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Massena VFW, auxiliary recognize Marine Corps veteran, students

Watertown Daily Times - 1/25/2024

Jan. 24—MASSENA — Massena'sVFW Post 1143 and its auxiliary have recognized a military veteran and local students in separate ceremonies.

The post and its auxiliary donated $1,000 each to Marine Corps veteran Christiano Zeledon from Waddington, who was injured while volunteering on a humanitarian mission in the Ukraine during a break from Hobart College, where he was studying pre-law.

They also recognized students who were the local winners of the Voice of Democracy and Patriots' Pen scholarship essay contests.

Zeledon, 24, was in the Ukraine as a volunteer civilian. He was severely wounded on June 27 when Russian troops fired missiles into the city of Kramatorsk, hitting a popular pizzeria where he was eating. He suffered at least two skull fractures, a brain bleed, ocular issues, and burns on his side and legs. One month after he underwent surgery after being transported to Poland, he returned to the United States.

VFW Auxiliary 1143 President Barbara Gray said the donations from the post and auxiliary will help Zeledon with his continuing medical expenses.

"The VFW Post 1143 of Massena and the VFW Auxiliary wanted to assist him with his medical bills We decided to make a donation in the amount of $1,000 from the post and $1,000 from the auxiliary," she said.

They personally met with Zeledon to present him with the checks. About 30 post and auxiliary members were on hand for the presentation.

"We spent the next hour talking and getting to know a remarkable young man," Gray said.

Zeledon said he was grateful for the support of the post and its auxiliary.

"All of you are my heroes," he said.

The post and its auxiliary also held a ceremony to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day, lit the Veterans Memorial Tree at the VFW, and awarded local winners of the Voice of Democracy and Patriots' Pen scholarship essay competition.

The ceremony opened with Commander Steven O'Brien, Ed Gebeault, Vern Drew, Ken Seguin, Jack Lamay and Gray conducting a solemn ritual over a replica grave. Veterans Memory Tree Memorial Chair Mary Terry provided a history of the meaning of the "Christmas tree."

"The star on our tree depicts the names of all our past commanders. The paper bulbs contain names in memory of or in honor of our veterans," Gray said.

Each essay winner was asked to place an ornament on the tree to represent the six military branches — Army, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard, Air Force and Space Force.

Cordelia Myatt, a seventh-grade home-school student from Malone, won the first place scholarship award in the Patriots' Pen competition, which had a theme of "How are you inspired by America?" She received a merit certificate and $100.

Maiya Amo, an eighth-grade student from Madrid-Waddington Central School, won second place. She received a merit certificate and $50.

The theme for the Voice of Democracy competition was "What are the greatest attributes of our democracy?" Adalia Myatt, a ninth-grade home-school student from Malone, won first place and received a merit certificate and $200.

Sadie Fent, a 10th grade student from the Massena Central School District, received a merit certificate and $100 as the second place winner, while Sophia Harkness, a 12th grade student from Franklin Academy in Malone finished third and received a merit certificate and $50.

First-place winners in each category were forwarded for district judging, with Adalia Myatt finishing in third place in the district for the Voice of Democracy and Cordelia Myatt placing seventh in Patriots Pen.

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