The definitions of a hero according to Merriam-Webster are: “A person admired for his/her achievements” and “One who shows great courage.” Inside New Castle, we indeed have heroes among us. Some were born and raised in town, many are on active duty, several are veterans. These men and women are family, friends, neighbors. More importantly, they are people of great courage, sacrificing their comfort and safety for the safety and security of our country, and protecting the freedom that we have come to learn is not free. While by no means an all-inclusive list, the following profiles of six young men and one woman are a great point of departure. We take great pride in sharing their stories in these pages…
By Eileen Gallagher
Thomas Galvin, HGHS 2011
Galvin recently graduated from the Air Force Academy, and is on his way to pilot school.
His inspiration? “I don’t think I can attribute it to any one thing. I guess I’ve just never stopped thinking airplanes were cool. Seeing the Blue Angels at Jones Beach when I was young I thought, ‘that looks awesome, I want to do that.’ But as far as being in the Air Force, that’s probably just luck. I applied never thinking I’d get in, but I somehow did. Now I’m on my way to starting pilot training.” Galvin’s paternal grandfather served in the Army, and, but for vision issues, his father would have become a pilot with the Marines.
Family’s reaction? Galvin’s mother, Kathy, a Chappaqua resident, remembers learning about her son’s decision. “It seemed that the process was looking favorable. He asked me how I felt about it, and at that exact moment I remember thinking it was my worst nightmare and at that same moment thinking it was my greatest dream for him! The Academy teaches, ‘Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do’. I could not think of a better set of values to be taught!” Galvin’s father, also named Tom, said, “We are so proud and happy for him as it’s a dream come true. Ever since he was seven he wanted to fly for the Air Force. He has always been community-minded having logged in record hours at Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance, being an officer at Civil Air Patrol, and serving the Church of St. John and St. Mary as an altar server and on Midnight Runs.”
Community support? “My parents are the biggest reason I’ve made it to pilot training, but I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without the help of a lot of people in the community. Between tutors, personal trainers and community leaders, they’re people I still keep in touch with and visit whenever I can, despite the Air Force taking me far from Chappaqua. My friends and family are an essential part of my support network, they definitely keep me sane, and are always there for me.”
Path going forward? “After I complete Initial Flight Training, I’ll begin a year-long Undergraduate Pilot Training. The first phase is one month of academics. In Phase 2, I’ll begin flying a small training aircraft. About halfway through is Phase 3; I will track into the training aircraft for fighter and bomber pilots, the trainer for cargo pilots or the trainer for helicopters. After I complete training in one of those aircrafts, I’ll learn which airplane I’ll fly for the next ten years. At some point over the next two years, I’ll also need to complete Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Training as well as a water survival class.”
Advice for others interested? “The Air Force Academy looks for well-rounded, service-oriented people. My extracurriculars and volunteer service made me competitive, and getting involved with Civil Air Patrol also gave me an advantage. ROTC is a great opportunity to get a commission. My advice is, even if you’re only the slightest bit interested, give it a shot.” Galvin’s dad added, “Entering the Air Force is hard enough, but staying in is even harder. In Thomas’ year, 55,000 students expressed an interest in attending, 12,000 were invited to apply, 1200 were accepted, and only 800 graduated. It’s that tough.”
Ariel Coreth, HGHS 2009
Coreth is a Naval DIVO (Division Officer) who manages a group of over 50 sailors. Deployed for six months over a year ago, she was flown to Hong Kong to meet her ship, sailed south, and “parked” in the Red Sea in support of Operation Inherent Resolve; a mission to be on standby for evacuating the Yemeni Embassy, if needed.
Her inspiration? Her brother Ian. As a high school freshman, she accompanied her father to visit him at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. “Observing formation, observing people hard at work studying, people walking around in crisp white uniforms, and how excited and happy my brother was, it basically got me thinking, okay, what is this place about?” Coreth explained. She further shared that she did her research and felt she came to understand what to expect,”It’s regimented…there are rules. It’s more of a disciplined path for me to take. I met people who were so happy and felt so accomplished. There was just that innate drive in them, that dogged determination that sometimes you don’t find nowadays.”
Women in the military? “Things are changing. The Navy is approaching the 25% mark, and we do have the first four star Admiral. There were recently two (female) West Point graduates: a Second Lieutenant and a Captain who graduated ranger school.” Coreth pointed out other successful women in the service spotlight, specifically noting both Condoleeza Rice and Sonya Sotomayor and saying, “I’ve seen successful men and women. I’ve also seen men screw up and women screw up. (Ultimately) it’s all the same…it’s about giving back, but also about the highest echelon, the highest caliber of service. I love my country, and this is the way I want to serve my country.”
Advice for any interested students? “Chappaqua schools did a wonderful job in molding a very independent mind. Follow the beat of your own drum. Trust your gut and be open
and receptive to new things.”
Max Hamlin, HGHS 2007
Inspiration? “Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, but one was only a kid,” began Hamlin, describing how Bernie Goodkin, his maternal grandfather was 17 years old when he enlisted. He served on the S.S. Leopoldville, a Belgian passenger liner that was converted to a transport for soldiers. On December 24th, 1944, Goodkin was in his quarters below deck when, by happenstance, one of his fellow infantrymen gave his head a mischievous smack. A chase ensued, with both men ending up on the upper deck, neither knowing that a torpedo launched from a German submarine was about to strike.
“My grandfather was pulled out of the water,” continued Hamlin. Had Goodkin still been in the lower level, he would have perished with the more than 760 soldiers who died in what has come to be known as The Leopold Disaster. “Years later, he still got letters from other family members of those on that ship asking if he knew of anyone else surviving.”
Was Goodkin the inspiration for Hamlin to join the Army? Perhaps in part. “I always looked up to my grandfather–I wanted to emulate him.” Was 9/11 a factor? “I was a 7th grader during 9/11, and scared we would be in a war.” Hamlin pointed out the irony that, at 22 years of age, he was getting on a plane to serve in that very war he had feared. “I would have served regardless,” Hamlin said. “Growing up here, I felt like I had a debt, something to give back.” He served on the Pleasantville Ambulance Corps during high school, and was in ROTC while in college. “I loved being part of a team, doing something exciting,” Hamlin said. A self-proclaimed “adrenalin junkie”, he wanted adventure, and found it in the Army. Commissioned in 2011, he spent the following year in Fort Campbell, Kentucky with the 101st Airborne Division (think TV series Band of Brothers). He was deployed to Afghanistan in the Nangarhar Province in one of the last big deployments from November 2012 to August 2013.
Just as meaningful to Hamlin is his deep appreciation for everything he has here in our country. He spoke of the civilians in Afghanistan working to feed their families while having to navigate roadside explosives, and observed, “You don’t understand how much you’ve been given until you see people who don’t have it. You learn to appreciate food and sleep, how nice it is to drive to school in safety. Basic necessities become treasured moments.” Even something as basic as a letter in the mail becomes ‘one of those things’.
Would he make the same choice again? Hamlin recalled that the last thing he did before he left for the Army was watch the Jets lose with his dad. And though his mother did not want him to join in the beginning, she was very proud as she came to see her son off. He conceded that the Army is not for everyone, “It’s a very big commitment. It’s hard to leave your family, your familiar town, hard to adjust to moving to an area where you don’t want to live. But it’s worth it as you get to meet people from all 50 states, and see some of the world. You learn how to make a new family. By the time you leave a base, you have made 20 new friends.” After a beat, he was unequivocal, “I would do it again.”
The single most important thing to come out of his experience was the opportunity to serve as an officer and lead soldiers. “Being honored with the responsibility of leading our nation’s sons and daughters is by far my greatest achievement. At 23 years old, I was leading 25 soldiers, and at 24, I was second in command of 180 troops. That’s not something I ever thought would happen as a small town kid from Chappaqua!” Hamlin concluded, “My service and my time in Afghanistan are just steps in my life’s journey, but the privilege of leadership in such a storied organization is what I am most proud of.”
David Levine, HGHS 2003
Army Medic Levine lives with his wife and two children in Virginia. He received his Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification at 18, and, after two years of study at Suffolk University in Boston, he joined the Army.
Inspiration to serve? Levine recalled, “I was born in Bogota, Colombia, and was raised primarily in the streets in various foster homes and orphanages. I was adopted in 1991 at the age of 6, along with my brother Leonard, and was very fortunate to be saved from the life I had. I have always had a sense of obligation to repay my parents for the life that they allowed me to have–the Army was always something I felt I needed to do.”
Levine explained how he learned of his late brother Lawrence’s service with the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps (CVAC). “When I was 7 years old, I found his bright yellow jacket in one of our closets. It belonged to my brother Lawrence who had died before we were adopted. (Lawrence was adopted at birth from Colombia.) At 17, he passed away in an accident on a school trip in Europe. He was an avid volunteer at the Ambulance Corps, and I later learned there is a tree dedicated in his honor outside the CVAC station.” After his parents explained Lawrence’s role as an EMT, Levine was immediately interested. “At the time, I really just thought the lights, sirens and jackets were cool, but once I started, it solidified what I wanted to do in my life.”
He continued, “Military recruiters never came to Chappaqua, so I sought them out and told them there was no way I would sign up unless I was a Medic. My main goal was to help soldiers in a time of war. I wanted the trauma, I wanted the action; and I appreciated the feeling of being needed at one’s most vulnerable moments, knowing I was the one who could help. I was never very patriotic. In fact, growing up, I took more pride in being Colombian only because I didn’t want to lose that part of me. But once I joined, it was instantaneous. I was a part of something much bigger than myself or my desires.”
Family’s reaction? Despite his dad having served from 1958-1960, Levine felt his decision was “very new to all of them.” That being said, his “family slowly came around to accepting” his decision and became his biggest supporters. “I was finally able to make them proud, and achieve things I never thought I could,” he said.
Advice? Levine encourages high school students to “make sure it is something you really want to do. You have to love what you do, because it is not easy. The physical and mental demands that the Army requires is unlike anything most will experience. Even the most competitive athlete, or the best student, will have some sort of significant lifestyle change.”
Future Plans? “I’m still a Medic, but work in a clinic, which is a long way from the front lines. After 32 months in the Middle East, between Afghanistan twice, and a short tour at Kuwait /Iraq border, this is a nice change of pace. I intend to stay in the service until I retire, well past my 20 years. I hope to become an officer in the Army, but stay in the medical field either as a Nurse, or a Physician’s Assistant.”
Levine summed up his thoughts on serving in the military; “All of the benefits are at your disposal as long as you keep in mind what you really signed up for. You took an oath to defend the people of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic. That seems like just words, but understand that you are a Soldier, Marine, Airmen or Seaman 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Regardless of what you are wearing, you represent the United States. Once you are called to fight, you have a very valuable position. It’s not always about God and country, and, in most cases, that may be the last thing on your mind. But it is taking care of yourself, and also of those around you so your mission is completed and you all come home.”
Ben Berkey, HGHS 2010
Berkey excelled in school, both in the classroom and on the playing fields. He was one of two recipients of the Torrey D. Dodson award for Male Scholar Athlete of the year, active on the student council and a co-captain of the football team. A willingness and ability to lead played a part in his decision to serve, and Berkey went directly from Greeley to the United States Naval Academy, graduating in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering and is currently in the submarine training pipeline.
Inspiration? The 9/11 attack tremendously impacted Berkey. His uncle, Douglas Irgang, worked in the South Tower, and was killed at the age of 32. Football coach Bill Tribou was also an inspirational figure; having served in the Marine Corps, Tribou recognized Berkey’s qualities and his potential, and put forward the idea of serving. Tribou said of Berkey, “Ben is a product of an outstanding upbringing. His parents created an environment for their children that was loving, caring and, at the same time, task oriented. Ben is a very special young man, a very rare individual. His first and foremost quality is his compassion and care for everybody else! I have never known him to be irresponsible, or put his own needs before others. His passion and attention to detail is incalculable!”
In 2010, just before graduating, Berkey gave a speech at the Memorial Day dedication of the Route 120 bridge to Staff Sergeant Kyu Hyuk Chay, who lost his life in service to our country. Though Berkey did not personally know Chay, the parade marshall at the time, Lt. Col. Bob Coulombe, knew Berkey and thought he was the right choice for the moving memorial ceremony. An excerpt from the end of his speech: “My desire to attend the United States Naval Academy began when I watched the Twin Towers fall, carrying my uncle to his grave and threatening all Americans’ safety. I have to believe that my uncle’s death, along with the other 3,000 innocent victims who perished that day, serves to remind me how very fragile freedom is. The events of 9/11 magnified my patriotism and inspired me to protect this country.”
Future plans? In his third year at the Academy, Berkey became a submarine officer, drawn to the people and “the most advanced technology in the military.” His contract is for five years of service; sometime in August of 2016 he will learn the location of his submarine assignment. In the meantime, Berkey is engaged to be married to his HGHS sweetheart, Christine Haggerty, whose parents, like his own, are residents of Chappaqua.
Ted Kenyon, HGHS 2007
Ted Kenyon’s last official day in the Army fast approaches. Deployed for one year to Jordan, he also served two three-week overseas assignments in the United Arab Emirates and South Korea, respectively. He recently finished his time as Platoon Leader for 41 months, well above the average one year assignment.
Inspiration? Although both of his grandfathers served in the Navy, Kenyon drew enlistment inspiration elsewhere. Like several of his peers, he pointed to 9/11 as one factor leading to his decision. “At the end of the day, I didn’t have a good excuse not to,” said Kenyon. He believes “everyone has a duty to serve their community in some capacity, and if you are physically and mentally capable to serve, you should.”
Family reaction? Kenyon’s family’s initial reaction was one of disbelief. His parents, Mark and Ann, attributed his interest in joining Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at Wake Forest University to the “tough talk of a teenager.”
Ann recalled advising him, “Let’s not make a commitment right now. Go to Wake, join a fraternity, see how things play out.” Deep down, she knew her son was greatly affected by the attacks on the World Trade Center; she worked across the street from the Trade Center, but was away on business in the days leading up to that tragic day. Original plans called for a red-eye back to New York the night of September 10th.
She never took that flight, but her children didn’t know that and feared the worst. Kenyon would later tell her, “If I don’t defend our country, who else will?” With their son’s graduation in 2011, Ann and Mark’s feelings evolved into great pride combined with genuine concern. “I wouldn’t wish this on any mother’s child, but I need to be respectful–respectful for the sacrifice,” shared Ann, who also mentioned that Skyping and texting provide some measure of comfort.
For his mother’s birthday this year, Kenyon presented Ann with his framed separation orders, for which she was very grateful.
Plans going forward? While deployed, Kenyon would get up at 1 a.m. Jordanian time to take online courses out of the University of Maryland. Beginning January 2016, he will attend graduate school at Georgetown University for Security Policy Studies as part of their International Relations program, and plans to stay in government service.
Considering a similar path? “We’ve been given a leg up more than most people,” Kenyon said of growing up in Chappaqua. But he pointed out that serving in the military is one of the “great equalizers” where you are rewarded and promoted based on merit alone, regardless of your socioeconomic background. “You earn your own way.”
He further advised about life’s critical skills: “Do your homework–reach out and ask questions. Read voraciously about the conflicts that are going on throughout the world. Make a difference–be a leader.” Kenyon’s final advice comes in the form of a quote by Teddy Roosevelt, one that helped inform his decision to join, “If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness.”
There are many more stories not yet told. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to share a service experience for inclusion in the online version of Inside Chappaqua.
And if you are moved to express your gratitude and appreciation for all that our military men and women do for us, please consider joining an organization such as Soldiersangels.org.
Eileen Gallagher is a Chappaqua resident, wife, mother of two sons, daughter of a Navy veteran, and a great supporter of our military. A member of Soldiers’ Angels for over three years, she currently volunteers with veterans at the Montrose VA and sends over 100 letters a year to troops serving overseas.