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:
Alfonso E. Zona
On July 21st , 1944, the United States launched an invasion to liberate the island Guam, which had been captured by the Empire of Japan shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After nearly a month of fighting, U.S. forces regained control of the island. The capture of Guam would prove pivotal in the Pacific Campaign during World War II, as the island became a major Naval and Air base used to launch operations on other islands, such as the Philippines and Taiwan. Even today, the Battle of Guam is still recognized, as residents of the island celebrate Liberation Day every July 21st.
Alfonso Zona was one of many Navy servicemen who was stationed in Guam after answering the call of duty during World War II. He served on the island as a Seaman Second Class working with heavy machinery. Alfonso helped build bases, roads, airstrips and hospitals, and played a critical role in rebuilding the infrastructure of the island after its recapture by the United States.
After his service, Alfonso became a truck driver for Zonalite Corp, retiring at the age of 62. Later, he decided to go back to work for the Town of Waterloo up until his death at the age of 80. He is remembered as an extremely hard working, passionate and caring individual by all who knew him.
Alfonso remained a proud Navy veteran and was an active member of the American Legion and the VFW. It is fitting that this deeply patriotic serviceman began and ended his life in Waterloo, New York, the Nationally recognized birthplace of Memorial Day. Now, only a short distance away, he will be laid to rest at the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery, a lasting memorial honoring his contributions to his Country, family and community.
Donald M. Ash
Members of the United States Navy live by a certain code. “Non sibi sed patriae”, or “Not self but service”, has long been the motto for the brave men and women who serve in the US Navy. This saying exemplifies each and every soldier’s willingness to sacrifice their lives to ensure our American freedoms are entirely protected.
Donald Ash was a World War II Navy veteran, who served our Nation with dignity and pride. He lived by the Navy’s motto, risking his own life and safety to defend our American values. Upon Donald’s discharge, he began working at Carrier Corp. of Syracuse. He stayed with the company until 1976, at which point he retired.
Donald remained involved in his community and his fellow veterans. He was appointed as Commander of the Hastings-Paris VFW Post #8823. He was also a member of the American Legion of Central Square, and the Parish American Legion. His time in the Navy and service during World War II was one of Donald’s proudest achievements, and he took great satisfaction in knowing he was able to give back to the Nation he cherished so much.
A soldier’s sacrifice must never be forgotten. Through his service, Donald Ash certainly made a tremendous impact on our great Nation. Our community will forever remember his life, accomplishments, and heroism.
David L. “Stoney” Darling - November 6, 1949 to November 20, 2009, Age 60
David L. Darling, known as “Stoney” to many of his friends, was a kind, outgoing, and down-to-earth man. People loved to be in Stoney’s company. He was known for his sharp sense of humor—he could light up a room with his smile and always knew how to make people laugh.
In addition to his generous spirit, Stoney showed great bravery and heroism throughout his life.
At the United States was entering the Vietnam War, Stoney enlisted in the United States Marine Corps alongside one of his close friends. During the war, Stoney saw a great deal of combat and fought in several battles. Despite this great danger, he was always sure to write home to his concerned mother, Estella, to update her on his experiences and assure her of his safety. In the midst of one battle, Stoney was wounded and received a debilitating injury. He was honorably discharged from the US Marines and awarded a Purple Heart for his courageous sacrifice.
After the war, Stoney returned home to the community that he loved. He worked for several years at Goulds Pumps, and also at the Seneca Army Depot. Stoney kept himself busy, and in his spare time, raised cows on his private farm.
Stoney’s legacy is that of a generous man who was always willing to put others before himself. David L. “Stoney” Darling will forever be remembered for his great demonstrations of heroism, but also for his big heart.
Ira “Bud” Williamson Jr. - May 24, 1927 to April 5, 2011
Always quick to help anyone in need, Ira “Bud” Williamson was a true American hero who put others before himself and exemplified personal sacrifice for his country and fellow servicemen.
After growing up on his family farm in Ovid, New York, Bud entered into the US Army in 1949 and remained in the Reserves after his discharge. With the start of the Korean Conflict in 1950, Bud was soon recalled to active duty and was sent across the globe to aid in the fight for democracy overseas. He served as an ambulance driver with the 343 General Hospital Unit in Japan, where he transported wounded soldiers from the local airstrip to the 343 General Hospital. In recognition of the life-saving services he provided for his fellow servicemen and civilians during the Korean War, he was awarded the Korean Service Medal.
Those who served with Bud remember a deeply humble man who formed lasting friendships wherever he went. A devoted veteran, Bud remained close with many of his fellow servicemen and was a life member of the Ovid VFW Post 6200 and Ovid American Legion Post #463.
After his honorable discharge from the service, Bud married Joyce Whitney and raised six children in Ovid. While employed at the Willard Psychiatric Center, Bud also worked as a school bus driver for South Seneca Central Schools, and delivered Milk for Tarr’s Dairy.
Bud passed away on April 5, 2011 at the age of 83. He is survived by his wife Joyce; and their children Lola Caskey, Jim Williamson, Robin Kane, Stephen Wayne, Rebecca Anne Williamson and Tim Williamson; their 12 grandchildren; and 9 great grand children.
It is a tremendous honor to pay tribute to a man who was truly humble and caring man who was loved so much by those around him: Ira “Bud” Williamson.