Local Veteran Gets Special Attention From SUNY Cobleskill Students

Howard Coger, a 92-year-old World War II veteran, has been living for several decades close to the State University of New York  College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, where his youngest child, Beverly Romain, and some of her siblings now work.  Mr. Coger, who served in both the Army and Air Force, was one of many brave soldiers who landed at Normandy on D-Day.  The tragic loss of so many lives that day has made it impossible for Mr. Coger to speak about his experiences even today, almost three-quarters of a century later, but he has always made it a point to proudly display an American flag on the front of his garage as a result of his having risked so much for that freedom.


Recently, Ms. Romain’s sister discovered the flag was missing, and she walked across the street to see if the young men who lived there, all students at SUNY Cobleskill, might know anything about the missing flag. They did not. 


“They were upset about the whole situation,” Ms. Romain recalled. A few days later, however, these five young men presented Mr. Coger with a new American flag.  “That’s not all,” she added. “These men made a new flag pole—hand crafted—and proceeded to mount it on my Dad’s garage.”  The students also asked about the military branch Mr. Coger had served in, and said they would try to obtain Army and Air Force flags for him, as well.  After thanking the young men and shaking their hands, Mr. Coger reflected that “the path they are going is the right path, and they will go far in life.”


Ms. Romain was so impressed with the generosity and kindness of the five young neighbors that she wrote to Matthew LaLonde, Director of Judicial and Veteran Affairs at the College. She noted that the five men--Ethan Fervan, Evan Dutcher, Jake Woodward, Christopher Satriano and Kevin Hanson—“conducted themselves in such a caring and professional manner, we could only have a great sense of pride for them, who represent our future as a free country,” she said in her message. 


Mr. LaLonde recently sent each student a Letter of Appreciation for their community service to a Cobleskill Veteran, stating, “Your involvement and leadership in supporting one of our local veterans is greatly appreciated.  It is moving to hear that you and your friends took the time out of your busy lives to not only recognize your neighbor’s service but also to do something qualitative and meaningful for him as well.”


He went on to say that as a result of their actions, the SUNY Cobleskill Student Veteran’s Association was making each one an honorary “Student Veteran” in recognition of their good deeds and invited them to participate in SVA events as well as to use the services of the Veterans Affairs Office.  Each one also received a gift certificate to Coby’s, a local restaurant, in appreciation of their kindness.


The end of the story, however, is bittersweet.  Mr. Coger passed away this morning, less than a week before Christmas, surrounded by most of his children, “ now with my Mom again and at peace ,” Ms. Romain said.  It is a sad day for the family, but one that is tempered by the knowledge that in his last days their father experienced the kindness of five young strangers who took the time to offer a meaningful deed in recognition of his life and dedication to his country.  And that means a lot to them. 

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