Editor’s Note: Former USMC medic and Peekskill native Greg Emery gave the following remarks during yesterday’s Oliver Chase American Legion Veterans Day Ceremony.
Good morning and happy Veterans Day to everyone. When I came here today I didn’t realize that I would be asked to speak, but I’m glad and proud to have the opportunity. My name is Greg Emery, I was born in the city of Peekskill, when it was still a town, in the town of Cortlandt, some 90 years ago.
Before I go any further, I’d like to recognize two people at the very beginning because they are former classmates of mine. The ever-faithful Jack Burns and former Mayor Gibbs, whom I knew during our school days as Fran Schmneps.
It’s always great to return to the old hometown. No matter where I’ve travelled in the world, thoughts of Peekskill always come back to me, and now that I’m back, as I traverse the streets of Peekskill, just about every street and in some cases particular addresses, bring back memories. Some happy, some not so happy—that happens in life.
I’d like to thank the Peekskill High School Band, they sound better than ever and I especially liked it when you played the Marine Corps Hymn. One other person I must recognize because he is a friend of many, many years, I knew him before he moved to Peekskill and that is some 35 or 40 years ago when he still lived in New York, so he’s been a very proud addition to our city. I’m speaking about the best bagpiper I’ve ever heard—Joe Brady!
And now, if you’ll let me ramble a bit, I’d like to tell you just a few things about the city that I remember. There could not have been a better place in the whole United States to grow up than the village of Peekskill that had the greatest people, the greatest institutions and a greater sense of well-being and moral values…
I recall where I was on Dec. 7, 1941. I was sitting in the bedroom of my buddy Clifton Forbush. His parents had owned the Forbush Hotel right on South Street, which no longer exists of course. His father was already on active duty as a captain in the Army, stationed out of Fort Lewis, Washington. He and I were listening to a professional football game on the radio when the news came over about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and I felt he was more knowledgeable about geography and history and things like that than I was, so I asked him where Pearl Harbor was and he told me it was up in Alaska, and to be honest and truthful about it, many people—many, many Americans did not know where Pearl Harbor was.
Shortly after that, my brother Ted, who was two years old than I, picked me up to go downtown to have something to eat. So we swung around to Highland Avenue and I’ll never forget the sight I saw as we headed down Highland Avenue at the monument.
As I looked down the hill I was seeing Marines, sailors and Army men all in the uniform running at full pace, all towards the railroad station because the news was coming over the radio constantly: ‘All service personnel return to their stations, all furloughs, all leaves, are cancelled.’ I’ll never forget that sight as they all ran down Division Street.
I didn’t realize at the time what my future was going to be—it wasn’t much of a future, I left high school in December of my senior year to enlist. I ended up with the finest group of fighting men that anyone could ever fight with, and that was the United States Marine Corps.
I was happy and fortunate to be a part of the 28th Regiment of the 5th Marine Division. In that 5th Marine Division, we had some other Peekskill men—the late Fred DiMichele, a great, great athlete at Peekskill High; and Dom Delia, who played on that same football team and I happened to be the manager of that football team. So we were all together out there in the Pacific. We were together in the Battle of Iwo Jima, although we served in different companies we were able to get together and we fought shoulder to shoulder through that bloody battle.
I don’t think I should take anymore of your time, I could probably talk for hours if my voice would allow it. Thank God for you people that my voice won’t allow it. So, thank you, it has been an honor and a pleasure. I want to thank John Donohue for his graciousness in asking me to speak and of course the commander of this post, Bobby Boddie, whom I remember from the time he was probably about this high. It’s just been a pleasure to be with my friends from Peekskill.
Thank you very much.
View the speech here (h/t Mike Miner):