2016 Honorees

John Flowers

Vietnam Veteran – United States Army 82nd Airborne Division

2016 Posthumous Honoree

Born in Brundidge, Alabama on October 28, 1943 to the late John D. Flowers and Tommie Mae Lane. He has 7 children: Yvonne, John, Alicia, Frank, Sheree, LaShonda and Shatia and one daughter, Larissa, who predeceased him. John has 18 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren.

John moved to Poughkeepsie, NY at the age of 10 along with his mom, sisters and brother. John attended Poughkeepsie High School and played on the school basketball team. His maneuvers on the court and his on-point jump shots made him an all-county basketball star. John served his country as a member of the United States Army’s 82nd Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. He was a paratrooper and loved jumping out of planes. He used to say jumping out of planes made him feel “free” as he dropped through the clouds and became amazed at its beauty.

After returning home to Poughkeepsie after his service in the US Army, John became a carpenter and eventually set up his own general contracting business. He loved to rehab dilapidated houses in his community. When John decided to retire from his general contracting business he decided to stay active in his community and became Hudson Valley’s community organizer. In 1992, after visiting his sister who was battling cancer in a Boston hospital, John started his “Gift Giving” to hospital and nursing homes in his community. It had grown throughout the years to delivering gifts to 3 hospitals, 24 nursing homes, the Children’s Home and the Family Partnership Lunchbox. It went from 400 presents being delivered a year to over 9,000 presents being delivered.

Two decades ago, John started the Old Fashioned Easter Egg Hunt to let kids know how much fun he had on Easter when he was a child in Alabama. Thousands of children and adults attend the hunt each year, searching through a field of eggs. Close to 30,000 eggs are stuffed with candy and prizes each year and both young and old are welcomed to participate in this free event. Since 2003, John organized the Church Picnic Dedicated to God at Earline Patrice Park in Poughkeepsie, where close to 20 churches joined together in fellowship and serve free food, clothing and other items to a crowd over thousand people.

John continue to organize events to spread hope, happiness and the love for humanity through his community. For over 13 years he delivered over 50,000 roses to nursing homes and hospitals on Mother’s Day and in 2002, he organized the first Father’s Day Parade in the history of the country to show how important fathers are in their children’s lives. In 2009 he held the first “Christmas in February” at the VA Hospital in Castle Point in his way of letting our veterans know how important they were to him. John assisted in creating a Halloween Haunted House for the kids at the Family Partnership Center and organized the volunteers for the Eileen Hickey Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners held at the Lunch Box each year which serves over 1,000 dinners.

For a decade, John was a host of the “John Flowers Radio Show”. He was on the air Mon – Friday mornings 9am-12noon on WHVW AM radio, providing thousands of his listeners valuable resources in the community. His trademark was his black and white shoes. Didn’t matter where you saw John, either at a community function or gala, people were amazed at his black and white shoes.

John received numerous notable awards throughout the community and on June 20, 2015, John had the privilege of having lower Main Street, near Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie, renamed in his honor. He was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what his community did for him. He spent a few hours each night at the John M. Flowers circle reflecting on how much he loved his community, up until he passed away on August 21, 2015. John Flowers made a positive impact on his community and won the hearts of many. John’s family and friends vow to continue his legacy.

Sergeant Marc Coviello, US Army

Marc Coviello is an Arlington High School graduate and Dutchess County Legislator representing the towns of Beekman and Union Vale in District 22. He currently serves on the Budget, Finance, and Personnel Committee as well as the Environmental Committee. In 2015 Senator Terrance Murphy inducted him into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame. Marc is the founder of the Hudson Valley Hero Project, a local non-profit that assists local veterans.

Over the past year Hudson Valley Hero Project has given several college scholarships to local veterans, sent over fifty boxes of good to deployed service members from our local area, raise over $2,000 for a veteran battling leukemia in order to pay for travel costs to and from his medical procedures, purchased a handicap accessible van (fully paid for) for a local paraplegic veteran who had no means of transportation as well as paying off the outstanding balance of rent overdue on his handicap accessible home.

Marc joined the Army and began Infantry OSUT (one station unit training) at Fort Benning, GA on February 15, 2010. Upon graduation from Infantry OSUT, he was assigned to 3-8 CAV, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division. In January of 2011 Marc deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn. During his tour in Iraq, he served as a rifleman in an infantry fire team. His main mission was to conduct stability operations, focusing on advising, assisting and training Iraqi security forces.

Upon redeployment from Iraq back to garrison, he was promoted to specialist and was placed into a team leader position. He was later promoted to Sergeant on December 10th, 2012 and was the youngest sergeant in the entire battalion at that time. After being promoted to Sergeant, Marc was reassigned to the 1-32 INF, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

A small group of Infantrymen, including Marc, were selected to be assigned to an Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) team from 3rd Special Forces to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Their mission was to train, equip, advise and assist Afghan Special Forces in order to deter insurgent presence in their area of operation. During his time in Afghanistan, Marc served as a Designated Marksman with his primary weapon being the SR-25 Sniper Rifle and also as a turret gunner with a MK19 (a 40mm automatic grenade launcher). Marc received an Army Commendation Medal with VALOR and a Purple Heart medal on February 10, 2014 during an enemy ambush.

Sergeant Adam Roche, USMC

Adam Roche graduated from Our Lady of Lourdes High School in 2000 where he was played varsity basketball and was Captain of the varsity football team. He currently works at Darby O’Gills in Hyde Park and The Derby in Poughkeepsie where he arranges and schedules the security detail and schedules venues for entertainment. Adam also attended Dutchess Community College. His hobbies include anything related to the outdoors including hunting, fishing and camping. He loves watching the Yankees and New York Giants as well as being around his family and friends.

Adam enlisted into the Unites States Marine Corps in August of 2000 and was attached to 3rd Battalion 2nd Marine Regiment in Camp Lejuene, North Carolina. His unit was one of the first units to deploy in the initial invasion of Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a Squad Leader, Adam provided leadership to eight Marines in combat and was responsible for the safety and operations of the team while effectively communicating with other teams regarding military operations.

In September of 2003 Adam deployed again to Kabul, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. There, Adam was Sergeant of Guard at the American Embassy. He managed 31 Marines providing security in an active combat zone while providing scheduling of shifts to ensure there were no lapses of security on post.

Senior Airman Matthew Kemlage, US Air Force

Matthew Kemlage is a John Jay High School graduate and Deputy Sheriff with the Dutchess County Sheriff’s office. Prior to becoming a Deputy Sheriff, he was a member of the Wappingers Falls Police Department. Matthew has also been a member of the New Hackensack Fire Department for the past ten years and has served as the 1st Lieutenant, 2nd Lieutenant and Captain. One of Matthew’s hobbies is shooting; he shoots regularly at the Whortlekill Gun Club in East Fishkill.

Matthew entered into the Air Force Reserves in November of 2007 with the 439th Air Lift Wing at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts. He spent four years there as a structural maintenance troop. In January of 2012, Matthew joined the New York Air National Guard, specifically the 105th Base Defense Squadron at Stewart Air Force Base in Newburgh as a security forces member.

While stationed with the 105th Base Defense Squadron in 2013, Matthew was activated and deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan, he was assigned to the 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron also known as the “Reapers.” Their main function was to provide security of Bagram Airfield through counter IED and counter IDF patrols outside the base in an area of approximately 200 square miles. They conducted key leadership engagements as well as disruption patrols.

Matthew credits his decision to join the military to his sense of duty and commitment to his country. Matthew’s grandfathers also served in the military; one a Korean War veteran and the other serving with the Army Guard during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His great-grandfather served during World War II.

Matthew has enjoyed most of his military career and credits that to the astonishing individuals who helped him grow and mold into who he is today. He says, “They have shown me true brotherhood and I will never forget that.”

Matthew would like to recognize his friend, Staff Sergeant Todd “TJ” Lobraico, Jr. who made the ultimate sacrifice on September 5, 2013.

Senior Airman TJ Spiak, US Air Force

TJ Spiak was born on May 24, 1988 in Yonkers, New York, but has lived in Dutchess County for most of his life. He graduated from Arlington High School in 2006 and currently works at Vincitore’s Hudson Valley Piano Center in Poughkeepsie. TJ graduated from Marist College in May of 2014 with a degree in communications.

TJ enlisted in the Air Force in June of 2007 and readily volunteered as a candidate for the Tactical Air Control Party program. As a Tactical Air Control Party Specialist, TJ was a member of a single or two airmen team that is attached to an Army combat maneuver unit to provide close air support and direct fighter aircraft on to targets. After his initial training, he was stationed at Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu, South Korea in support of the 2nd Infantry Division. After a year there he returned to the United States and was stationed at Fort Drum in April of 2009.

TJ deployed to Iraq in October of 2009 and was attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer. While in Iraq, his duties included going “outside the wire” with an infantry platoon to conduct close air support, provide security, training his Army counterparts and monitoring surveillance feeds from drones scanning main supply routes. TJ returned home from Iraq on April 30, 2010 and was honorably discharged on April 28, 2011.

TJ has been a vocal advocate for veterans transitioning back into the civilian world, trying to beat the stigmatism that veterans are damaged goods. He, along with several other veterans are working to help local veterans overcome a high unemployment rate by showing workplaces they have great values to offer such as integrity, the ability to work well in teams and accountability.

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