VALATIE–In a ceremony Saturday, September 14, Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R-107th), state Senator Daphne Jordan (R-43rd), several local officials for the Village of Valatie and the Town of Kinderhook along with the family of Roger Mazal unveiled the sign naming the bridge over the Kinderhook Creek on Route 203 after Mr. Mazal.
Governor Cuomo signed legislation (S.6213A/A.8013A) to designate a portion of the state highway system as the Roger K. Mazal Memorial Bridge. Last year the bridge crossing Kline Kill between the towns of Kinderhook and Chatham was renamed as the Roger J. Mazal Memorial Bridge. But the new law relocates the designation from the bridge crossing at the Kline Kill to the bridge in downtown Valatie. Mr. Mazal was a Valatie native who was killed in Vietnam.
According to Dominick Lizzi’s book, “Valatie: The Forgotten History,” Mr. Mazal left Ichabod Crane High School in his senior year to join the Army on January 15, 1968. He was a member of Company D., 20th Battalion, 35th Infantry, 4th Division. Mr. Mazal was 20 years old when he was killed on March 7, 1969. He was part of a combat sweep operation at Pleibon Province when he was shot in the chest and killed instantly. He received the Purple Heart, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and other medals.
Joe Pawlik who was at the ceremony on Saturday said that he and Roger were best friends as kids. Both born in Valatie, they swam in the creek, played baseball, and played pool at the local pool hall.
“We thought we would join rather than be drafted. I remember we were sitting on the front porch of my parents’ house when the recruiter from Hudson came and picked us up and drove us up to Albany to enlist. We went to boot camp at Fort Dix,” he told The Columbia Paper. Then they were sent to different posts in Vietnam. Mr. Pawlik was in Saigon, a member of the 199th Light Infantry.
“But we kept in touch. I sent him letters, until the last one that came back undeliverable and that’s how I first knew he was killed,” he said.
In a press release about the bridge naming, Senator Jordan said, “I was proud to sponsor this new state law designating a portion of our state highway system as the Roger J. Mazal Memorial Bridge to honor the memory and legacy of this American hero and help inspire future generations to heroism.”
Assemblyman Ashby, an Army veteran who sponsored the legislation in the Assembly, said in the release, “SP4 Roger J. Mazal made the ultimate sacrifice for our great country and the dedication of this bridge in his hometown will forever memorialize his heroism and also serve as a constant reminder of the dedication of all our local veterans.”