Thank You Veterans: Local vet, 90, taught others how to “be brave”


90 year-old Cyril Polacheck served in the Navy during the tail end of World War II.

His grandson nominated him to receive our final NewsChannel 34 Thank You Veterans recognition ceremony.

Cyril’s adventure began at the age of 17 when he convinced his parents to allow him to enlist before his 18th birthday.

Cyril Polacheck joined the US Navy and was assigned to the U.S.S. Fuller in the Pacific Theater. 

He would eventually pilot a Higgins boat which landed Marines in places like Okinawa and Guadalcanal among heavy fighting and many casualties. 

He says they all worked together to accomplish the mission.

 “They all done their job and I’m proud of all of them. That’s all I can say. They’re great people, they loved their country, and they defended it,” he said.

During the war, he faced bombardment from the Japanese and the threat of kamikaze planes. 

Cyril says he knew no one who claimed to be an atheist while facing enemy fire.

“It takes a lot of guts, and there’s a lot of fear in it, but they know how to suppress it. And they do their job, that’s the main thing,” he said.

After growing up listening to his grandfather’s war stories, Matt Waskie decided to nominate Cyril for our recognition ceremony.  

Matt says he’s always seen him as a hero.

“This man has taught me how to stand up for myself, be brave, that I can have determination,” said Matt Waskie.

After the war ended, Cyril volunteered to serve on the U.S.S Europa so that he could see the world. 

He married Emily Smolko in 1951 and they recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. 

They moved to Endwell in 1956 when Cyril got a job at IBM and they raised 4 children who provided them with 12 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. 

Congressman Richard Hanna expressed the gratitude of our nation.

“It is my great privilege and honor to present you with this flag, the symbol of our country, flown over the Capitol in your honor.  And this challenge coin,” said Hanna.

Southern Tier Veterans Support Group President Al Eaton, himself a Navy veteran, presented Cyril with a challenge coin as well.

“Those of us who are a little bit younger appreciate the veterans who went before us who set a really good example,” said Eaton.

And the group Quilts of Valor provided the comfort and healing of a patriotic quilt.

“We may never know the depths of your sacrifices to protect and defend the United States of America. As a gesture of gratitude from this nation, we award you this Quilt of Valor,” said Annmarie Allaire.

Cyril was an accomplished boxer in his Navy days, and still enjoys smoking a cigar now and again.  Matt says his grandfather taught him that he could be whatever he set his mind to.

“This was my way of saying, ‘Thank you for not only being America’s soldier, but my soldier,'” said Matt Waskie.

“The people in my generation, we did the job that we had to do, and they done it great. No problems, they did their job and all I can say is that I’m proud of them,” said Polacheck.

You can see the entire recognition ceremony at this link.

Visit our Thank You Veterans page at this link.

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