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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

A "Gallery of Valor" to Debut at Local VFW Post

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The images are striking. Young men and women, many in uniform, others in t-shirts and fatigues, still others in every day clothes pose for the camera – fleeting moments in time captured on silver emulsion for eternity. Some have gentle smiles, others grins that stretch wide, and still others, a somber, melancholy look. But in each, it is their eyes that catch you – a quietness that belies the experiences they must have endured.

 

With around 200 photographs and documents, the exhibit, “Gallery of Valor,” is being unveiled this Sunday, November 11 for Veteran’s day at the VFW Post 420 on Excelsior Avenue in Saratoga Springs. Sunday is the only day it will be available for the public to view.  

While a person must have been in actual combat or earned a military ribbon in order to be a member of the Post, Gene Ratigliano, senior vice commander of the Post, said the members wanted to do something that honored all who had served.

“Many veterans served in periods of conflict, but not necessarily in combat or earned a campaign award,” said Ratigliano, who had served in the Navy. “We wanted to recognize everyone who had been in the service whether they had been in combat or not.”

The exhibit, first suggested by VFW member Jim Hartman, grew from what they thought would be around 50 images, to over 200 photographs, documents and memorabilia.

“We went to a number of school districts and asked the students and staff to participate,” explained Ratigliano, who said Saratoga Springs, Mechanicville, Schuylerville, Corinth, Galway, and Ballston Spa were among those who sent in pictures and documents. “We recruited pictures of [military personnel] from families in our area.”

The exhibit begins with a panel dedicated to World War I, and then works its way through all the major and minor conflicts. There are fighter pilots kneeling next to their planes, Seabies on board their ships, soldiers with arms linked around one another. Some of the images are the formal military head shots; others are of time spent on leave, and still others of men on duty.

“We even have one of a soldier who served in the Spanish American War and another of who was in the Civil War,” said VFW member Rich Koenig, who served in Vietnam.

The Post itself was chartered in 1910 and had approximately 30 members who had served in the Spanish American War, the Mexican Border War or World War I. It was named for two brothers from Saratoga Springs who died on the same day while in combat – Corporal William Gurtler and Private George H. Gurtler, Jr. Both had served with the New York Infantry and the U.S. National Guard in Mexican Border Service and later with the 105th Infantry, 27th Division in World War I.

Both brothers were killed in action on October 20, 1918 while serving with their division in World War I and were buried in France.

Ratigliano said they were amazed at the number of items they received from the public. “We did not expect this many,” he said. “These are some very personal things people have given us for display.”

One of the items on display is a letter from the War Department telling the parents that a photograph is enclosed. It is of “Army Cemetery #1, Marianas Islands, in which your son, the late Private First Class John N. Miner, is buried.” The letter writer states that he hopes the picture brings them a “sense of comfort.”

Other documents on display are letters home from soldiers stationed overseas, discharge certificates, and personal letters from families. Most have accompanying photographs of the person involved.

“We can’t believe how much we have gotten,” said Koenig. “We’re still getting them in.”

The exhibit will be covered until the unveiling on Sunday. “We want it to be a surprise,” explained Ratigliano of exhibit items. “We want everyone to know they are welcome to come and see the exhibit and have something to eat.”

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