DANSVILLE — The 2017 Wayland Distinguished Citizen Award goes to Former Steuben County Sheriff David Cole.
The money raised at the Wayland Distinguished Citizen Breakfast on May 9 at 8 a.m. in the Wayland-Cohocton Cafeteria goes to help the Wayland Boy Scouts.
Cole devoted over four decades of his life to local law enforcement after coming back from Vietnam.
Vietnam US Marine Corps Veteran Cpl.Cole served from 1968 to 69 and was in several famous battles. He enlisted after hearing that a good friend, Bill Smith, had lost his life in Vietnam. A couple days after he enlisted a draft letter had been sent to him.
When Cole came home he followed in his father’s footsteps and got into law enforcement. Cole’s father was a police chief for Wayland Village Police Department from 1953 to 1982. Cole worked for the Wayland Village Police Department for two years. In 1977 he worked for the New York State Police-Wayland barracks. From 1989 to 1999 he was the commander of NYS Police-Wayland barracks. Cole moved up to be the undersheriff for Former Steuben County Sheriff Richard Tweddell from 2000 to 2009. Afterwards he became a resource officer at Addison School. Finally in 2013 he was elected as sheriff for Steuben County. Now Cole has retired from his long career in law enforcement.
Cole had many accomplishments in the 41 years of law enforcement. He spearheaded the construction of the new State Police Station in Wayland. During his four years as a sheriff he created the drug task force in the county, and put 10 resource officers in county schools; including Wayland-Cohocton Central. A program for students concerning drug use and bullying was formed as part of this progress. A pistol safety class was also formed by his leadership. Not to mention he offered his free time to helping the community with weekly-defense classes.
Cole speaks fondly of his time as a resource officer.
“I hired a lot of old retired guys to be the resource officers at these schools,” he said. “They were not going to go overboard, and they would be more positive with the kids. I hired guys who had done this for over 25 years, and they just wanted some light police work. They were more laid back.”
Cole said that some of the worst things he covered were fatal motor vehicle accidents.
“In the 1970s and early 80s we had a lot of them, because there were no DWI laws enforced,” he said. “We made them more strict in the late 80s. The death rate dropped due to alcohol, because we enforced it. One big thing that has helped is there are not many bars on main street anymore. Wayland used to have about five on main street, and now there are only a couple.”
Cole is working on a book about his time as a US Marine in Vietnam. His hope is that these stories will bring awareness to what they went through over there.
Cole suffered many different things while fighting overseas. He had malaria, jungle rot, and dysentery. He was in full combat operations the whole year he was there.
“We replaced a platoon that had been whipped out three days before,” he said. “I felt it was my patriotic duty to go. The one thing I looked forward to everyday was getting letters.”
Cole has the letters he got during the war, and his mother saved the ones he wrote to her.
“My mom wrote a lot of letters to me,” he said. “My mom saved all of the letters I wrote to her, and it is neat to look at them 40 years later. There are a lot of stories in those letters about my time in Vietnam.”
Most of these battles were at least a month long, and Cole was in the jungle the whole time. A couple of the famous battles Cole was in are Operation Taylor Common and Operation Virginia Ridge. Cole lost many friends over there, and was disheartened by how they were all treated when they came home.
“Several years after Vietnam people were still opposed to it,” Cole said. “I feel bad becuase a lot of my friends died, and they were young kids. Lots of us were called nasty names when we came home. We wondered why they were against us. We fought for America.”
Decades later we have a new generation of young people who are looking at Vietnam, and hearing about the war in school presentations. Cole said he hopes they will understand what the war was about.
Cole said he is proud to have gotten the Wayland Distinguished Citizen Award.