I was extremely honored to take part recently in a very patriotic and moving funeral service as a World War II airman from was laid to rest.
Sgt. Dominick J. Licari joined the United States Army shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and was officially inducted into the service on April 22, 1942. He received his basic training at Camp Upton, Camp Wheeler, Fort Meade, Fort Jackson, and Columbia Air Base. Following his training, he was presented his wings and promoted to gunner. In November 1943, he was sent overseas where he served as a gunner aboard a Mitchell Bomber and later an on A-20 Attack Bomber.
On March 13, 1944, while serving with the U.S. Army Air Corps, 312th Bombardment Group, 389th Bombardment Squadron, Sgt. Licari and his pilot, 2nd Lt. Valorie Pollard, were returning from a bombing raid on a Japanese airfield. Their plane crashed into a jungle-covered mountain in Papua, New Guinea. Both Licari and Pollard, along with four airmen in two of the missionís other A-20s that went down, were killed.
A number of search missions took place in the days that followed, but the planes were not found. In 1946, Licari was officially declared dead even though his remains had not been recovered. Over the years, the crash site was surveyed and resurveyed and in 2012 personal effects and remains were recovered. The Department of Defense then requested a DNA sample from Licariís brother and a positive match was made. Finally, nearly 70 years after Sgt. Licari gave his life in valiant service to our nation, the family had closure, and Sgt. Licari was coming home.
Dominick Licari was born and raised in Frankfort, New York. He graduated from Frankfort High School, played the trumpet in local bands, and was a carpenter, working throughout the Mohawk Valley. Now, after a funeral with full military honors, he has been laid to rest next to family members in Mount Olivet Cemetery in his Herkimer County hometown.
The story surrounding Sgt. Licariís service and his return home has generated a great deal of attention throughout our region and across the nation. When his remains made the trip from Albany Airport back to Frankfort, the Patriot Guard motorcycle riders were there to provide an escort. As the procession made its way along Route 5 honor guards from Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion chapters turned out along with residents wishing to pay their respects.
As part of the tribute to Sgt. Licari, it was my great privilege to award him the state senateís Liberty Medal, posthumously, and present the Liberty Medal certificate and award to his family. The Liberty Medal is the highest honor bestowed by the New York State Senate, recognizing those who were willing to sacrifice their lives, or did so, in defense of America and the cause of freedom and world peace.
The Liberty Medal is conferred on a select few, those who have distinguished themselves by meritorious action in the face of hostile odds. Sgt. Dominick Licari was that type of individual. He served with courage, bravery and valor and he made the ultimate sacrifice in service of his country.
Governor Cuomo also directed that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff in honor of Sgt. Licari on the day of his funeral.
Governor Cuomo said, ďAfter so many years abroad, the remains of Sgt. Licari are finally coming home. I proudly join with all New Yorkers in remembering his service to our country with gratitude, and offer my thoughts and prayers to the friends and family of other service members who remain unaccounted for.Ē
Sgt. Licariís story is exceptional and his journey home is truly unique. However, there are many more tales of valor and distinguished service like Licariís. If you are interested in learning more, I invite you to check out the online New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame, a link is available on my website, www.senatorjimseward.com.