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Military veteran receives parade, recognition, cake for 100th birthday

By Joanne Beck
Steve Vernaccini
Steve Vernaccini, a U.S. Army veteran and long-awaited Le Roy High School grad, celebrates his 100th birthday Sunday.
Submitted Photo

A group of family and friends helped to make Steve Vernaccini’s birthday — a century in the making — even more special Sunday with a flag-touting parade of about 10 vehicles down Main Street, Batavia, a certificate of recognition from Assemblyman Steve Hawley, representation from the Veteran Road Patrol, and a U.S. flag-themed birthday cake.

The guest of honor was also treated to a party after the parade and received a military challenge coin. 

If Vernaccini’s name sounds familiar, he was recently bestowed his long-awaited high school diploma by the Le Roy Central School’s Board of Education. The Le Roy resident had missed his graduation after serving in the Army from December 1942 to December 1945.

A native of Rock Glen, Vernaccini moved to Le Roy in 1925 and got married in June 1946. In between, he played baritone horn in a high school band, was on the track team, and played basketball. 

He completed his sophomore year in 1940 and was just rolling for two weeks into his junior year when he had to quit and go to work to support his family. What happened next took away his opportunity to return to school at that time to get that coveted diploma. 

He was drafted into the Army as a private, stationed at Fort Eustis, Va., where he completed boot camp in three months. He was put on a train to California and then boarded a ship, the U.S.S. Laura-lane, to Hawaii. He was stationed at Scofield Barracks, Oahu for just three days before he was assigned to an anti-aircraft unit. His job was to track aircraft until he was assigned to the radar unit. 

He left Hawaii in December 1944 and went to Iwo Jima in April 1945 until Oct. 3, 1945. He was discharged from the military on Dec. 12, 1945, as a sergeant. 

Earlier this month, Vernaccini was presented with that long-awaited diploma, about a week before he was to turn 100. 

“I can’t explain to you how gratifying this is to receive this,” he had said. “I’d like to have had this a long time ago, but Uncle Sam wanted me, so I did what he wanted.”

Now, he has the diploma, and recognition and thanks from the community for his service to the country. And perhaps, he even enjoyed a little cake.

Submitted Photos

Steve Vernaccini with cake
Cars with flags for Steve Vernaccini
Steve Vernaccini's cake

Edward Kozlowski's funeral held at Arlington National Cemetery

By Press Release


Press Release:

On Wednesday January 19, 2022, Batavia resident Chief Warrant Officer-4 Bob Bialkowski US Army (Ret) had the honor and privilege to attend and participate at a funeral in Arlington National Cemetery. I and five other members of a Pilot’s Fraternity from Buffalo attended the funeral of Edward A. Kozlowski, Jr. originally from Buffalo, NY. Ed was a fellow member of our fraternity.

Ed was a highly decorated Army helicopter pilot that had been shot down in Vietnam three times during 1969, once behind enemy lines which required an assault helicopter to provide aerial cover to drive back the enemy so that Ed and his crew could be rescued. In 1971 Ed became a member of the N.Y. Army Guard in Niagara Falls that I was a member of. After about a year Ed was chosen to transfer to the Air Force where he attended fixed wing flight school and went on to serve his country flying Aerial Refueling Tankers at SAC in Rome N.Y. Ed’s next tour he was assigned to flying the Top Secret AWAC aircraft at Tinker A.F. base for ten years where he was an Instructor and Aircraft Commander. Ed retired as a Major and went on to fly commercial aircraft for several years.

His funeral at Arlington was with full Military Honors. We were honored to walk to the ceremony site behind a Caisson with Ed’s remains, pulled by six horses with a full contingent of an Air Force Marching Band, Color Guard, Armed Unit and Squad of Armed Rifle men for the salute. Ed’s service was held near the burial site where the band played several times; an Air Force Chaplain read psalms and the presentation of the flag to the family was made.

Representatives of the Secretary of Defense were also in attendance to offer their condolences. There were approximately thirty members of the Air Force that participated. We then walked to Ed’s grave site with his family to say our final farewells. Walking on the grounds of Arlington where over fifty thousand veterans, many of whom paid
the ultimate price are buried was one of the most humbling experiences in my life. Participating in the funeral service was a great honor that I will always remember. We will be forever grateful to the Kozlowski family.


4-H Teen Club to send holiday stockings to military, plus collecting winter goods for local families

By Press Release

Photo: 4-H Teen Club members with their holiday stockings for troops in front of the “Mitten Tree.” From left: Teagan Mathes, Maggie Winspear, Clare Mathes, Madison Harrington. Not pictured: Morgan Harrington, Brooke Frega, Michael Ehrmentraut.

Submitted photo and press release:

The Genesee County 4-H Teen Club is giving back this holiday season by collecting “Mitten Tree” donations and donating filled holiday stockings to deployed military members.

At their November Club meeting, teen club members donated holiday stockings for deployed military members. The stockings were put together by teen club members using items that they purchased and donated.

Members included fun and useful items such as snacks, gum, candy and puzzles. The holiday stockings will be mailed to deployed military members to enjoy this holiday season.

Teen Club members also set up a “Mitten Tree” at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office to collect donations of hats, gloves, mittens and scarves.

Donations will be accepted at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office, 420 E. Main St., Batavia. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday.

Donated items will be displayed on the Mitten Tree until Dec. 14th and then will be donated to local families in need.

4-H is a nationwide youth program that connects youth age 5-18 to a variety of hands-on learning opportunities. For more information about joining the Genesee County 4-H Program, please contact the 4-H Office at or (585) 343-3040, ext. 131. Enrollment forms are also available on our website.

David Bellavia launches his new nonprofit for soldiers with Niagara Falls fundraiser

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The public is invited to "Duty 1st with David Bellavia: Serving Country and Community," a talk by the Medal of Honor recipient at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12. The event will kick off with a ceremony as Staff Sgt. Bellavia is honored by the Niagara Falls community with a key to the city.

Following the talk, he will sign copies of his book "House to House: A Soldier's Memoir," which will be for sale onsite during this event at The Rapids Theatre, 1711 Main St., Niagara Falls.

The will serve as a fundraiser for a new nonprofit organization created by Bellavia, called Deuce Deuce Relief Fund Inc. The fund benefits soldiers from Bellavia's prior Task Force in Iraq (Task Force 2-2), supporting soldiers and their families who are experiencing hardship or require other assistance.

"Duty 1st with David Bellavia” is Deuce Deuce's inaugural fundraiser and is generously hosted by The Rapids Theatre. General admission tickets are $22 (Deuce-Deuce). Doors will open at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available online through EventBrite, with a link at

Highly in demand, Bellavia has been speaking around the country throughout the summer, and now his community has an opportunity to hear him speak at the Oct. 12 event.

About David Bellavia

David Bellavia is the only living Iraq veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, which is our country’s highest military honor.

For the June 25 Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House, the Western New York community supported Bellavia’s dream of being surrounded by every living member of his Task Force when he received the honor.

More than 750 of his neighbors donated funds to make that dream a reality. Bellavia has said, “The Medal of Honor is for all who served with me in Iraq.”

He served three military campaigns: Kosovo 2003; and Operation Iraqi Freedom I; and Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

Bellavia is a graduate of Lyndonville High School in Orleans County and the University of Buffalo. He resides with his family in Western New York.

Batavia Gun and Sportsman Show is March 16-17 at Quality Inn & Suites, Batavia

By Billie Owens

The 72nd annual Batavia Gun and Sportsman Show will be held the weekend of March 16-17 at Quality Inn & Suites in Batavia.

Times are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. The hotel is located at 8250 Park Road.

Admission is $5; children age 12 and under get in free when accompanied by adult.

More than 130 8-foot vendor and exhibitor tables will be chock full of items and there's plenty of free parking.

This event is sponsored by the Alabama Hunt Club, located on Lewiston Road in Alabama.

The show will feature collector, antique and investment firearms, swords and knives, Revolutionary War to World War II militaria, books, traps, pistols, gun parts, ammo and hunting accessories, black powder accessories, reloading equipment, archery, medals and more!

NOTE: All firearm laws MUST be obeyed.

Public participation is encouraged: bring items to sell or trade with dealers.

A National Instant Criminal Background Check MUST be completed prior to all firearm sales. The background check is free.

For more information, contact Dennis Davis at: or phone (585) 798-6089.

Batavia Blue Devils football fans recognition night this Friday

By Steve Ognibene

Press release:

This Friday, Sept. 14th, the Batavia Blue Devils Football Team and its supporters would like to recognize all those who have worn or currently wear a military or first responder uniform by inviting them to come to the home game.

Any military personnel, police officer, firefighter or first responder will get free admission (with proof of ID) as well as a complementary hot dog and drink. They will also be seated in the end zone; and to thank them for their service, they will be honored at approximately 7:15 p.m. prior to the start of the game.

Vandetta Stadium is located at 120 Richmond Avenue in the City of Batavia.

Tractor Supply will offer 15-percent off this Saturday to active and former military folks with proof of service

By Billie Owens

Tractor Supply Co. is offering a 15-percent "Military Discount" for in-store purchases to all active and former military personnel and their dependents on Veterans Day, Saturday, Nov. 11.

There's no limit to savings. Please show your military proof of service at checkout to receive the discount. This offer is not good with any other discount.

The only store in Genesee County is located at 4974 E. Main St., Batavia; phone is 343-0078.

Photos: Families of Marine recruits get glimpse of military life

By Howard B. Owens


It was family night Thursday at the Clarion Hotel in Batavia for a meal, a training demo and a Q&A for the loved ones of incoming recruits.

The NCOs were dressed to the nines in their Class As loaded with ribbons and gold stripes, and the new recruits were polite and professional in their slacks and blue Marine-issued T-shirts, already well schooled in "yes, sir" and "no, sir."

It's all part of a process local Marine recruiters take their future Marines through so they will be better prepared for the rigors of basic training and life in the corps.

For most of the event, the room was quiet and calm, with Marines and family members enjoying a meal together and discussing life in military service.

Then Marine Staff Sgt. Jose F. Garcia, a drill instructor from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, entered the room with a group of five young men who have recently completed basic training. In a flurry of jumps and spins and arm waving, Garcia led the men through a fast-paced demonstration of a training drill.

Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Terry B. Hall, a recruiter instructor for Marine Corps Recruiting Station Buffalo, explained during the Q&A that the purpose of basic training is not only to teach recruits military skills and improve their physical fitness, it's also to rebuild their character and turn them into Marines.






Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Terry B. Hall. 


Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Hendrickson, pool program specialist for Marine Corps Recruiting Station Buffalo.


Marine Capt. Michael A. Kelly, executive officer for Marine Corps Recruiting Station Buffalo. 


SSgt. Stephen Porter, a decorated Iraq combat veteran, runs the Batavia recruit station.

Below, photo and caption provided by the Marine Corps.


Parents of Marine Pfc. Maria A. Inzinca, pin on chevrons during her promotion ceremony at the conclusion of Marine Corps Recruiting Sub Station Batavia’s annual Family Night at the Clarion Hotel in Batavia. Inzinca is a native of Bergen and will serve the Marine Corps as an embarkation specialist. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher O’Quin.) 

Photos: Basic training for Marine recruits about to enter basic training

By Howard B. Owens


A group of Marine recruits about to enter boot camp were given some tips and pointers that will help them survive the grueling weeks at Parris Island, S.C.. The NCOs from the Batavia recruitment office conduct the basic training course the third Saturday of each month for new recruits. Potential recruits are invited to attend and observe and can participate in some drills, but can't fully participate until they pass their military physical. The training covers such basics as standing at attention, parade rest and turning, as well as classes and lectures on Marine life and history.

The local staff includes SSgt. Stephen Porter, Sgt. Joseph Dazey, Sgt. Derek Yevtich and Sgt. Matthew Page. 










Batavia resident wins Non-Commission Officer of the Year from NY National Guard

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

Staff Sgt. Christian Hager, a Batavia resident and medical technology student, has been named Non-Commission Officer of the Year for the New York Army National Guard following a five-day competition at Camp Smith Training Site near Peekskill.

Hager, a member of Company A, 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry, competed with five other non-commissioned officers, during the event.

Hager, age 26, has served in the Army National Guard since 2008. He deployed to Kuwait in 2012 with other members of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He serves as an infantry squad leader in his Guard unit, which is based at the New York State Armory in Geneseo.

He will now go on to compete with top NCO's from the other northeast states in a competition held at Vermont's Camp Ethan Allen. The winner of that competition goes onto compete against Army National Guard Soldiers from around the country.

The Best Warrior competition tests participant's physical fitness, military knowledge, Soldier skills, and marksmanship ability. Competitors fire the M-4 rifle on both a convention range and in a stress shoot which combines marksmanship with physical demands like running, towing a casualty stretcher, and carrying a heavy load.

This year the event also incorporated a swimming test, M-9 pistol marksmanship exercise and a 12 kilometer timed march with full pack.

Scoring well in these events enabled the participants to qualify for the German Military Proficiency Badge. The New York Army National Guard has an agreement with the German military representative at the United States Military Academy which allows instructors at Camp Smith to award the badge.

Hager was one of five of the 11 participants in the Best Warrior enlisted Soldier and Non-Commissioned Officer competitions to complete the requirements for this award.

Photos: Basketball benefit at Byron Bergen School

By Steve Ognibene

Tonight at Byron-Bergen School faculty and staff played basketball against the New York State Troopers from Troop A for a benefit. All of the proceeds will go to the USO, to honor Byron-Bergen students who have served or are now serving in the military.

Many supporters from families of the school including law enforcement came out to support the event. The NY State Troopers were a bit too strong tonight and beat the faculty 52-39. However it was all for fun and entertainment for everyone to enjoy.

Oliver's will fly flag that connects home and troops in Afghanistan on July 4

By Howard B. Owens

Bonnie Battaglia and John Quincey of Oliver's Candie's on West Main Street stand in the store with a certificate and flag that flew over Afghanistan.

The flag was presented to Oliver's by Bonnie's nephew, Matthew Graber, who was an Army Ranger in Afghanistan. It was a "thank you" for all the candy Oliver's sent to Graber and his comrades while serving in Afghanistan.

Graber is the son of Gary and Linda Graber of Darien and Shirley and Fred Ingles of Warsaw. He's currently stationed in South Africa.

The flag will fly over Oliver's on Fourth of July weekend.

"We're proud of the troops," Quincey said. "We're proud of what they do, so we're happy to support them."

82nd Airborne Distributes Gifts to Veterans

By Philip Anselmo

From the VA Medical Center:

In the giving spirit of the holidays, members of the 82nd Airborne Niagara Frontier Chapter will be distributing gifts to patient units at the Buffalo VA, 3495 Bailey Avenue.  The gift distribution will take place on Christmas Day, Tuesday, December 25 at 1:30 pm.  The group will sing carols along with accordionist as they visit patient units.

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