Flag Flies for Walter Niels

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In continuing its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to Walter Niels by flying an American flag in his honor throughout the month of May.

“The Hampton Bays School District is proud to honor Mr. Niels for his service to the United States during the Korean War,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.

The flag was raised during a ceremony at the Hampton Bays Elementary School on May 22. During the event, students sang and read Mr. Niels’ biography.

Mr. Niels, who was born in the Bronx in 1933, enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 17. After completing boot camp at Paris Island and tank warfare training at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, he was deployed to Korea where he was assigned to a tank battalion.

While in Korea, Mr. Niels severely injured his knee while repairing a tank and had to undergo surgery at Yakuska Naval Hospital in Japan. Because of his injury, he was reassigned as a military police officer at Camp Fisher in Kyota, Japan. He served in this capacity until 1954 when he was honorably discharged.

Upon returning to the United States, Niels found employment at the New York Telephone Company as a slicer and power technician.

It was during this time that he met his wife, Barbara. They have one daughter, Amy, who is a teacher at Hampton Bays Elementary School and two grandchildren, Elle and Chase.  

Since his retirement from the New York Telephone Company in 1989, Mr. Niels earned his master’s degree in social work from Stony Brook University and started a second career as an alcohol and drug counselor. He worked for various drug rehabilitation centers until 2000.

Mr. Niels is also the founder of a community soccer program, which the school took over in 1986.

Today, he still lives in Hampton Bays, is a member of the Post 924 American Legion’s executive board and spends as much time as he can with his two grandchildren.