Seneca County region rather than returning to his home in Minnesota. Sampson, the land on which he trained and served, made a lasting impact on Jerry’s life.
Jerry contributed enormously to Ontario County and surrounding communities. He worked as an Ontario County Highway foreman up until his retirement in 1991. Education was something that meant a lot to Jerry—he was instrumental in setting up a scholarship for Ontario County BOCES students for college. This fund, named the “Gerald H. Rickard Memorial Scholarship”, is still awarded today, 11 years after its formation.
Jerry was a man who loved to give back, not only to our Nation, but to the community he came to love and treasure. It is an honor to show gratitude and respect for Gerald H. Rickard, a man whose selflessness and virtue serves as an inspiration to us all.
Leonardo A. Visco – December 4, 1920 to June 18, 2011, Age 90
To serve our Nation during a time of war is to put your life on the line for a greater cause. A man or woman who joins the military understands the dangers. They understands the obstacles and the tremendous strain, but they go forth anyway, knowing the risk is worthwhile. To serve in a war is to value our Nation’s safety and freedoms more than your own.
Leonardo Visco proved his dedication to our Nation in not one, but two times of war, serving in the United States Army during both World War II and the Korean Conflict. Time and time again, Leo repeatedly risked his life to defend and uphold our freedoms as American citizens.
Leo was a highly decorated soldier. Among the medals he was awarded are the Bronze Arrowhead and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, signifying his dedicated service to our Nation during the Korean Conflict. Leo also received four Bronze Star Medals throughout the span of his military career. A rank above the Purple Heart, these medals are awarded to men who have demonstrated incredible bravery and heroism while engaged in combat against enemy forces. That Leo earned four of these prestigious medals in his lifetime is truly a testament to his heroism and courage.
Words cannot express the amount of debt owed to the brave men and women who sacrifice their lives each and every day for our safety. Leonardo A. Visco was a true American patriot and hero who risked everything, not once, but twice. We honor him today for his tremendous acts of bravery and loyalty to our Nation.
Leroy Harrison Ace
On June 6th, 1944, a few miles off the coast of France, Leroy Harrison Ace and his fellow soldiers waited aboard a giant Naval vessel. They were only moments from fighting in one of the defining battles of World War II.
The D-Day invasion of Normandy was the largest air, land, sea and military operation the world has ever known. The landing included over 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and over 150,000 service men. When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead. This tremendous show of courage and sacrifice represents one of the most significant moments in our Nation’s history. As mankind faced one of its darkest hours, the men who fought on D-Day turned the tide of World War II and helped preserve liberty for future generations across the globe.
Leroy Harrison Ace was one of those men. When Leroy disembarked from a port in Maryland in 1943, only a short time after he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, he did not know what was in store for him. He was sent to the beaches of Normandy, serving in what was one of the war’s most important battles.
When the war ended, Leroy was officially discharged from service and returned home to Seneca County. Leroy is remembered for being a very easy-going man, who had a kind smile and a big heart. Leroy had two great loves in his life: music and his church. He would often play duets on the violin with his brother, Robert. Occasionally, Robert’s wife, Ruth, would join them on piano, and together they would play for the church on Sundays.
It is a true privilege to have the opportunity to recognize and honor a man who bravely fought in one of the most momentous battles of all time. Without heroes like Leroy Harrison Ace, our great Nation would not be what it is today.
Robert Douglas Page – May 6, 1948 to December 2, 2007
Sixty-three years ago, a young man named Robert Douglas Page enlisted in the United States Army, looking to give back to his Country and make a positive impact, both on his life and the lives of his fellow community members and American citizens. For two years, Robert served our Nation with pride, dignity, and honor, to support American forces in the Vietnam War.
In the two years that he served, Robert achieved many impressive accomplishments. He was awarded numerous medals and badges, including the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Parachutist Badge. He also attained the rank of Specialist while in service, and served briefly in Fort Bragg, North Carolina before being transferred to St. Louis, Missouri.
Robert was one of the first members of the Vietnam Veterans Group of the Canandaigua VA. He encouraged many of his friends and fellow veterans to join the organization and receive its many benefits. Robert was also an avid fisherman and hunter, and greatly enjoyed the natural beauty of our region’s fields, lakes, and forests.
Of all of the places Robert travelled, trained, and served, the hallowed ground of Sampson Air Force Base held a special place in his heart. While we cannot thank heroes like Robert Page enough for their sacrifices, this sacred ground will forever stand as a tribute to their service to our Nation.