Honor all fallen vets, says father of Major General Greene

— Photo courtesy of St. John’s Properties

“Fallen Star,” a large stainless steel sculpture, is part of a monument at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland dedicated to the sacrifice of not only Major General Harold Greene of Guilderland but also of all the “warfighters and their families who paid the ultimate price.” It was conceived of and commissioned by St. John’s Properties and built by father-and-son sculptors Tilghman Hemsley and Will Hemsley.

GUILDERLAND — A monument to name part of Route 20 after Major General Harold J. Greene — raised in Guilderland and killed in Afghanistan in 2014 — has prompted his father to urge a wider look.

Harold F. Greene of Guilderland said recently of United States military personnel who have died fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, “It doesn’t really matter what your rank is, you’re gone. It’s the same basic circumstances for anyone, from the private on up.”

Greene, who is 86, was talking about the ongoing effort, which recently passed in the New York State Senate, to rename part of State Route 20 in honor of his son. He said that focusing on his son alone is too narrow.

Steve Oliver of the local American Legion Riders said that the sign easily can be adjusted in some way to make the focus broader, as Mr. Greene wishes. Oliver works as Guilderland’s highway superintendent.

Major General Greene was shot and killed on Aug. 5, 2014 in Afghanistan, in a so-called “green on blue” insider attack. He was the highest-ranking official to be killed in a combat zone since the Vietnam War. He was 55.

On March 17, legislation to rename part of Route 20 — between Route 146 North (Carman Road) and Route 146 South (at the Stewart’s) in Guilderland — passed in the State Senate.

This part of Route 20, or Western Avenue, runs past the neighborhood where Greene grew up and where his father still lives. It also runs past the Town ’N’ Country Bowling Lanes, where a mural painted by artist Scott LoBaido on the side of the building bears the Major General’s name and depicts a large rippling flag with the silhouette of a soldier standing at attention in its center.

“To name the highway that runs past the neighborhood where he grew up is one way to honor his legacy,” Senator George Amedore, who sponsored the bill in the State Senate, told The Enterprise. The bill will head next to the Assembly, sponsored by Patricia Fahy.

 

— Photo courtesy of Harold F. Greene
First-born son: Harry, the oldest of the three Greene boys, is flanked by his younger brothers, Jonathan (left) and Steven.

 

Greene’s father, however, said that he himself would be more comfortable with a memorial that includes all of those killed in wartime, and not just his son.

He pointed to a recently dedicated memorial known as the “Fallen Star,” at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, where his son once served and where, he said, “They try out new ideas and equipment.”

The memorial is a stainless-steel sculpture, measuring about 18 feet high by 22 feet wide, in the shape of a star half embedded in the earth at an impossible angle, as if it had fallen hard from the sky. It is “Dedicated in honor of Major General Harold (Harry) J. Greene and the Warfighters and their Families Who Paid the Ultimate Price.”

What appealed to him about the “Fallen Star” monument, Greene said, was that it goes beyond honoring just one person. He wondered if anything could be done to make the sign in honor of his son more inclusive.

Oliver, whom Amedore said was the moving force behind the drive to rename the road, told The Enterprise, “That’s a wonderful idea, and we can talk to George [Amedore]. That’s easy. We can build anything.”

Oliver continued, “We didn’t choose him [Major General Greene] because he was the highest ranking, we chose him because he was right here. If he was a private, he would be treated the same way in our eyes.”

In July 2015, the portion of Route 146 that runs from Route 20 to Lydius Street was renamed “Lieutenant Colonel Todd J. Clark Memorial Highway” after a native son of Guilderland killed in Afghanistan in 2013. Like Greene, Clark was also killed in a so-called “green-on-blue” insider attack.

The part of Route 146 named for Clark  runs into and meets Route 20 at the portion that would be renamed for Major General Greene.

Asked if there have been any enlisted personnel who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan, Oliver said, “There aren’t any that we are aware of in our neighborhood,” although there are many vets who have returned from those wars. He said that the American Legion Riders are dependent on people in the community letting them know about any fallen vets from the area.

The Enterprise carried a story in July 2011 about a memorial service held for Army Specialist Rafael A. Nieves Jr. of Guilderland, who died that month in combat in the Paktika province of Afghanistan. Nieves, who was 22, had moved to Guilderland at age 14 and spent several years living here. He was shot in the chest as he manned a tank that was under attack with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. Among his many commendations were the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Rafael A. Nieves Sr. still lives on East Lydius Street. Guilderland Town Supervisor Peter Barber told The Enterprise that town officials are in the process of renaming a town road  after Specialist Nieves, and are thinking of the portion of East Lydius that runs in front of the Nieves family home. Barber said that renaming a town road is a decision for the town board, and does not require the approval of the Senate or Assembly.

Barber said that he would also speak soon with Greene, to try to ascertain his wishes.

Major General Greene’s career was focused not on the importance of rank, his father said, but on technology (“bringing the military more up to date”) and resolution of deeply rooted conflicts between governments.

Oliver’s American Legion Post 977 went to Greene’s childhood home on East Old State Road after his death and again a year later, to say a few words and to plant flags around the edge of the property. “We’ll be out there again this year,” he said.

“Mr. Greene is a very quiet guy and just going about his business,” said Oliver, “but we weren’t going to just let it go by.”

Members of the post, he said, “sneak out” in the winter and plow Mr. Greene’s driveway, Oliver added. “It took him about half the winter this year to figure out who was doing it.”

Harry Greene’s was not “the usual way of the military, of just following orders,” said his father. Much of his work involved coming up with ways to improve the nation’s ability to handle modern warfare, the kind where there are “no front lines” and where “most people who are killed are taken off guard,” Greene said.

The military training academy outside Kabul where Harry Greene died was like West Point, his father said, but more inclusive: “They offered a section for the development of non-comms, as well as officers,” his father said. Harry had been the driving force behind the effort to update it.

He noted that it was an Afghan soldier designated a “guardian angel” — charged with protecting American military personnel — who killed his son.

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