Paying tribute to fallen heroes in Owego (with photos)

By Matt Porter

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    Veterans and others gather in Courthouse Square to pay tribute to Tioga County's fallen heroes this Memorial Day.

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May 27, 2013 Updated May 27, 2013 at 10:56 PM EDT

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Veterans and others gather in Courthouse Square to pay tribute to Tioga County's fallen heroes this Memorial Day.

When he was 18 years old, Clifford Newman went to Italy to serve as part of the occupying forces in World War II.

The now 85-year-old Newman said he enlisted because it was the right thing to do.

"For me, I felt that it was my duty to go and do what I had to do for the service of our country," Newman said.

Nearly seven decades later, he was recognized in Owego with a medal for his service.

Newman said despite difficult feelings, honoring the dead is as important as honoring the living.

As the names of the 165 Tioga County residents who died during wars were read, Newman said it was difficult to keep his emotions in check.

"As some of the names were called off, they were good friends of mine," he said, "I had trouble holding the tears back."

Today's 18 and 19-year-olds are hitting the books instead of the battlefields.

That's a fact not lost on 19-year-old Joshua Raftis.

"It's very easy for kids in my generation to forget that people have had to make a lot of sacrifices for us to have the life we have," Raftis said.

America has a history of surviving even the greatest attacks.

Pearl Harbor veteran 91-year-old Charles Kennedy remembers the December day when he turned from boy to man.

"(Japanese) planes, torpedo planes taking over the barracks headed for pearl," Kennedy said, "I could see the Japanese planes with the torpedo on the bottom."

Kennedy's most memorable Memorial Day was when he was just barely 10 years old where he met two Civil War veterans.

"Two old guys with their beard and their cane sitting in the back of the parade, that's 80 years ago."

Now sitting with his 7-year-old grandson, Curtis, Kennedy has become the inspiring hero.

"I'm a survivor," he said. "The kids are very glad I'm a survivor, too."

As is America a survivor, thanks to those who laid down their lives.