Recognizing dedication
Cortland man among Army officers honored at Cornell

Staff Reporter

metalITHACA — With 10 other officers and enlisted Americans, Maj. Dean. Swartwood advised and trained Iraqi troops while stationed in Iraq for a year.
“I lived and slept with them,” said Swartwood, a Horseheads native who now lives in Cortland. He also protected them against other Iraqis.
On Jan. 27, 2005, insurgents ambushed his unit as it patrolled in Samarra, Iraq. He provided cover fire to protect American and Iraqi soldiers and helped the wounded from the scene.
Swartwood was one of two U.S. Army officers to receive the Combat Action Badge during a military ceremony at Cornell University’s Wortham Military Museum in Barton Hall on Wednesday. Maj. Richard Brown, Cornell assistant professor of military science, received the other award for leading a convoy back to base after a roadside bomb struck it. In the blast, a sergeant from California received a serious head wound.
Swartwood, 50, has also received a Bronze Star Medal and Joint Meritorious Unit Award for his service.
The ceremony also honored ROTC officers Sgt. First Class Casey McFall with an Army Commendation Medal. The three officers’ wives were honored with Patriotic Service awards for their supportive roles.
Col. Keith George presented the awards. “This is a small snapshot in time and a small token for your dedication and commitment,” said George. He said the men have been willing to die for their fellow Americans. “Everyone standing before you has taken that risk,” he said.
Swartwood was born into a military family, dating back to the Revolutionary War and has served in one way or another since he graduated from Horseheads High School in 1974. Swartwood lives at 105 N. Main St. in Cortland.
He has been stationed at Cornell’s Reserve Officer Training Corps for almost four years now, but was selected to serve on active duty in September.
“I’m glad it’s over,” he said of his tour, which lasted from September 2004 to September 2005.
Equally glad is his wife, Karen Swartwood.
“It was harder than I’ve ever imaged,” she said. A military wife of 30 years, she said she felt alone and isolated because no one else in Swartwood’s unit was from Cortland.
“My granddaughter (Kayla) kept me sane,” said Karen Swartwood. She said she takes care of her 3-year-old granddaughter for her daughter. The Swartwoods raised three daughters and have four grandchildren, a set of twin boys born just a week and a half ago.
Her husband called often from Iraq.
“I got a lot of phone calls saying, ‘I’m OK,’ ” said Karen Swartwood, who said she usually knew when her husband was on missions thanks to the Internet.
Swartwood said he also received support from a Cortland teacher at Randall Elementary School. Dionne DePuy said Swartwood is a friend and her son’s godfather.
A school group DePuy started, Reaching Out to the Community, helped Iraqi children through Swartwood. Initially set up for children with low self-esteem, ROTC is open to any third- through sixth-grader at Randall.
When Swartwood sent pictures of Iraqi classrooms and orphanages, the children in the group wanted to help. They sent some of their own toys, school supplies and toiletries to Iraq. “We shipped several large boxes,” DePuy said. “They just wanted to do it.”
Swartwood said his 10-man team gave out more gifts to the Iraqi children than those from much larger units because of DePuy’s support.
“We have to change the minds and the hearts of the kids,” Swartwood said.
He said in the three battalions he commanded he saw about 300 Iraqi soldiers die and 14 Americans. Of the 900 Iraqis he helped train, only 13 stayed with the Iraqi military. The U.S. has to stop spending money on military actions there and concentrate on the Iraqi children who start learning English in fifth grade, he said.



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Squires rubble to be removed May 22

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The rubble that now sits on the former Squires Building site is scheduled to be removed May 22, according to owner John Scanlon. The project will take about two weeks to complete.
“The whole process has taken a lot longer than expected,” Scanlon said. “It’s been a real learning experience about what the requirements are with the state.”
According to Scanlon, New York state must approve any large demolition project through the Department of Labor.
“It’s a much more complicated process than I anticipated,” he said.
The paperwork and working with the state has pushed the debris removal back to the May 22 date. Scanlon said he did have a contract with a company to do the work, but would not release the name or the cost of the project.
The bricks, mortar and general garbage will go to a landfill. Which landfill is up to the hauler and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Scanlon said. He said the DEC must be involved in the process, even though he is not aware of any dangerous materials in the rubble.
However, there could be materials worth keeping.


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Groton engages in mascot makeover

School district forms committee to decide upon consistent image for Groton Indians logo.

Staff Reporter

GROTON — A committee that will settle on a uniform emblem to represent the school district’s Groton Indians mascot is expected to meet once before the summer, according to Board of Education President Nancy Thane.
The committee, spearheaded by Superintendent of Schools Brenda Myers, will decide over the next several months exactly what logo the district will use. It could take up to eight months to make the decision, Myers said at a school board meeting Monday.
Different groups throughout the district use various logos to represent the image of the Groton Indians mascot — ranging from a chief with a headdress to an American Indian with braids, Thane said. The original emblem was an American Indian chief, Thane said.
When Myers started as the Groton superintendent in December, she noticed the school’s letterhead and logo were inconsistent throughout the district. In an attempt to unify the logo, Myers decided to form the committee, which will include school board members, alumni, students, booster club members, principals and others to decide on an appropriate logo.


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An open door policy of exchange
Cortland Rotary Club finds shortage of families to host foreign students

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Mary Ann Gotie and her family have hosted three foreign exchange students in the last 11 years at their Truxton residence. The family has always been willing to share its home, Gotie said.
“Many people believe that they have to be full-time moms or have a parent around the student at all times, and that’s just not the case,” Gotie said. “People have to be willing to let the student become one of your family members.”
The Goties are becoming more the exception than the norm as the Cortland Rotary Youth Exchange Program has found it increasingly harder to find host families.
The Rotary Youth Exchange Program has been ongoing for more than 35 years, said John MacNeill, coordinator of the incoming exchange program. Ron Walsh Jr., a Cortland lawyer and Rotarian, is the coordinator of the outgoing exchange program.
“We have trouble finding host families more and more, but I really don’t have a good reason why,” MacNeill said.
The Cortland Rotary Club oversees the exchange program and places two students in local schools every year — one in Cortland and one in Homer.
The club is seeking four host families for the newest student, Mia Muramoto, who will be coming to the district in August. Muramoto is from Eniwa, Japan, in the province of Hokkaido. She will attend the Homer School District.


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