New Memorial honors Grand Island WWII Hero

By Nate McMurray
Town Supervisor of Grand Island

Dear Islanders,

Operation Neptune was the massive military assault portion of the Allied invasion of Normandy, code named Operation Overlord, that occurred on June 6, 1944. Hopefully never again will there be such a terrible day. It took hundreds of thousands of men, on tens of thousands of ships and planes, to unseat the Nazis from power. And one of those men was Charles DeGlopper of Grand Island, NY, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Ray DeGlopper, nephew of Medal of Honor award winner  Charles DeGlopper.

Ray DeGlopper, nephew of Medal of Honor award winner
Charles DeGlopper.

As I understand it, DeGlopper’s unit was ordered to take the “La Fière Bridge” on the Merderet River. I googled both places. They look very pretty, like some upstate New York farm country. It’s not a very big bridge or a very big river. But a great act of bravery occurred there. Imagine Charles, having fallen from the sky, likely already cold and exhausted, wading across the brown water, coming under fire, and then returning fire as he motioned for his fellow soldiers to move to safety. DeGlopper was shot. Even while bleeding he continued to return fire until he finally passed.

We will properly honor this hero and all those who have served.

 L to R: Eric Anderson, one of the leaders of the Memorial project, DeGlopper, Nate McMurray

L to R: Eric Anderson, one of the leaders of the Memorial project, DeGlopper, Nate McMurray

For this selfless act, DeGlopper was awarded the Medal of Honor, which is the United States of America’s highest and most prestigious personal military decoration awarded for acts of valor. DeGlopper’s story is one of the most heroic in U.S. military history. He is honored with a memorial in France, but also here in his hometown at the center of Grand Island Boulevard. And now, as you know, there is an effort to revitalize the DeGlopper memorial here on Grand Island. We need a better, more appropriate memorial in Western New York.

This last week giant stones (resembling the rock face at Normandy) went into place. Each weigh well over one thousand pounds. Soon trees will be planted. Eventually, a statue of DeGlopper will rise up beside an eternal flame. When it’s all done, it will not only honor Charles DeGlopper, his family, and the other families who lost loved ones in battle serving our country, but also create the beautiful heart of our Town Center.

For retired Lt. Colonel Patrick Soos (L), a member of the Grand Island VFW, building the new DeGlopper Memorial is a labor of love.

For retired Lt. Colonel Patrick Soos (L), a member of the Grand Island VFW, building the new DeGlopper Memorial is a labor of love.

Volunteers have already done a great deal to help the new memorial take shape. But the DeGlopper family needs your help. The memorial can’t be completed without several hundred thousand dollars. I know that sounds like an insurmountable goal, and frankly it can’t be done without corporate sponsors. But you can definitely help. Each of us can buy a stone for the walkway that will feature your family name. And vets can purchase stones for the wall. Go to www.degloppermemorial.org for more information.

The centerpiece of this memorial will be special: a statue of Charles. There has been some debate about what form he will take, but it will eventually be turned over to an artist. The current plan is to create a life-like version of the handsome DeGlopper with his rifle—the defining moment of his act of valor. Reportedly, he was six-foot-eight inches tall (as tall as Lebron James).

Regardless of his frame, Charles DeGlopper was a good man; a beautiful son of our beautiful Isle. There is a famous photo of him standing next to his friend where he is at least a head taller than him. He’s as thin as a rail, looking happy, in his uniform. But what strikes me about that photo (you can Google that too) is not his height. It’s his smile—and his youth.

As I write this I have Ray Deglopper (his nephew) standing next to me. I just asked him, “What was Charles like?” Ray replied, “I don’t know. I was four when died. He was definitely tall, I remember seeing him ducking through the door when he walked in our old farm house. But what I really remember is what it did to my grandfather. He never forgot him . . . missed him every day.”

Let’s not forget him either—www.degloppermemorial.org

Regards,

Nate

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