RICHLAND — Kern Yerdon salutes the Army for helping him in a variety of leadership positions he has held since his military service.
“You learn to work with a lot of different people from all over the country. That was good for me. I learned a lot,” he said. “You get leadership training in the military. I’ve used that all the way through my working career.”
During Thursday’s virtual meeting of the Oswego County Legislature, it was announced that Yerdon has been selected as the 2020 Oswego County Veteran of the Year.
“I’m very honored to receive this award because there are so many great local veterans,” Yerdon said.
A native of the town of Redfield, Yerdon is an Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War. He quickly rose to the rank of E-5 and became a standout leader during his time on active duty.
After serving two years in the Army, he was honorably discharged in 1968 and joined the laborers union.
Yerdon then worked as a mechanic for the New York Power Authority at the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant. There, he was a union steward for IBEW 2032, later earning election as vice chairman and chairman for the union at the FitzPatrick Plant.
A few years after that, he was elected president of IBEW 2032, representing union members at several plants.
At the time of his retirement in 2011, he held the position of business agent for IBEW Local 97.
Currently a resident of the Town of Richland, Yerdon in January will start his 26th year as a member of the Richland Town Board, where he is the deputy supervisor.
Through the years and his many positions and activities, Yerdon, 73, has remained committed to his fellow veterans and his community. He is active with the Pulaski American Legion and with the VFW in Lacona.
“Mr. Yerdon has continued, over the course of decades, to be a pillar in his community,” said Jamie Hamlin, director of the Oswego County Veterans Service Agency. “He is a recognized member of the Pulaski American Legion and has continued to interact with the veterans both in and outside of his community.”
The Oswego County Veterans Advisory Committee received a total of four applications for Veteran of the Year, Hamlin said. Each member of the committee reviewed the applications and made their selection based on criteria set forth in the application.
The other nominees were Alan Wood of Oswego, an Army veteran; Robert Ross of Oswego, a New York Air National Guard veteran; and William Patterson of Oswego, an Army veteran. Last year’s Oswego County Veteran of the Year was Ron Greenleaf of Hannibal.
“Last year and again this year we solicited from the public and received a number of nominations, each one deserving of recognition and our gratitude. They are all great Americans,” said Oswego County Legislator Brad Trudell (District 7), chairman of the Oswego County Veterans Service Advisory Committee. “The committee comprised of local veterans selects the Veteran of the year based on submissions of individuals with honorable military service and recent or prolonged community service or achievement. Mr. Yerdon’s military service during time of war (Vietnam) and his decades of community service including elected office in Richland, special deputy with the county sheriff’s department, and as a union official, among other activities, is an example of the American spirit for us all to emulate. All of the nominees represent the very best of America and it is a pleasure to recognize each one.”
“This is the second year Oswego County has selected a veteran of the year, and although it is much different this year, the Veterans Service Agency will continue with the program in 2021,” Hamlin said. “On behalf of the Oswego County Veterans Service Agency, I would like to congratulate Kern Yerdon on his selection as Oswego County Veteran of the Year, as well as thank all those who were nominated for their service.”
Yerdon and his wife of 50 years, Mary, have two children. Their daughter Jeanette works in a supervisory role for the VA Hospital, and their son James is an electrician in IBEW Local 97.
Mary Yerdon, who works part time for the town of Richland, said she was elated when she found out her husband had been selected as the Oswego County Veteran of the Year.
“He has always been especially proud of his military service and enjoys interacting with other veterans and the community as often as he can,” she said, adding that her husband is deserving of the honor.
Yerdon noted that he comes from “a military family.” Six of his brothers are also veterans, including two current members of the Oswego County Legislature, Michael Yerdon (1st District) and Herbert Yerdon (2nd District).
A 1966 graduate of Sandy Creek High School, Yerdon’s quiet rural background met with a sudden change when he was drafted and left for the Army in October of that year. He went to Vietnam in January 1968 and served during the Tet Offensive, a coordinated series of North Vietnamese attacks on many cities and outposts in South Vietnam. Among the honors he received were a Good Conduct Medal, and a letter of commendation from his lieutenant colonel for meritorious service, citing his exceptional leadership performance.
After his honorable discharge in October 1968, Yerdon joined the laborers union and did various jobs. Then he went to work for the New York Power Authority and remained active in union leadership the rest of his career. He worked in organized labor for 43 years.
“With all those different positions, I enjoyed every one of them,” he said. “I liked representing the men and women in the workforce.”
Now, he’s primarily occupied with leadership in Town of Richland activities.
“I think the township of Richland is probably one of the fastest-growing townships in upstate New York,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to do that. We put a beautiful water system in. We’re working on water district 5. When we get that done, we’ll have three-quarters of the township of Richland covered with public water. That’s a big deal in my book.”