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Batavia VA

December 10, 2018 - 5:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in ptsd clinic, Batavia VA, VA, news.

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Today, the 3rd Battalion, 19th Special Forces presented $6,400 and the unit's “Holy Grail” cup to Dr. Caryn Dilandro, a PTSD Program psychologist at Batavia VAMC.

The 3rd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) once drilled as an Army National Guard Special Forces unit out of the Niagara Air Reserve Station. It later disbanded in 1975 as the Vietnam War was winding down. The special forces group recently raised $6,400 on Veterans Day specifically for the Jack. H. Wisby PTSD Center located at the VA WNY Healthcare Center in Batavia.    

Submitted photos and information.

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June 11, 2016 - 11:38am
posted by Billie Owens in Flag Day, Batavia VA, news, veterans.

Although Flag Day is actually Tuesday, June 14, there will be a Flag Day Ceremony on Sunday, June 12, at the VA WNY Healthcare System, Batavia.

It starts at 1 p.m. with a prelude comprised of a motorcycle procession.

This will be followed by the Presentation of Colors by the Genesee County Joint Veterans Color Guard, and then the Invocation will be given by Chaplain Robert Chambers of the VA Chaplain Service.

Next, those assembled will say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Mark J. Francis, volunteer program manager, will welcome participants and then Michael Mazutto will speak. Mazutto is a veteran of Afghanistan/Iraq and a recipient of the Purple Heart.

James Neider will speak on the Flag Day tradition. He is with the American Legion Genesee Veterans Club.

A Tribute to Veterans follows, provided by Batavia Middle School students and Assistant Principal Maureen Notoro.

St. Joe's Brass Ensemble will perform a musical salute and concert.

The ceremony ends with Chaplain Robert's benediction and the Retirement of Colors.

The public is welcome to attend. The VA medical center is located at 222 Richmond Ave. in the City of Batavia.

May 27, 2016 - 11:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in ptsd clinic, veterans, Batavia VA, news.

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Frank Grillo submitted these photos and story about the dog run being installed at the PTSD clinic at the Batavia VA.

I know how important the small things are.

I know when your scraping and clawing and fighting to regain your life that every advantage can mean the difference between life and death. 

When I came home I never slept. I watched out the windows, I patrolled my home. I gained over 100 pounds and began to fail at school and life. What brought me back? My dog.

Reba watched out the windows. Reba listened for sounds so I didn't have to. Her hearing was better; she constantly stared out the window and when I said "Reba, Whats That?" she would barrel from window to window on high alert. 

When I arrived at the PTSD clinic I was immediately greeted like a criminal. Breathalyzers and urinalysis as well as a search of my belongings. The windows would only open four inches because someone from Texas jumped out of his window and because it was early spring the heaters were still on bringing my room to a not so comfy 90+ degrees.

The program was being run by a woman who did not know how to balance what was best for the vet against the regulations.

This was a colossal mess but I did three tours in Iraq and I could handle all the above.

I lasted less than one day.

Why?

I didn't have my dog.

Fast forward three years. I've given up on almost all of my volunteering. Too many fake programs cashing in on veterans. 

I did keep on, however, keep up with the VA Veterans Advisors Council for two reasons:

  • because my friend Patrick brought me in;
  • and because I believe in the Director Brian Stiller, who is himself a Navy veteran. 

For almost a year we brought the fight to allow service dogs into the PTSD program and thanks to a language loophole and Brian's willingness to do the right thing, to act on principal FOR the veteran in spite of the ridiculous bureaucracy, and we prevailed. 

A veteran who found it too tough to stay in the program without his service dog eventually returned to Batavia to complete the program, and to his credit he pioneered the possibility of service dogs at the residential treatment program. 

Next we asked, "What can we do to make this permanent?" and Director Stiller responded, "We need a place to let the run off vest."

Immediately I reached out to my brothers at the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 19-6 in Batavia.

We raised the funding and created the fenced-in pen you see in this picture. Yesterday, we returned to build a shelter where the combat veteran can sit in case he or she cannot stand. A place the veteran can relax out of the elements while his or her most loyal companion can run and play and unwind.

These dogs are easing the burden and saving the lives of veterans every day just as my Reba did for me. It is my privlidge and our chapter's honor to make that kind of advantage a possibility for our fellow combat veterans.

God bless America.

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January 23, 2015 - 6:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, Frank Panpento, Batavia VA.

A few of mornings ago, it was just a degree above zero. I wondered if Frank Panepento was really going to be outside by the giant old flag pole outside the Batavia VA Hospital, brass trumpet in hand, blowing out the National Anthem.

I heard he had been out to the VA every morning for the past several months, honoring the veterans and their caregivers with the Star Spangled Banner.

Panepento's tribute started over the summer, and except for missing a couple of days in August, he's been in a small parking lot near the illuminated flagpole every morning at 7, regardless of the rain, the wind, the cold or the snow.

"It's such a beautiful facility that does such beautiful things, every day, every single day," Panepento said. "I said, 'God give me the strength. Let me do this.' Once I did it one day, I said, 'why can't I do it two days?' Once I did it two days, 'why doesn't someone do it every day?' "

Panepento would like to see other horn players take up the cause, not just here, but throughout the nation.

Next month, he will need neck surgery, so he's been recruiting friends to fill in for him, as well as trying to work out something with Batavia High School to have students take turns with the patriotic wake-up call.

"If you're a horn player, why aren't you playing?" Panepento asked. "For me, if I see an opportunity to play, it doesn't get any better than this. It doesn't for me."

Panepento played for the St. Joe's Drum Corps when he was young, but then put his horn away in 1972. In 1991, he helped form the Mighty St. Joe's Alumni Corps and started playing again.

His father had passed by then. He died while a cancer patient at the VA hospital.

A few months before the elder Panepento's death, he told Frank he was determined to beat cancer. He wanted to go up to the VA and walk on the grounds.

The two men parked in the same parking lot where Panepento plays every morning now, got out of the car and started to walk.

They walked shoulder to shoulder for a few feet toward the flag pole, then Frank's father sagged and Frank caught him. They were still at least 15 feet from the large, white cement base of the standard.

"I'm praying, 'God, please give me the strength to hold him,' " Panepento said. "I couldn't go left. I couldn't go right. I didn't want to drop him. I was able to get him to the flagpole and lean him on that flagpole. I said, 'Are you OK, you OK?' I ran back to the car, praying, 'Oh, dear God, please don't let him fall.' I drove over there and I was able to get him car. That was the last time Dad was out. That is when he came to the stark realization (of) what cancer was doing to him and all the implications of what it meant."

Not long after, Panepento's mother passed while staying at the state veterans home on the same grounds.

Frank's father died at a time when Panepento wasn't playing. Father never heard son play the National Anthem. At the funeral, Frank couldn't play taps for his dad. These are lost opportunities Penepento regrets.

"We forget our veterans," Panepento said. "What do we do? We just remember on Veterans Day, or we just remember them on a particular day, or the caregivers who take care of our veterans. It should be something, it's something I need to do. So when I come here, it's like 'Hello Dad, hi, Ma. Thank you God. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to just be here and play.' I'm just grateful to be able to play for him today. I'm just sorry I wasn't able to do it for him then."

NOTE About the video: I've been out to the VA center four straight mornings at 7. The first morning, I went to the wrong location (didn't miss by much) and didn't see Frank. The next morning, the bitter cold caused technical issues with my camera. The following morning, operator error meant the video was out of focus. Today, video in focus, but wind ruined the sound. So, the video is yesterday's audio with this morning's video. Perhaps only a musician would notice it's slightly out of sync, but as a matter of full disclosure, that's the explanation.

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