OLEAN, NY – In observance of Veterans Day, Archbishop Walsh Academy will dedicate a plaque on Thursday in honor of three alumni who gave their lives for the country during the Vietnam War.
The plaque will honor Sgt. Ivan Febo-Betancourt, Specialist Fourth Class Thomas Drum, and Chief Warrant Officer Ralph Bigelow, all members of the Class of 1967.
“They were my classmates,” Jim DiPietro, who also is a 1967 Walsh graduate, said. “I knew Tom for two years. He was a good guy. He played basketball. He was athletic and fun to be around. Ralph was a quiet guy. I called him the sleeper.”
DiPietro served in the Navy and had tours in the Mediterranean, Africa, South America and the Middle East before returning to Olean.
Thursday’s Military Wall of Honor event will begin in the school's chapel and move outside to the flagpole on the front lawn. The Rev. David Tourville from the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels will lead a prayer service honoring all veterans.
Members of the Seneca Battalion ROTC at St. Bonaventure University and the Allegany American Legion Charles Harbel Post 892 will conduct a 21-gun salute.
“My reason for working on this Wall of Honor is simple -- my deep respect, gratitude and unwavering admiration for everyone who serves our country,” said JoAnn McAndew, a 1972 Walsh graduate who is coordinating Thursday’s event.
McAndrew comes from a military family. Her father James served in the Army during World War II; her brother James “Moose” served in the Navy Seabees during the Vietnam War, and her husband Greg served in the Army, also during the Vietnam War.
“By helping with the project at Walsh, my alma mater, I feel that I am doing a small part in recognizing my fellow alums who gave of themselves – some making the ultimate sacrifice of fighting and dying for our country and our freedom,” McAndrew said.
The event will begin at 2:30 p.m. and is open to the public. For more information, contact McAndrew at 917-455-2895.
“We also want to make it known that we are actively searching for other Archbishop Walsh alumni who have served so that we can give special honors to them as well,” McAndrew said.
Individuals with information about veterans who attended Walsh should contact Jessica Policastro, the school's director of marketing and alumni relations at 716-372-8122.