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Navy Week brought out the gratitude in Oliver Perry Hazard.

The 72-year-old retired Ellicottville resident watched sailors lay a wreath at the Front Park monument honoring Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.

"It looks great," Hazard said of the monument for his fourth cousin four times removed.

"I'm proud to be a relative to Commodore Perry, especially to have the name," he said.

For thousands of visitors Saturday at Canalside and the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park, the second-to-last day of Navy Week evoked a range of reactions, from pride and happiness to curiosity and surprise.

For Lisa Witmer of Boston, the tall ship USS Brig Niagara brought back memories.

When not sailing on the Great Lakes, the replica of the original 1813 wooden-hulled, two-masted ship from which Commodore Perry directed the Battle of Lake Erie is berthed in Erie, Pa., where Witmer once lived.

She has seen it often in Erie. "It's beautiful," she said.

But for the younger set, not even the tall ship could compete with the six-minute Navy SEAL simulator ride at Canalside.

For them, Navy Week was a thrill.

A dozen at a time boarded the simulator booth to watch a video from the perspective of a SEAL who, among other dangerous feats underwater and above, climbs a cliff and transmits data via satellite about the location of an enemy installation. Tomahawk cruise missiles then destroy the installation.

"It seemed real," said Witmer's 12-year-old-son, Ian.

John Frank of Barker boarded the Brig Niagara along with his wife and two daughters.

His Navy experience was real.

Frank served aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington during his five years in the Navy in the 1990s. He worked with computers.

Commodore Perry's ship, of course, had no computers. But Frank noticed the sonar technology, depth finder and directional gauges on the replica ship.

His daughter Elise, 14, expected her Navy Week visit to be "cool."

And she said she wasn't disappointed.

Katlyn, 11, wasn't so sure about coming downtown for the activities.

"Better than expected," she said of her time at Canalside.

Glenn and Kelly Evertt, of Lake View, brought the family for something to do on a Saturday.

They expected to be impressed by the ships.

But the day's other activities left them impressed, too.

The Evertts watched as four seamen marched and then tossed and flipped 13-pound, fully-functioning 1903 Springfield drill rifles to each other during a synchronized rifle show.

"I'm sure it took a lot of practice and a long time to learn that," Glenn Evertt said after watching the drill.

Patrick Garlock of Currituck, N.C., and Ben Smithee of Placerville, Calif., were among the seamen participating in the drill.

The two are members of a Coast Guard ceremonial honor guard unit based in Alexandria, Va. They have criss-crossed the nation for more than a year performing the drill at Navy Week in other cities.

The two said they enjoyed Buffalo's weather and hospitality.

A month ago, they performed at half time in front of 60,440 fans at a Washington Redskins-Chicago Bears preseason game at Soldier Field in Chicago.

After that experience, no other Navy Week crowd has seemed big.

Still, lines formed for those waiting to board the ships.

For John R. Kasmer of Amherst, Navy Week proved humbling.



Kasmer, 83, received a veterans service award from the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park for arranging for and serving in honor guards at veterans' funerals.

He sometimes serves in five or more a day.

"I never expected this," Kasmer said to a couple of hundred people who attended the veteran appreciation awards ceremony.

"What I do, I love to do," the retired Army captain said in his acceptance remarks.

"We're always there for the veterans," he said afterward, "to give them the farewell they all deserve."

Honor Flight Buffalo was also honored for its work.

The organization flies veterans at no charge to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials dedicated to honor their sacrifices.

Two of the co-founders, Jo-Anne Wylie and Lisa A. Wylie, thanked veterans in the crowd for their service.

"You have no idea what this means to us," Lisa Wylie said.







email: plakamp@buffnews.com