HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. – Sixty-six years after serving as an Airman 1st Class in the Korean War, Hoosick Fall’s resident Merton Houghton got to do something he’d never done before: shake the hand of a two-star general.
Houghton was one of 10 residents of this rural community, located a few miles from Bennington, Vermont, who were presented with New York state military awards by Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, the adjutant general of New York, during a Wednesday ceremony.
Shields presented the veterans, who had served in World War II, Korea, the Gulf War, the Cold War and Afghanistan, with New York State Medal for Merit and New York State Cold War certificates depending on their service.
Prior to the ceremony, Shields mingled with the local veterans and other guests, speaking to them about their military service.
“I think it is so important to recognize veterans and their service to our country and to do this,” Shields said. “To take a few hours and drive up here to do this and present these awards is invaluable.”
“I’ve never shaken the hand of a general before,” Houghton said after Shields pinned the New York State Medal for Merit on him.
The award recognizes New Yorkers who were awarded medals during their military service.
It was great to be honored, said Joan Madigan, a resident of Johnsonville, New York, who served in the Navy from 1952 to 1956.
Madigan, who received a New York State Cold War certificate from Shields, handled classified messages during her Navy service.
“When you came home you just went back to your work and your normal life,” she said. “Now, they are starting to praise veterans more.”
The morning ceremony at the former New York State Armory, which now serves as town hall and a social center, was the idea of Mark Folgert, another Hoosick Falls resident.
Folgert is a veteran of four years in the Air Force and another four years in the Army who is currently serving in the New York Guard, the state’s self-defense force.
He is a member of American Legion Post 40, which sponsors a weekly coffee club for area vets, and he met the 10 veterans Shields honored during those gatherings, Folgert said.
The veterans had their federal awards, but he wanted to make sure that they also got the awards from New York they are entitled to, he explained.
“I think it is important that our older veterans, especially World War II and Korea, are recognized, not only from the federal government, but it is important that the state of New York cares,” Folgert said.
The American Legion and the Hoosick Township Historical Society also helped him put together the award packages for the veterans and organize the event.
Folgert, who is currently on state active duty in the New York National Guard’s joint operations section, approached Shields to see if he would present the awards and was pleased when the general said yes.
“He said he would be happy to do it and if he couldn’t, somebody from his command section would be there,” Folgert said. “General Shields has always been very receptive and supportive of our veterans,” he added.
Former Vermont Army National Guard Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Krawczyk, who deployed to Kuwait in 2005 and Afghanistan in 2010 with the 1st Battalion, 172nd Cavalry, said he was looking forward to getting the awards from New York’s top military officer.
“It’s kind of cool,” he said.
Receiving awards during the Aug. 28 event were:
• Edward G. Taylor, a World War II Navy veteran who served on the USS Hancock in the Pacific. He was awarded the New York State Medal for Merit with 1 Gold shield and the New York State Cold War Certificate.
• Merton W. Houghton , a Korean War Air Force veteran who received the New York State Medal for Merit and the New York State Cold War Certificate.
• Elwin S. Bentley, a Korean War Navy veteran who served in a Navy band and was awarded the NYS Medal for Merit and Cold War Certificate.
• Malcolm R. Brownell, a Korean War Army veteran who received NYS Medal for Merit with 1 Silver Shield and the NYS Cold War Certificate.
• Max Koch, a Navy veteran of the Korean War, who received the NYS Medal for Merit and the NYS Cold War Certificate.
• Joan Madigan, a Navy Petty Officer Third Class, who was awarded the NYS Cold War Certificate.
• Hubert A. Loretan, a former Air Force bomber pilot in the Strategic Air Command, who received the NYS Cold War Certificate.
• John H. Van Der Kar, a Coast Guardsman ,who was awarded the NYS Cold War Certificate.
• Steve G. Lemon, an Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War, who received the NYS Medal for Merit ,and the NYS Cold War Certificate.
• Charles J. Krawczyk, a veteran of the Vermont Army National Guard and the Navy , who served in Afghanistan and Kuwait, who received NYS Medal for Merit , and a NYS Cold War Certificate.