Past Guest Speakers

Steve Trask, Vietnam War Veteran, sooke about his experiences as a sniper during the Vietnam War at the Fenton History Center on June 14, 2017 in recognition of the U.S. Army’s 242nd Birthday and Flag Day 2017. 

Veteran Discusses Experience in Flag Day – Jamestown Post-Journal (June 15, 2017): Flag Day was an appropriate time to hear from a Vietnam War veteran about his service to his country, which demonstrated the sacrifices made by all military personnel so Old Glory can be honored each year by Americans.

During the monthly Brown Bag Lecture Series at the Fenton History Center, Steve Trask, a Vietnam War veteran who was enlisted in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1969, talked about his experiences during the Vietnam War. Trask was a sergeant who completed Special Forces training in Ft. Devens, Mass.; airborne training in Ft. Bragg, Texas; Ranger Training in Az.; winter survival training in Klondike, Alaska; and jungle training in Panama before he started serving in Vietnam in 1968, three days before the Tet Offensive.

Trask said his journey to Vietnam wasn’t a smooth trip, which started with him traveling to Buffalo during an ice storm. From there he faced delays, which included him traveling across state by train to finally take a flight to Seattle. He arrived at the bus to the base at 11:45 p.m., which was barely before his midnight deadline to report for duty.

Once in Vietnam, Trask said he was promoted to sniper and went to sniper training school. He talked about his experiences as a sniper, which included spending days in towers with his riffle aimed at the enemy or months at a time hiding in the jungles of Vietnam. He discussed how one piece of advice he received was not to look at the enemy’s face nor to count the number of enemy soldiers he shot.

“I don’t know how many people I shot,” he said. “I don’t remember a face.”

During his discussion, Trask talked about an up close encounter with a tiger, enjoying a special Thanksgiving dinner on a ship with three of his cousins who were also serving in the U.S. military in Vietnam and how a pilot gave him his survival knife after Trask saved him after he parachuted into the jungle.

Trask said after his first year in Vietnam he re-enlisted for five more years. He said he was almost through his second tour when he was badly injured.

Trask sustained his injury following a blast from a satchel charge that was thrown into a bunker he was protecting. He was blown 100 feet behind the bunker after the blast. He added that he was covered by palm tree branches that had been cut down by enemy machine gun fire.

Trask remained covered by the palm tree branches for two days while in a coma before his body was discovered.

He then spent two-and-a-half weeks in a China Beach hospital, which he said was unlike the television show that aired in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Trask talked about how the doctors kept pestering him about going to Japan, which he refused. He then finally asked the doctors why they wanted to send him to Japan.

The doctors replied that he could be evaluated there so he could be sent back to the United States. Trask joked that he wishes the doctors would have told him that from the start.

Once back in the United States, Trask said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which led him into therapy for two-and-a-half years at the VA Medical Center in Erie, Pa.

Trask also said he spent 13 years in college at Jamestown Community College and Buffalo State following his service in Vietnam.  

Pictured above: U.S. Army Veteran Steve Trask. 

Pete Carlo, U.S. Army Veteran, speaking about his experience during the Korean War at the Fenton History Center. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

Pete Carlo, U.S. Army Veteran: Emblem Etiquette – Jamestown Post-Journal (May 19, 2017): A purple heart recipient and U.S. Army veteran spoke about his experience during the “Forgotten War” event Wednesday at the Fenton History Center.

Peter Carlo, Disabled American Veterans former commander, hosted the discussion on the Korean War and proper flag etiquette. He was drafted into the Army when he was 22 years old in 1952, and was first sent to Fort Dix, N.J., for 16 weeks of “hand-to-hand” battle training before he was shipped to Asia.

First he arrived in Japan and then he was sent to Seoul, Korea. At that point, Carlo said he took a trip by train with other soldiers to the front line. He said during the train ride they didn’t talk or smoke because they didn’t want to give away their position to the enemy. He added that the10-hour train trip seemed like it took several weeks.

Once at the front, Carlo said he was stationed in a gun bunker where he was a member of an experimental four-man “buddy system” unit for the Army. Carlo said as part of the four-man unit, they worked, ate, slept and fought together for days on end. He said after a couple weeks, his unit would change locations to a new section along the front. He added his unit most have been in four to five different locations along the front during the war.

Once their was a truce between North and South Korea and Carlo returned home, he said he kept in touch with his unit and periodically they would meet for a reunion. He said they’ve met in several different locations for the reunions, including once in Jamestown.

“It kept us in tune with one another,” Carlo said.

Carlo also discussed Christmas and New Year’s Eve 1953 while fighting in Korea. He said Mary Ann, his wife of 64 years and his fiancee at the time, sent him a Christmas tree, which he said was a real treat. Carlo also discussed how the North Koreans would play a tape telling the American troops to go home and how they have nothing to gain from fighting on the Korean Peninsula. He also discussed how he lost many good friends and witnessed several get injured during the war. Carlo himself was injured in Korea and received a purple heart military medal.

“I truly appreciate being a veteran,” he said.

Carlo also discussed his work to donate 272 flags that have flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., to local organizations. He also donates flags that have been displayed in Lake View Cemetery’s Soldier’s Circle. He said the flags were being disposed of before he got involved to donate them to people and local organizations.

Carlo said this will be the 61st consecutive year he will be participating in the Jamestown Memorial Day parade. He said it is an honor to be able to participate in the parade each year.

“This is something I want to do,” he said. ”I love doing what I’m doing.”

Mary Jane Phillips Koenig speaking about her great-uncle’s letters he sent to his mother during World War I. Koenig’s great-uncle was Private Russell Archie Harvey who served in the Army’s 357th Infantry Regiment, 90th Division. The letters are part of a Fenton History Center’s World War I exhibit Over There: World War I and Jamestown. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

Mary Jane Phillips Koenig, Great-Niece of Private Russell Archie Harvey, WWI Army Veteran: Voice of War Echoes at the Fenton – Jamestown Post-Journal (May 11, 2017): The words of a World War I veteran echoed at the Fenton History Center Wednesday.

During the Brown Bag Lecture series, Mary Jane Phillips Koenig presented her presentation, “Why It Matters: His Voice Echoes Still Across America,” about letters her great-uncle, Private Russell Archie Harvey, wrote to his mother while serving in the U.S. Army’s 357 Infantry Regiment, 90th Division during World War I.

Koenig, a retired school teacher, said she has spent a “lifetime” researching her great-uncle’s 20 letters that were saved by Harvey’s sister, May.

Koenig said Harvey was born in in Corry, Pa., in 1888. She said Harvey’s family sold the family farm and moved to Jamestown around 1900. She added that Harvey spent around 14 years in Jamestown before the war. In an edition of the Jamestown Evening Journal from 1913, Harvey participated in a play as a member of the Knights of Pythias. The play included several other notable Jamestown residents of the time, which included Mayor Samuel Carlson and future Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson.

Koenig said Harvey was drafted into the Army in 1918 while he was living in Iowa. After Iowa, he went to Texas for basic training and then to New York City to make his way to the fighting in Europe. Harvey’s letters discuss several topics, including the steamship trip on the Delta to France. Harvey said he didn’t get seasick on the journey, but other troops on the ocean voyage weren’t so lucky.

Other topics discussed in letters included a 120-mile march by foot in France between posts; seeing an old castle that must have been built when “knights still wore armor;” about Harvey being a company scout; and about digging battlefield trenches.

In a letter dated Nov. 16, 1918, five days after the armistice that ended World War I, Harvey wrote a letter expressing that he is sincerely thankful to his mother and wants to live near her once he returns back to the United States.

Another letter expressed how, at one point, Harvey didn’t think he would see Christmas, which is why he didn’t request a gift package coupon for his family. Harvey wrote that he thought he would be “pushing up daisies” by Christmas.

In another letter not written by Harvey, a Robert Marx wrote Harvey to thank him for pulling him off the battle field while he was injured. Koenig said that during her research she discovered that Marx later went on to create the Disabled American Veterans organization.

Before returning home to Jamestown, even after serving on the front lines in France, Harvey’s regiment served as guards in Germany after the war.

Koenig said that Harvey died in 1924. He is buried in Soldier’s Circle at Lake View Cemetery.

Copies of Harvey’s letters are on display at the Fenton History Center, located at 67 Washington St., as part of the exhibit, Over There: Life in Jamestown During WWI. The exhibit tells the story of what it was like in Jamestown during The Great War.

Pictured: Randy Henderson, brother of Terry Lee Henderson, discusses the incident that claimed his brother’s life in the South China Sea on June 3, 1969. P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti 

Randy Henderson, brother of Terry Lee Henderson, RD3 Vietnam War Veteran: FENTON HISTORY CENTER HOSTS PRESENTATION ON VIETNAM”S “LOST 74”Post Journal, April 20, 2017:  Chautauqua County residents visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., shouldn’t expect to find the name of Mayville native Terry Lee Henderson adorning its wall any time soon.

Despite a unified and consistent push from a U.S. Senator and the families of 74 sailors lost to a tragic training exercise accident that occurred in the South China Sea in 1969 during the Vietnam War, there is still a long road ahead for advocates of the “Lost 74.”

In the early morning hours of June 3, 1969, the USS Frank E. Evans, a naval destroyer, upon which Henderson was serving as a radar-man, collided with an Australian aircraft carrier during an international joint naval exercise. However, because the tragedy took place outside of the official Vietnamese combat zone, the crew was deemed ineligible for inclusion on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Terry Lee Henderson

On Wednesday, the Fenton History Center, via its Vets Finding Vets program, hosted a presentation on the incident and subsequent progress of the national effort to have the names of the “Lost 74” added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The presentation was attended by a handful of local veterans and community members, including Henderson’s mother, Mary Ann Buettner, and brother, Randy Henderson.

Randy Henderson described the events, all too familiar to him, that occurred that tragic day when his brother was lost at only 21 years old; but followed with a personal account that included his family’s realization that Terry wouldn’t be coming home.

Randy told the story of how his father had received a phone call from his grandmother later in the evening regarding the incident involving the USS Frank E. Evans after it had appeared on the news, his mother being informed of the news hours later after returning home from work, and how the family received official word from the U.S. Navy of his brother’s death two days later.

Randy was visibly emotional during several portions of the presentation, often pausing to apologize, albeit unnecessarily, and regain his composure.

“This is the first time I’ve talked about the personal side of this story and how it affected us, and it’s probably going to be the last time,”Randy said following the presentation. “You’d think that nearly 50 years later it would be easier to talk about, but it isn’t and it never will be.”

“American Boys: The True Story of the ‘Lost 74’ of the Vietnam War,” by Louise Esola is one of the many books available for sale in the Fenton History Center gift shop. Esola’s book unique, in that, it is approved by the families of the Lost 74 Soldiers of the Vietnam War. Stop in Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM to purchase your copy. Interested persons can also call (716) 664-6256 to reserve a copy by phone.

In addition to sharing the details of his personal experience with the loss of his brother and how it has affected his family, Randy spoke on behalf of the other families of the “Lost 74” soldiers of the Vietnam War. The families of the “Lost 74” meet annually and have made an active commitment to this cause. Randy Henderson also had on-hand several copies of the book “American Boys: The True Story of the ‘Lost 74’ of the Vietnam War,” by Louise Esola, for sale after his talk.

The Fenton History Center launched its Vets Finding Vets program in 2014. The program is designed to benefit both the veterans involved in the program and the history center’s genealogy library. It was founded when Barb Cessna, program coordinator, who has a strong interest in local veterans and their stories, suggested a genealogy based program for local veterans that would assist both the veterans and the center. The center provides a volunteer to assist the veterans working on either their family genealogy or non-related veterans.

For more information, or to learn about upcoming events at the Fenton History Center, visit








Paul Arnone, WWII Navy Veteran: D-Day Veteran Discusses Normandy Invasion – Post-Journal, September 16, 2016: 

paul-arnoneThe weather was bad and the sea was treacherous when Paul Arnone started the trip from Southampton, England, to Normandy, France, in June 1944.

Arnone was the signalman on a U.S. Navy landing ship, tank, also known as an LST. The vessels were created during World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying vehicles, cargo and landing troops directly onto shore. On Wednesday, the 92-year-old Arnone talked about his experience on the LST during the D-Day invasion at the Fenton History Center as part of the Vets Finding Vets program.

”The weather was bad. (General Dwight) Eisenhower didn’t know what to do,” Arnone said. ”We got the word to go. The weather was still bad.”

arnone-article-2Arnone said by the time they reached France, the weather improved and the seas abated making for calmer water conditions. However, the war was about to start for the enlisted petty officer, first class. The LST Arnone was aboard was one of more than 1,200 ships in the English Channel for the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy.

”Everywhere you looked, you got ready for a collision with another ship,” he said.

Arnone said his LST made 27 trips between England and France during the invasion, landing on three of the five Normandy beaches. He said they brought food, medication, ammunition and clothing to the troops when they landed on the shores of Normandy. On return trips to England, the LST would carry injured soldiers to hospitals for medical attention. In talking about his experience, Arnone admitted to getting sick by the brutality of war.

”Being a kid from Jamestown, I was never exposed to anything like this in my life. I got sick,” he said. ”We didn’t realize what war was. How could we?”

During his time on the LST, Arnone talked about how the anchor once got caught on a mine and how the experienced captain on board the vessel knew how to disengage the explosive device from the ship so there would be no damage. He also talked about seeing an air raid at night, with lots of tracer fire lighting up the night sky.

”It was 10 times more brilliant than the 4th of July (fireworks),” he said.

One of the worst sights Arnone experienced was seeing 20 U.S. service men floating dead in the water.

”It was one of the things that really upset me. That is what war did to me,” he said.

At the end of World War II in Europe, Arnone said they celebrated in Ireland and then traveled 19 days across the Atlantic in the LST to return home to the United States. Arnone said he got 30 days leave before returning to duty to take a long trip through the Panama Canal on his way to Hawaii. Once on the island state, Arnone said they started preparing for the invasion of Japan, which didn’t occur because the United States and the Axis nation reached a peace agreement.

In 2014, he returned to Normandy during the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. He said it was surreal returning to Normandy, seeing for the first time the wide open and mostly empty beaches, which seven decades before was a crowded sight of soldiers, tanks and ships.

The Vets Finding Vets program is supported in part by a grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. The program, which was started Veterans Day 2014 allows free access to the Fenton Research Center for veterans, active military and reservists. It allows the veterans to use the research facility, resources and assistance to begin or further their family history search, locate old service comrades or to help the volunteer research staff to collect information regarding the soldiers buried in Chautauqua County cemeteries. The veterans in the program are encouraged to contribute their military record, photographs and memories of their service so they will be preserved and shared.

The Vets Finding Vets program plans to present up to four Veterans stories each year to further share the local history of local veterans. Anyone interested in joining the program is encouraged to call program manager Barbara Cessna at the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or email


On Sept 2, Patrick Kavanagh visited the Fenton History Center to donate a compilation of photos and information having to do with Western New York service men and women who died during the Vietnam War. A Vietnam Veteran himself, he is determined to do everything possible to be sure they are never forgotten.
On Sept 2, Patrick Kavanagh visited the Fenton History Center to donate a compilation of photos and information having to do with Western New York service men and women who died during the Vietnam War. A Vietnam Veteran himself, he is determined to do everything possible to be sure they are never forgotten.

(Paul Kavanaugh) Vietnam Wall of Faces By Barb Cessna, VFV Project Coordinator: Patrick Kavanagh, Historian and Archivist, at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, has worked tirelessly with Norman Murray, who had contacted him for help in finishing the eight counties of western NY on the Vietnam Veteran Wall of Faces. Kavanagh contacted the Fenton History CenterC, and has enjoyed the additional research help from members of Vets Finding Vets.

VFV Project Coordinator Barb Cessna assured Kavanagh the group would be honored to focus on the three soldiers to help them finish the western NY portion of the Wall of Faces. Many phone calls and much online research, plus timely newspaper articles, social media, the Local Jamestown Chapter #865 of Vietnam Veterans of America, Sunset Hill Cemetery, and many interested people in the community have produced the desired goal.

Photos and information have yet to been found for Dahl LaPorte, Nicholas Ligammari (information has since been found on Ligammari), and Charles Thielges, as well as several others. We are, however, still in search of head and shoulder or full body photos of Dahl LaPorte and Charles Thielges.

Kavanagh was thankful enough to drive to Jamestown early one morning to deliver a gift to those who would make it accessible to the public. He explained that as a Vietnam Veteran himself, he is committed to making sure these men and women and their sacrifice will never be forgotten. Twenty years ago he began collecting photos, obituaries, stories, military background, anything that helps define that person. He has compiled many bios from the fallen men and one woman (532) in the eight counties of western NY, and bound them in a large notebook.

He has titled this work “In Remembrance Of”. His connection to Forest Lawn Cemetery makes it possible for anyone to access the notebook info online at Click on “Honoring Vietnam Veterans Killed in Action. Immediately after Kavanagh’s video, you will see an alphabetical list of names. By clicking on each name, you can see each item for that name which is in the notebook. He has emphasized that the project is not yet complete, as there are still a few he seeks. His info is included on the Wall of Faces (

Interested in joining Vets Finding Vets visit: to learn more.

Join us the second Saturday of every month for the Fenton Canteen:

Learn more about the Vets Finding Vets Upcoming Talks and Outings: 

Discover stories featuring some of our Vets Finding Vets members:

Learn more about Project 22: A Message of Hope: