One of the first Throggs Neck residents to be killed in Vietnam is finally getting recognition.
Chester “Sonny” Schapanick, a Logan Avenue resident who was killed on May 21, 1966 as an 18-year-old Marine has now been honored by having a tree named in his honor in a memorial grove in Bicentennial Veterans Memorial Park. The remembrance comes more than 46 years after his death when he and others in Company C of the First Battalion of the Ninth Marines were ambushed, coming under fire from a hamlet southwest of Danang, said his younger brother Frank of Pelham Bay.
In the apartment, he showed off awards given posthumously to his brother by the Marines, Governor George Pataki and others.
Frank Schapanick, 63, said that he could still remember where he was when he heard the news that his brother had been killed in Vietnam.
“I was playing handball in the schoolyard at P.S. 72, and my younger brother said that my brother has been shot. I asked if he was ok, and he said that he was dead. I ran home to be with my mother.”
When his brother joined the Marines at age 17 in January 1965, his parents Frank and Frances were both concerned about their son, but were not necessarily thinking about Vietnam, said Schapanick.
“In January 1965, Vietnam was not yet a very big conflict,” said Schapanick, who also served, on Okinawa, during the Vietnam conflict. “I believe that the Marines first went in during 1965.”
Schapanick said he’s glad his brother is receiving recognition, and said that as time went on his feelings regarding his brother’s death had mellowed out.
Pat Devine, the chairperson of the Bicentennial Veterans Memorial Park, Inc., the group that helped found that park on July 4, 1976, said he wanted the surviving brother to know that his brother’s ultimate sacrifice was not forgotten.
Devine is planning to put a natural marker engraved with Chester’s name on the tree, just off the northernmost path in the park from the Throgs Neck Expressway. “It could be a stone or a rock with the engraving, so that it will blend in with the natural surroundings,” said Devine.
Frank Schapanick still treasures drawings that his brother, who loved to draw, made when he was growing.
Chester left behind three brothers – Frank, Martin and Edward, and three sisters – Katherine, Carol, and Dorothy.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393