We’ve Thanked You Less than You’ve Deserved.
by Cate Murway
“And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.”
The upcoming Fourth of July is a national holiday marked by patriotic displays and summer-themed festivities. What better way to celebrate this Freedom Festival, than to Venerate a Veteran?
The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic, mutual-help, wartime veterans’ organization. The Robert W. Bracken Post, No. 382, formed September 28, 1919 with 62 ex-servicemen members, is a supportive group, a social club and a type of extended family for former service men and women. The first Commander was Franklin “Gilkey” Gilkeson, Esq. One of the signers of the original charter was 1922-23 Commander/ Finance Officer, Jacob C. Schmidt, Jr., the grandfather of Horace P. Schmidt, Jr., owner of Schmidt’s Flowers. The Post’s official monthly publication was “The Cootie”. In addition to organizing commemorative events, such as Flag Day, and marching in the Borough parades, manning a booth on Bristol Day and other volunteer activities, Legion members are active in U.S. politics. The primary political activity is lobbying for the interests of veterans, including support for veterans benefits such as pensions and the Veterans Affairs hospital system.
Under the leadership of 4th year Commander, Nicholas James Lalli, BHS ’61, they raise and donate Scholarship funds to BHS, sponsor the American Legion Baseball team and present citations and a medal to deserving 8th graders. The name Bracken is a memorial to BHS grad, 26-year-old Private Robert W. Bracken, and member of Company “C”, 15th Machine Gun Battalion, the first Bristol WWI casualty, killed in the Battle of Saint Mihiel, France in 1918. The Bracken Cavaliers, "First Jr. Drum and Bugle Corps in the U.S.A", formed under the leadership of Harry Burbank, have carried on in proud tradition for over 80 years. They were PA Champions in 1932- 1935. Chaplain Robert J. Hems, father of Historian Fred B. Hems, Sr., was the Secretary of the Bugle Corps. The American Legion Auxiliary is the largest patriotic women’s service organization in the world. Merle L. [Korson] Carr, Woodrow Wilson H.S. ’70, widow of U.S. Marine Corp. Veteran, Edward J. Carr, is the current president of the Post’s Ladies’ Auxiliary, initially organized in 1921.
The veterans meet in the St. Ann Clubhouse at 509 Wood Street the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month at 7:00 P.M. For eligibility information, contact Nick Lalli 215.785.2424. Silent heroes live among us. We are safe because they were strong enough to put themselves in danger. We thank these almost invisible heroes for what have remained their virtually unspoken valiant feats. The riveting accounts of their sacrifice and dedication are far more meaningful than any contrived fiction. Movies have nothing on reality. As often stated, “The price of Freedom is Never Free”.
This installment of a brave Bristol veteran is the first in a series chronicling the gripping sagas of past and present veterans. Some meet undercover resistance or dangerous intrigue but all instill inspiring courage that permeates the taut accounts of our fearless veterans and military. If you were to see a World War II veteran on the street, they would probably have looked to you like so many of the other graying, bespectacled elderly, but like so many of the daring military, though they seldom talked about it, they can still tell one heck of a story.
Air Force Staff Sergeant Alfred [Al] Cordisco, Class of BHS ’40 is a 6year member of the Bracken Post, having committed a total of almost 20years including his tenure in the National American Legion Organization. His late cousin, Vincent Cordisco directed the Bracken Cavaliers from 1944-46. He was born the 4th of 6 children; raised on Lincoln Avenue by his parents from Italy, John, a carpenter and Assunta [Pascuillo]. Al retired as a mechanic who possessed many skills in technical, electrical and electronic areas and he and his late wife, Tullytown resident, Frances [Cuchineal] worked together at Keystone / Kaiser. Their courtship began after meeting at a 5th Ward dance. Al, who has held terms as both President and Secretary, and a dozen other men, founded the 5th Ward Sporting Club in 1937. It merged with the Italian Mutual Aid in 1954 and is now know as the Italian Mutual Aid-5th Ward Association. Like so many veterans, Al unsentimentally ventured back to his life after the war, marrying and raising a son, the late BHS grad, Michael Alfred; and a daughter, Wal-Mart employee, Patricia Kervick, Bishop Conwell ’67, who has a son, BHS grad, Michael who currently reside with him. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus Council #906, dedicated to the principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism. Al served as Sixth Ward [East Ward] Borough Councilman from 1956 to 1963. He has been a Democratic Committee Person for the past 25 years and has held Chairman positions on both the Police and the Street & Highway Committees.
“I’d thank my lucky stars to be living here today,
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away.”
Al shared a small exhilarating account of his true dramatic adventure story and harrowing danger while in the Air Force between ’42 and’45 as the Right Waist gunner on a B17 Flying Fortress, the “Feather Merchant” with a .50 caliber machine gun. The worst problem about the waist position was not fear of loosing oxygen; rather it was frostbite. Until the “G” model, waist windows on the B-17 were open to a 200 mph, -50 below zero slipstream of air. Exposure to this extreme cold for even a few seconds could leave one with a mild frostbite and this cold would also cause ice to form in the oxygen masks of the gunners. If this went unchecked, oxygen flow would be blocked. Staff Sergeant Cordisco was credited with destroying enemy aircraft over Augsburg, Germany. He was awarded an Air Medal with 4 oak leaf clusters and a Distinguished Flying Cross by General Ira Clarence Eaker of the 8th Air Force High Command, for heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt by Executive Order 9158, dated May 11, 1942, authorized the Air Medal. State Representative James C. Greenwood officially awarded Al the “D-Day Participation”, Nation of France Liberty medal in June 2001 for flying bombing coverage on 6-6-44.
During his European Theatre of Operations duty, he was based in Rattlesden, England in the 8th Air Force and flew missions over Germany and France. What he felt was his most critical mission was his first large-scale daylight "precision" bombing raid over Berlin’s military and industrial targets on March 6, 1944. According to Al, “I just did what I had to do.” Flight crews had a set number of missions, usually a tour of 30. Al is one of the fortunate 447th Bomb Group, self proclaimed “Lucky Bastards Club”, who rallied forward and returned no less than those 30 times.
Al and the many other veterans and military men and women did incredible things, endured awful things, and for the most part, most of these brave Americans pretty much kept it to themselves and just faded back into the fabric of a comfortable civilian life.
Let us be thankful for such men and women.
“POOR IS THE NATION THAT HAS NO HEROES.
SHAMEFUL IS THE NATION THAT HAVING THEM FORGETS.”
from a WWII VeteransTribute website
“Well, there’s pride in every American heart,
and it’s time to stand and say:
I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.”
[God Bless the U.S.A. lyrics by Lee Greenwood]
Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion
For God and Country
We associate ourselves together for the following purposes:
To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America; to maintain law and order; to foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism; to preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in the Great Wars; to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation; to combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses; to make right the master of might; to promote peace and goodwill on earth; to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy; to consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.
Robert W. Bracken Post, NO 382
P.O. Box 2185
Bristol Borough, PA 19007
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Towns plan events for Memorial Day
By: JACKIE MASSOTT (Fri, May/25/2007)
Memorial Day weekend events to honor those who died for their country.
Bristol will memorialize fallen military with a walk and drive through town, beginning at 9 a.m. at Harriman Monument on Farragut Avenue. Members of the Robert W. Bracken American Legion Post 382 and the Chester W. Terchon Veterans of Foreign War Post No. 5542 will walk from the monument to St. Mark's Cemetery, then to St. James Episcopal Church at Cedar and Walnut streets and on to the Bristol Cemetery, making stops along the way for prayers and rifle salutes.
At the same time, a group of walkers will wind its way through the borough to the Bristol Cemetery. An 11 a.m. service will be held at the cemetery, with speakers, rifle salutes and music. The Bristol High School Band will be present and a firing squad will end the event.