SENECA FALLS — David Bellomo was serving with the Marines in 1969 when he was wounded in Vietnam.
“It was about 1 in the morning when we were overrun by the Viet Cong,” Bellomo remembered, showing the scars from his wounds. “I was shot in the arm and still have numbness in my right arm.
“I was lucky,” he added. “We lost two Marines. I came home with all my limbs.”
The Seneca Falls native was awarded a Purple Heart, a military award created by President George Washington to honor those who were wounded or killed in the Revolutionary War against England.
Bellomo was one of more than a hundred people attending Tuesday’s dedication of the Purple Heart Trail in front of Generations Bank headquarters on East Bayard Street. He helped unveil a covering over the trail, a paved walkway with the name, rank, branch of service and war in which the Purple Heart recipient was killed or wounded.
“It’s a nice tribute,” Bellomo said after the ceremony. “It makes me proud of Seneca Falls.”
The trail is the idea of Generations Bank President and CEO Menzo Case, himself a former Marine. Case was in Frisco, Texas, not long ago when he saw a sign proclaiming that community as a Purple Heart Town.
“I was curious and did research,” Case said. “I found out it was instituted by George Washington in 1792 and honors those who were killed or wounded while serving in the American military. Any town, village, city or county can be a Purple Heart community, and I brought the idea to the bank’s Board of Directors, who endorsed it.”
He said the Seneca Falls Town Board plans to adopt a resolution at its September meeting officially designating itself a Purple Heart town.
“I’ve been talking with the mayor of Waterloo and as the Birthplace of Memorial Day. They are very interested and may soon join us in expanding the trail,” Case added. “We want to honor Purple Heart recipients who shed their blood and often gave their lives for American values.”
Mike Gallina, past commander of VFW Post 1323 of Seneca Falls, thanked the bank and the community for honoring those who gave so much for their country in time of war.
Sharon Rayno, commander of Kirk-Casey American Legion Post 366 of Seneca Falls, called the trail “a fabulous tribute” to veterans killed or wounded in action.
“We salute the community. Thank you,” Rayno said.
State Sen. Pam Helming, R-54 of Canandaigua, called it an honor to be invited.
“Veterans are near and dear to my heart,” she said. “My dad was an Air Force veteran who was at Sampson Air Force Base near here, and my son-in-law is a Green Beret.”
Helming asked veterans in attendance to raise their hands and lead the crowd in a round of applause.
She praised Case and the bank’s board members in presenting them with a New York State Senate Empire Award for community service.
Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R-131 of Canandaigua, said the trail adds to the area’s tributes to veterans, with nearby Waterloo the Birthplace of Memorial Day and Romulus home to the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
“I thank the bank and the community for its leadership in paying tribute to veterans wounded or killed in the ultimate sacrifice,” Kolb said. “I’m honored to be here.”
Case said nominating Purple Heart recipients for inclusion on the trail stones will be an ongoing process.
The Mynderse Academy Chamber Singers led the crowd in singing “America the Beautiful.”