Growing up, Matt Winnie never missed a Veterans Day parade. Standing on a curb to catch a better view, he valiantly waved a flag at veterans who marched past and exuberantly watched as jets flew in formation overhead tracing the sky with lines of white smoke.
The celebration has been a constant in the Tully native's life. It still is. But over the years, it has taken on a new meaning.
As the nation pauses to honors its veterans Nov. 11, a day set aside to recognize those who have served in the Armed Forces, Winnie will be on the front line paying tribute.
This time-instead of watching them, he will stand beside them.
At age 23, Winnie is a two-time war veteran. He is also a student at Morrisville State College pursuing a degree in liberal arts and sciences: humanities and social science. A member of the Air National Guard, he voluntarily traded his books and laptop computer for combat boots and two tours of duty.
Serving has delayed Winnie's educational plans, but it's a sacrifice he was willing to make-and would gladly make again.
The Manlius resident joined the New York Air National Guard in August 2004 to earn money for college. He follows in the patriotic wake of a line of family members who served before him; an uncle who fought in the Army in Vietnam, two grandfathers who served in the Navy during the Korean War, a great grandfather who served in the Army during World War I and a great uncle who died in the battle of Iwo Jima.
Rich with military pride, a flag flew at his family's home and Winnie became well-versed in the history of every war and the meaning behind purple ribbons and poppies.
A member of the 174th Security Forces (Fighter Wing) at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Winnie is a military police officer trained in sharp shooting and urban warfare. He's part of the Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT), also called Urban Operations (UO), a version of a civilian SWAT team and the equivalent to the intermediate stage of a sniper.