World War II Veteran To Serve As Parade’s Grand Marshal
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Leaders of the township’s American Legion post believe Joe Saukulyak is their last remaining World War II veteran who is a member.
So they plan to honor him today as grand marshal of the township’s Memorial Day Parade.
“He’ll be in someone’s very fancy convertible,” said Ralph Burton, vice commander of the township’s Sons of the American Legion.
The parade begins at 10 a.m. on Casey Avenue near the former Wilkes-Barre Twp. High School following a Mass in St. John’s Byzantine Catholic Church.
Saukulyak, 92, said he is thankful he was chosen to lead this year’s parade, organized by American Legion Post 815.
“They said. ‘Do you want to do us a favor, how about being our grand marshal?’ I’m really surprised. I’m honored at my old age. There’s not many of us left from World War II,” Saukulyak said recently during a parade meeting while sipping from a bottle of Genesee beer.
Saukulyak graduated from Wilkes-Barre Twp. High School in 1944. He and several buddies soon enlisted in the Navy together and he shipped off to war on his 18th birthday.
Saukulyak and his Navy comrades were preparing to assist with the planned ground invasion of Japan. But the war ended when the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the country in August 1945.
Saukulyak gets to the American Legion about once a week. He’s also a Thursday night regular at the Catholic War Veterans post in Ashley.
He’s still driving and still working.
Saukulak is an usher at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Twp., a retirement job he’s held since the arena opened 20 years ago.
“After you hit 39, it’s all different. I get around pretty good yet,” Saukulyak said. “I’m in pretty good shape.”
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The Wilkes-Barre Twp. American Legion Memorial Day Parade starts at 10 a.m. from the former township high school on Casey Avenue. The parade route includes East Northampton, Spruce and Willow streets to the American Legion at 54 Chestnut St.