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Remembrance ceremony captures importance of 9/11 at Batavia VA

By Joanne Beck
Flags in a shape of the Twin Towers NYC in rememberance of 9/11/01  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Flags representing the shape of the Twin Towers in NYC adorn the front lawn of the Batavia VA Medical Center, which served as the site for a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony Monday.
 Photo by Steve Ognibene

While many people went about their usual routines Monday, there were events happening across the country, including in Genesee County, to acknowledge and memorialize the date of Sept. 11 that has become so sacred to Americans.

And veteran John McCune attended one such ceremony, believing it is something to appreciate.

“There's nothing more important and special than the ceremonies that should take place across the country for each and every school child coming up so that they can remember and absolutely understand the impact that it had on our nation,” McCune said while at the Batavia VA Medical Center flagpole during a 9/11 ceremony. “How we were all, as Americans, were drawn together based on the fact that it was a need, and they followed up with that need for those heroes that lost their lives in those buildings, attempting to save those from the building fires and eventually lost their lives by the buildings toppling down on them.”

McCune was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, having served eight years. He believes that participating in such events is a “must-do” every year, “especially for our younger generation that’s up and coming so that they too will know and have the knowledge of the events that took more than 3,000 lives in New York City.”

The driveway into the VA was lined with people for the ceremony, and the front lawn was adorned with U.S. flags to represent the shape of the Twin Towers. 

Lest anyone forget, from on Sept. 11, 2001, 19 terrorists associated with al-Qaeda, an Islamist extremist group, hijacked four commercial airplanes scheduled to fly from the East Coast to California.

In a coordinated attack that turned the planes into weapons, the terrorists intentionally flew two of the planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, a global business complex in New York City, causing the towers to collapse. They also flew a third plane into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, in Arlington, Va.

Passengers and crew members on the fourth plane launched a counterattack, forcing the hijacker pilot—who was flying the airplane toward Washington, D.C.—to crash the plane into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, near the town of Shanksville.

The 9/11 attacks killed 2,977 people. This was the single largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil. The attacks caused the deaths of 441 first responders, the greatest loss of emergency responders on a single day in American history.

McCune commended state Senator George Borrello, who represents the 57th senate district, for also being at the ceremony, and for being “genuine” with his heartfelt remarks. 

The Batavia VA federal facility was first on his to-do list for the day, Borrello said. 

“It ties everything together — the sacrifices that had been made, literally for centuries by our military, with the attack on our nation, and the sacrifices that were made that day by people who just were going to work and not realizing that they were going to be part of what would be the war on terror,” he said. 

So for him, it just seemed like the ideal opportunity to remind everyone of that sacrifice, he said, while at the VA, where veterans who served their country reside and receive services and treatment. 

Those veterans, and Sept. 11, truly changed this nation, Borrello said.

“My fear is that our children are understanding that and understanding that the threat is still there, but the diligence is still required. And I have a lot of concerns about how the narrative has been twisted against our law enforcement,  first responders and military, that they are no longer the heroes, the ones that are on the watch, guarding us, but they have somehow been, it has been twisted to them being the enemy,” he said. “And that’s what I spoke about today, because I look at someone who might be 25 - 30 years old who may have no memory of 9/11, but is now being told that somehow the police are racist, and this and that, and all these other negative things that are said about law enforcement, when the fact is, that it didn’t matter: race, creed, color, we were united, that the politics stopped at the water’s edge, that we all bleed the same color. 

And that is what makes America great, is that diversity and the unity in that diversity.”

As a representative of the City of Batavia, Councilman-at-Large Bob Bialkowski praised the VA Medical Center, staffed by a “superb group of dedicated professionals and caring volunteers.” 

The U.S. Army Aviation Reserves veteran turned to that fateful day, when a “vile act of terror was a stain on the heart to all of us.”

“Our country is hated by half of the world because we are free people. Freedom is the enemy of evil. And the evil people of the world will always be plotting against us to enslave us to their will. We are Americans, and history shows that we're the greatest protectors of freedom in the world,” Bialkowski said. “Today, let us remember all those brave and heroic Americans who lost their lives on 9/11, 2001. Service members, police, firefighters, medical and ordinary citizens. All Americans, first and foremost.

“In closing, the entrance to the main entrance going up the stairs, there's a garden, and there's figurines representing each member of each armed force. They’re all standing there saluting. They're looking down at the grass, and I'll picture 3,000 people on the lawn, where each flag is, picture a person standing there,” he said. “So on the way out, please remember this. We will never forget, and must always remain vigilant and fight evil. We are all Americans.”

To view or purchase photos, click here.

Photos by Steve Ognibene

NYS Senator George Borrello  Photo by Steve Ognibene
NYS Senator George Borrello
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
NYS Senator Goerge Borrello address the veterans at the V.A. hospital, Batavia  Photo by Steve Ognibene
State Senator George Borrello addresses spectators and veterans during the 9/11 ceremony Monday at the VA Medical Center in Batavia.
 Photo by Steve Ognibene
City Councilman at large, Bob Bialkowski  Photo by Steve Ognibene
City Councilman-at-large Bob Bialkowski reminds folks to "remain vigilant and fight evil" during 9/11 ceremony Monday.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
NYS Senator George Borrello speaks to US Army Veteran John McCune at 9/11 rememberance service, VA hospital Batavia  Photo by Steve Ognibene
NYS Senator George Borrello speaks to U.S. Army veteran John McCune at 9/11 remembrance ceremony Monday at the VA Medical Center in Batavia.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Flags in shape of Twin towers placed on V.A. grounds this morning. Photo by Steve Ognibene
Flags representing the shape of the Twin Towers have been placed on the grounds of the VA Medical Center in Batavia.
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Lei Ti campers raise more than $9K to assist veterans

By Press Release
campers lei-ti recreation resort
Campers at Lei Ti Recreation Resort raised $9,283 for group serving veterans. From left are Sheila Hollwedel (Lei Ti owner), Val Rosehart, Gerald Sekuterski, Lauren Coe representing One Soldier at a Time,  Elizabeth Skokowski, and Joe Bellardo.
Submitted Photo

Press release: 

Campers at Lei Ti Campground in Bethany held their annual auction fundraiser on Sept. 2 in support of One Soldier at a Time, and on Saturday, presented a check for $9,283 to Lauren Coe.

Coe said One Soldier at a time runs three primary programs.  One provides gifts for wives and mothers of military members deployed overseas for Christmas, Valentine's and Mother's Day.  Another provides care packages for soldiers on deployment.  The third, which this donation benefits, assists veterans who are homeless, impoverished, in PTSD housing or in similar hardships with care products to take care of them from head to toe, from hair-care products to socks and shirts and ties, and for veterans who have passed, suits "so they can be buried with dignity." 


Hawley announces 2023 patriot trip to DC for local veterans, deadline extended

By Press Release
Submitted photo of Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) stands alongside local veterans in Washington, D.C. during last year’s Patriot Trip.

Press Release:

Earlier this summer, Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) announced this year’s Patriot Trip to Washington, D.C., which will take place from September 21 - 24, where veterans and their families will get a tour of the nation’s capital and its numerous monuments and landmarks honoring those who served. 

This year’s trip will include stops at several notable locations in the D.C. area, including the WWII, Korean, and Vietnam War memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.

“I am incredibly excited to host this event for another year,” said Hawley. “This trip is a great opportunity to honor our local veterans. We owe a deep level of gratitude for all they have sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy in this nation, so being able to take them to our nation’s capital to see these historic landmarks every year is truly an honor.”

The deadline to register for this year's Patriot Trip has once again been extended. Our hotel host has informed us that because our trip is for local veterans, they are allowing us three additional weeks for sign-ups. Be sure to register by Tuesday, August 29 at 3 p.m. This trip is open to all military veterans and their families. 

The cost will be between $450-$500 per person and includes travel, accommodations, admissions, meals, and even some souvenirs. Those who are interested in participating in this event should contact Hawley’s office at 585-589-5780 or email [email protected] for more details.

GC farmers market distributing checks to veterans on June 13 and July 11

By Press Release

Press Release:

On Tuesday, June 13, and Tuesday, July 11 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Guy Sceusa from the NYS Department of Veterans Services will be at the Genesee Country Farmer's Market. Veterans will fill out a self-attestation verifying he or she is a veteran. Guy will be issuing checks to the Veterans. The market will be open that day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located at Bank Street and Alva Place. 

Free concert tickets for shows at Batavia Downs made available to Genesee County veterans

By Press Release
William Joyce, Henry wojtaszek
William Joyce, veterans services officer for Genesee County, receives bundles of tickets from Batavia Downs President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek on Friday afternoon at Batavia Downs.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Press Release:

Officials from Batavia Downs Gaming and Hotel presented 2,000 complimentary tickets to William Joyce, Director of the Genesee County Veterans Service Agency.  250 Tickets from each of Batavia’s Summer Concert Series were included. 

“Batavia Downs has always supported our local Veterans," said Batavia Downs CEO and President Henry Wojtaszek.  “This is the fifthsoncert series in a row that we’ve given tickets to the Genesee County Veterans Service Agency.  We happy to do anything we can to give back to our local Veterans for all they’ve done for our country.”

Tickets for the concert series can be purchased at  Performances include: 

  • June 23, Almost Queen (Queen Tribute)
  • June 30, Get the Led Out (Led Zeppelin Tribute)
  • July 7, Craig Morgan and Drake White
  • July 14, Skid Row
  • July 21, Marshall Tucker
  • July 28, GrassRoots with Peter Noone
  • Aug. 4, Don Felder
  • Aug. 11, Mike DelGuidice

Student art display included in Botts-Fiorito American Legion open house on Saturday

By Press Release


Press release:

The American Legion Auxiliary will be displaying artwork by Wolcott Street School 4th through 6th graders during the Botts-Fiorito American Legion Post #576 open house.

It will be the kick off to our Poppy Program and the center of the auxiliary's outreach to the public to see what the Legion has to offer.

The posters will be on display at the Legion from March 25 until Memorial Day.

The cost of freedom highlighted in Purple Heart ceremony at Pembroke High School

By Howard B. Owens


Sacrifice and service of the men and women who served in the U.S. military to protect this nation were highlighted in a Wednesday afternoon ceremony at Pembroke High School.

The event honored the Village of Corfu, Town of Pembroke, and Pembroke High School as Purple Heart Communities, and honors were bestowed by members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in recognition of Pembroke's commitment to honoring veterans and the U.S. military.

These awards are the Order's way to ensure the sacrifices service members made are not forgotten, said Ron Krul, representing the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

"When people see that Purple Heart plaque displayed (at the school), it unites students and adults of all races, religions, ages, genders, national origins, and nationalities as one united people to keep our American freedoms safe," Krul said.

In accepting the award for the Village of Corfu, Mayor Thomas Sargent recognized community members who have honored veterans in the community over the years, including Richard Beale, who organized the Memorial Day Parade; Vinnie Schollard, who ensured Main Street was lined with flags; and Mr. Spring, who distributed poppies in the community. 

"For them, and the rest of the veterans, I thank you, and I thank you for this honor," Sargent said.

Pembroke Town Supervisor Thomas Schneider recalled the Farewell Speech of President George Washington, whose likeness is on the medal, and who warned the people of the nation to avoid foreign entanglements. The Purple Heart, he said, is the high price we pay when we go to war.

"This type of recognition is important, so we recognize the sacrifices of all Purple Heart recipients and all people who served so that we understand the cost of the freedoms that we cherish so greatly in this nation," Schneider said. "I hope our leaders who vote to go into conflicts understand that cost on so many families and so many veterans and current active service members, because there is a true cost, and we can't forget that."

There are 13 former Pembroke students who have received the Purple Heart. They were each honored during the ceremony.

  • Charles Arnold, 1965,  Army, Vietnam
  • Merelle Austin, 1950,  Army,  Korea
  • Roger P. Bartholf, 1949,  Marines,  Korea
  • Lloyd Blood, 1942, Army/Air Force,  WWII
  • Roger Ditzel, 1943,  Army,  WWII
  • Jerry Dusel, 1964,  Army,  Vietnam
  • Clarence Hall, 1967,  Army,  Vietnam
  • Dennis Hoffman, 1940,  Marines,  WWII
  • Roger Kimmel, 1961,   Army,  Vietnam
  • Thomas Mattice, 1963,  Army,  Vietnam
  • Roy Schlagenhauf, 1931,  Army,  WWII
  • Wayne Snyder, 1967,  Army,  Vietnam
  • Werner C. Ziehm, 1946,  Army,  WWII

Closing remarks were delivered by Dr. John B. Long, who noted at the start of his speech, that he turned 96 two days prior.  He is a World War II veteran, a Purple Heart recipient who served in the European Theater as part of the Big Red One (The legendary 1st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army).

The full speech by Dr. John B. Long:


Today, I'd rather be right here because this is America at its very best.

I want to direct all of my remarks to the young people that are here this afternoon, because they are the ones that are going to lead America and carry the torch that we're leaving with the leadership for this great country. I need the young people to understand, I remember so very clearly -- I was 18 years old, in high school. One day I came home -- this was back in 1944 -- my mother handed me a little card. It was my draft notice letting me know I had been inducted in the United States Army.

Shortly after that, I was on my way down to Cape Wheeler, Georgia, for intensive infantry training.

Along the way, of course, a lot of things happened. Fortunately, for whatever reason. God spared my life as he did with some of the rest of us that are here on the stage today. But we need to understand something: We paid a huge price for the freedoms we have today. Four hundred thousand of my fellow soldiers never returned back home. The fact of the matter is, because of that, we have what we have here today in America.

My remarks to the young people here today is this: you have the greatest opportunity of your lifetime. This is America. It is the greatest country in the world. We want you to know that you can be everything that you are able to be. You have all these great opportunities in this country. You can be doctors. You can be lawyers. You can be electricians, whatever it is, because of the freedoms that you have today, because of the service of all of us from World War II, and the wonderful Purple Heart recipients over here.

I want you to understand that you have freedom of speech, you have the freedom to assemble, you have the freedom to worship as you please -- all of these great freedoms are because of what we accomplished and what happened in World War II.

I just want these young people to remember today, when you leave school today, take something home worthwhile with you. Remember, that you can be all you can be, you have the opportunity to do that, and we here today want you to do that because you need to carry out the torch of leadership for the greatest country in the world that God has ever been able to create. Thank you so much. God bless all of you, and above all, God bless America.

The event also included a moment of silence to honor Pembroke teacher Kevin Steffan, who passed away unexpectedly this week.

Photos by Howard Owens. Top photo, Mayor Tom Sargent delivering his remarks. Inset photo, Dr. John B. Long.


During the playing of the National Anthem.


Russell Ward and Ron Krul, Military Order of the Purple Heart.


Supervisor Thomas Schneider with the certificate for the Town of Pembroke presented by Ward and Krul.


The plaque presented to Pembroke HS to display at the school.


Zach Hartz and Sam Pfeiffer honor Charles Arnold, a Pembroke graduate who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star while serving in Vietnam.


John Preisach, on the left, was friends with Purple Heart recipient Dennis Henry Hoffman, who graduated from Pembroke in 1940 and served with the U.S. Marines during WWII.  Before he died, he gave Preisach his Purple Heart, and Herzog donated it today to the Veterans Outreach Club and Pembroke High School.  Also pictured are Lily Senko, vice president of the Veterans Outreach Club, Amelia Geck, president, Arianna Hale, VP and secretary, Isla Czechowicz, treasurer. 

O-A cheerleaders looking to lift holiday spirits of veterans at NYS Vets Home

By Howard B. Owens


The Oakfield-Alabama Hornets Cheerleaders are collecting holiday decorations to donate to veterans staying at the New York State Veterans Home in Batavia.

They are accepting donations for any decor as well as holiday craft supplies so that veterans can decorate their rooms, doors, and bulletin boards for the holidays. 

The cheerleaders are also collecting holiday cards written to veterans.

There are donation boxes at the high school or contact cheerleading coach Kate Engle at [email protected].

Submitted photo.


Add a wreath for a fallen veteran to your shopping list: deadline is Nov. 29

By Joanne Beck


As Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Giving Tuesday are all looming ahead for hungry shoppers, there’s also an initiative to honor local veterans worthy of your investment, Matthew Moscato says.

Wreaths Across America is a project to ensure that those veterans who have served and died are commemorated with a red-ribbon accented pine wreath during a yearly ceremony every December. This year that event is set for noon Dec. 17 at the Western New York National Cemetery, 1254 Indian Falls Road, Corfu.

And while Wreaths Across America is, as it implies, a national effort, Moscato’s Veterans Outreach Club at Pembroke Junior-Senior High School is selling the wreaths locally to also benefit the WNY National Cemetery Memorial Council, a non-profit entity that runs many of the events at the National Cemetery.

“We have 40 to 50 students, it’s the largest club at the school,” Moscato said to The Batavian. “We do a ton of stuff; our kids really wanted to promote this. The Memorial Council is in charge, and our kids play a role in helping with that. They’ve gone to the community collecting donations for the wreaths.”

They have so far collected enough for 450 wreaths, with a total need of about 1,300 this year, he said. Students volunteer to participate during the annual ceremony by helping visitors get around the large cemetery grounds, passing out wreaths and being on hand to assist with other duties. They also participate in a detail one week out of each year to take down, inspect and raise flags for the revered Avenue of Flags, he said.

“They’ve been very enthusiastic about it” he said. “They’re very integrally involved.”

For every $15 wreath sold, $5 goes to the Council to offset expenses related to the cemetery, such as maintaining U.S. flags for the Avenue of Flags and providing uniforms for the Honor Guard.

Moscato, a teacher at the school and this year’s Wreaths Across America coordinator, began the club a few years ago, and it has been growing in size and scope ever since. The group recently created a Wall of Honor for all Pembroke graduates who went into the military. An entire hallway has been dedicated for that project, and more than 230 plaques — made at the school — hang on the walls with those students’ names on them, he said.

“We held an opening ceremony that hundreds attended and many flew in from around the country to be there,” he said. “The Pembroke Veterans Outreach Club is a community service club that works to ‘honor our local veterans.’

“Our club is a pure community service club, we make no money from it,” he said. “We want to make sure there are 100 percent enough wreaths for the veterans. The kids are really excited. Being in the school district that the cemetery is in, it plays an important role … and the kids are definitely doing their part.”

Pembroke Veterans Outreach Club is selling wreaths for this event, with the goal of having a wreath placed on every headstone in the cemetery for the holiday season, Moscato said. He is also on the WNY National Cemetery Council. The Outreach Club plays a major role in hosting this public event, which includes a short ceremony with a couple of speakers, followed by community members laying wreaths on the headstones of graves.

“This is the same ceremony that takes place in Arlington,” he said. “I’m sure you have seen the iconic pictures of the wreaths on the graves there. This is the same ceremony right here in Western New York.”

Go HERE to sponsor one or more wreaths, or send cash or checks to: Veterans Outreach Club, Pembroke Jr-Sr High School, P.O. Box 308, Corfu, NY, 14036. If more wreaths are purchased than are needed this year, the money will go toward next year's gravestones and ceremony, Moscato said. Deadline for ordering is Nov. 29.

Submitted photos of Pembroke students helping out at the WNY National Cemetery during last year's ceremony.

Video: Last year's ceremony.

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Ceremony at National Cemetery honors veterans

By Virginia Kropf


A ceremony honoring veterans took place Thursday at the Western New York National Veterans Cemetery in Pembroke.

Bill Joyce, head of the Genesee County Veterans Council and president of the Western New York National Cemetery Memorial Council, arranged the ceremony, which took place on the 247th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Cemetery director James Metcalf said the observance was scheduled on Thursday to allow veterans to spend Veterans Day (Friday) with their families.

Metcalf opened the ceremony with a welcome to all veterans in attendance and a shout-out to Tun Tavern, the brewery in Philadelphia, which is regarded as the site where the U.S. Marine Corps held its first recruitment drive during the American Revolution.

Metcalf and Brenda Serena, a U.S. Army veteran and Erie County Officer in Charge, placed a wreath under the giant American flag.

“Today, we gather to honor our veterans' memorial service and sacrifice by placing this wreath in this National Shrine,” Metcalf said. “This day is your day and it’s an honor to spend it with you.”

He urged those in attendance to remember and recognize the service, sacrifices and selflessness of the nation’s veterans.

“These veterans raised their hands and swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States,” Metcalf said. “By fighting our nation’s wars and defending us all during periods of peace between wars, veterans have protected our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy – the freedom to speak without fear, to vote as we see fit and to gather as we do today.

“We owe them all a debt of gratitude for the burdens they have borne,” he said. “And so, today, we recommit ourselves to upholding that promise and all the principles of democracy for which veterans have fought and bled to defend. That is our most sacred responsibility as Americans – today, on Veterans’ Day and every day.”

After Metcalf and Serena placed a giant wreath under the flag, an Honor Guard of members of the Medina American Legion and VFW presented a three-gun salute.

Metcalf said in the future, Veterans’ Day observances will be more formal when the construction of the cemetery is complete.

Joyce explained the WNY National Cemetery Memorial Council was formed to help the cemetery with projects, such as purchasing golf carts to get veterans to funeral services.

The men and women who secured freedom honored in Veterans Day ceremonies throughout county

By Howard B. Owens


Genesee County veterans gathered today at the locations and landmarks associated with the local men and women who served the nation in times of war and peace.

The ceremonies started at 9 a.m. at Genesee County Park, where former Assemblyman Dan Burling was the keynote speaker and he celebrated the freedom that the men and women who served helped secure.

"We just had an election yesterday," Burling said. "And though it may not appear to be everything that we want it to be, it was a free election. It was a free election that was guaranteed by the men and women who have served this country over the years, over many, many, many years and still served today."

Other ceremonies were held at the VA Hospital, the NY State Vets Home, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument (Upton Monument), Trigon Park, the War Memorial at Jerome Center, and GCC.

"We're all brothers and sisters," Burling told the veterans in Bethany. "We all served together and anyone who puts the uniform on, who puts their hand on the Bible and swears that they will defend this nation is a friend of mine and a friend of everyone, so I want to thank you all, all my friends."

Photos from Genesee County Park, the VA Hospital, and the Upton Monument.  Photos by Howard Owens.


Dan Burling, middle.










Frank Panepento, a teacher at Batavia Middle School, Nathan Korzelius, middle school principal, and Danielle Bergman, assistant medical director of the VA Center.  Middle school students made wood blocks with a patriotic etching as a gift for veterans at the VA Center.


A nod of thanks and appreciation doled out to local veterans Thursday

By Joanne Beck


Several local veterans were honored Thursday morning during a Veterans Day ceremony at Batavia High School. Band Director Jane Haggett, whose father Robert was amongst the recipients, handed out tokens of appreciation for their service.

They were:

U.S. Army

  • Robert Haggett
  • William Hughes
  • Thomas Steffinella
  • Rich Favaloro

U.S. Air Force

  • Dennis Mahoney
  • Matt Lutey

U.S. Marines

  • Colin Dailey, husband of BHS social worker Lindsay
  • John Dwyer
  • Vincent Pontillo
  • John Gombos

U.S. Navy

  • Tom Cecere
  • Harold McJury
  • Rocco Pellegrino

The district also gave a proud shout-out to members of its own school community.

“The BHS community is very fortunate to have three veterans on staff. We thank them for their service to our country and for keeping everyone safe," BHS Principal Paul Kesler said. "We would like to call the three gentlemen up to the front of the auditorium to receive a small token of our appreciation."

  • Mr. Greg Ciszak, BHS School Counselor: served his country for 12 years in the 152nd Engineer Company as a Staff Sergeant in the Army National Guard. He was a horizontal construction engineer. His unit was activated for numerous state emergencies including snow storms, floods, and the September 11th World Trade Center disaster.
  • Christopher Gorton, a Special Education teacher: joined the Army in 1984 and was in active duty from 1984 to 1989. During a portion of his active duty, Mr. Gorton was stationed in Western Germany. He continued to be on inactive duty from 1989 to 1992. Mr. Gorton was twice awarded the Army Achievement Medal and earned a good conduct medal. His unit received its second presidential unit citation award while he was stationed in West Germany. To this day, Mr. Gorton still carries a Challenge coin from President Reagan, the Commander in Chief, that was given out to the unit.
  • BHS Earth Science teacher Christopher Weicher: served in the United States Marine Corps from 1987 to 1991. Mr. Weicher completed two combat deployments during Operation Just Cause in Panama and the Gulf War 1. While serving his country, he received two combat action ribbons, a Presidential Unit Citation, and a Meritorious Unit Citation while serving with the 6th Marine Regiment.

The event included readings from students about what Veterans Day means to them. Adrien Fytros said that veterans are often defined as those who have been in the workforce for an extensive period of time, and those who have served in the military. 

"Those that have served in any branch of the military are easily the least selfish people in our community and should be treated as such. They are those who would put themselves through intense, rough, and enduring training for years to ensure that we can carry on a worry-free life, explore our interests, and pursue our own careers and dreams we’ve sought out," he said. "Veterans Day as a whole is to honor and give a spotlight to these brave and compassionate people that allow us to do everything we’ve desired to do. 

"Veterans Day is a day to honor those who put their family, community, and most of all, their country and its residents before themselves."

Photo: BHS Band Director Jane Haggett hands out tokens of appreciation the district's thanks to veterans during a Veterans Day assembly Thursday at the State Street school in Batavia. Photos by Joanne Beck.

Display Downtown honors GLOW residents who served in the military

By Howard B. Owens


Al Kurek (top photo) has a goal: To open a museum honoring veterans, the men and women from the GLOW region who served and sacrificed in the name of freedom.

He and fellow volunteers have already started collecting items to display, and some of those items have been set up for the public to view at 85 Main St., Batavia (the former Next Level Fitness location). 

"You have to know where we were in our history to know where we're going in the country," Kurek said. "You have to have personal knowledge of the sacrifices our veterans made, just to keep peace in the world. keep us safe."

The display features uniforms worn by the men and women from the GLOW region who served.  The donations were solicited through the Veteran's Services Office.  On Friday, about 20 volunteers helped install the display at the vacant gym.  The displays are on display through the windows (there's no entry).

The uniforms will be on display until Nov. 15.

Veterans Day is Friday, Nov. 11.

Photos by Howard Owens




Old Courthouse to be illuminated green in honor of veterans

By Press Release


Press release:

In advance of the upcoming Veterans Day holiday, the Old Courthouse will be illuminated green from Nov. 6 through Nov. 12 as part of Operation Green Light, a nationwide initiative to support veterans and raise awareness about the challenges faced by many veterans.

Operation Green Light also focuses on sharing resources that are available at the county, state, and federal levels to assist veterans and their families. This collaborative effort was developed by the NYS Association of Counties and the NYS County Veteran Service Officers’ Association in 2021 and was adopted this year by the National Association of Counties and the National Association of County Veteran Service Officers.

Locally, the Genesee County Legislature is set to adopt a memorializing resolution in support of Operation Green Light. We want to make sure our veterans and their families know that their service matters, that we are grateful for their sacrifices, and that it is now our turn to make sure they are served by their county government and our community.

In addition to lighting the Old Courthouse green in honor of all those who have served, residents and businesses are encouraged to demonstrate their support by changing an entryway light bulb to a green bulb. By shining a green light, we let veterans know that they are seen, appreciated, and supported. While this event is focused around the week of Veterans Day (November 6th -12th), participants are encouraged to continue shining the light year-round. Participants are encouraged to share photos and messages on social media using #OperationGreenLight. 

Submitted photo.

Photos: Live music at Eli Fish in appreciation of military service

By Howard B. Owens


The American Warrior Festival organization hosted a music night at Eli Fish Brewing Company to show appreciation for those currently serving in the military and for veterans of all eras. 

Performers included Joel Russlett (top photo), Billy Lambert, Travis Mackie, Rich Hancy, Josh Ketchum, and Monica Hall (bottom photo).

Photos by Howard Owens




Batavia Downs and Ricky Palermo Foundation donate concert tickets to local veterans

By Press Release


Press release:

Representatives from Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel and the Ricky Palermo foundation today donated over 3,300 tickets to the Genesee County Veterans Service Agency for the upcoming concerts at Batavia Downs.

The first concert, featuring Bruce in the USA, the World’s #1 Tribute to Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, will take place on Friday, June 10th.  100% of the proceeds from ticket sales, chair rental and raffles that day will go to the Ricky Palmero Foundation for Spinal Cord Research.  The fifth Rockin’ the Downs concert series, presented by Pepsi, will start the following week on Friday, June 17th.

“We are happy to extend these complimentary tickets to our local veterans, “said Henry Wojtaszek, President and CEO of Batavia Downs and a retired member of the US Navy.  “We thank all the men and women of the Armed Forces for all that they have done and continue to do for our great nation.”

“Our Ricky Palermo Foundation has worked with many veterans and veteran agencies throughout the years,” said Ricky Palermo, President and CEO of the Ricky Palermo Foundation.  “Just like Batavia Downs has done in years past, we too wanted to extend complimentary tickets to our concert for area Veterans to thank them for their service.”

“We are grateful to receive tickets for all 11 concerts, said William Joyce, Director of the Veterans Service Agency of Genesee County.  “Our area Veterans love going to the concerts and we are pleased to be able to extend this opportunity to them once again.”

Tickets can be purchased to all Batavia Downs Events including the Ricky Palmero Charity Concert at

About Batavia Downs/WROTB
Western Region Off-Track Betting Corporation is a public benefit corporation with headquarters in Batavia, NY. WROTB owns and operates 10 branches, as well as Batavia Downs Gaming, a standard bred racetrack and gaming facility. Since its inception, Western Region OTB has generated over $232 million in operating and surcharge revenues to the taxpayers of participating municipalities.

About The Ricky Palermo Foundation
When we first started our foundation, we started small, hosting a cut-a-thon and selling T-shirts that raised a total of five thousand dollars for The Miami Project. In 1996, with the help of my family and close friends, we started The Ricky Palermo Spinal Injury Golf Tournament. Our first year we set a goal to raise five thousand dollars. By the end of the day we had raised eleven thousand, exceeding our goal by over fifty percent. Fast forward to today, our tournament is one of the largest in Western New York with 200 plus golfers, raffles, fun, and even a helicopter golf ball drop. Our foundation has grown into more than just raising awareness and money. We have annual comedy shows, soccer, basketball and lacrosse clinics, and dinners with both live and silent auctions. In 25 years, we have donated $1.7 million to our community and to research at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

About the Veterans Service Agency of Genesee County
The Veterans Service Agency of Genesee County Provides services for veterans and their families.   We assist with filing claims and obtaining psychological, employment, and financial counseling.  We also offer assistance in military review of discharges and in obtaining New York State benefits.  Services are free to veterans, spouses, widows, and children of veterans.


Scouts place flags at veterans' graves in Historic Batavia Cemetery

By Press Release


Press release:

Cub Scouts from Pack 6069 and Boy Scout Troop 6069 placed flags in front of the headstones of veterans at the Batavia Historical Cemetery on Thursday, May 26th.   The Troop has been working with the cemetery's historical society several years on this project.  It is a pleasure for the Scouts to provide this service to their community.  Pack 6069 Committee Chairman Brown made sure to take the Cub Scouts to the grave site of Samuel Wood who is buried there.   Sam Wood is the name sake of Iroquois Trail Council's Cub Scout Resident Camp located in Pike, NY.  Sam Wood was the first Eagle Scout recorded in Genesee County.  Boy Scout Troop 6069 is chartered through the 1st Presbyterian Church in Batavia, and Cub Scout Pack 6069 meets at Jackson Primary School.






Study finds intersection outside vets cemetery safe but suggests possible changes

By Howard B. Owens
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The intersection of Route 77 and Indian Falls Road is deemed safe in that it meets or exceeds all state and national design standards, according to a draft report released this week by the Office of Veterans Affairs.

The latest report is based on data and a study by an independent engineering firm, Larson Design Group.

The location is outside the Western New York National Cemetery, which opened a year-and-a-half ago and where two veterans (Christopher Rowell and Arnold Herdendorf, both of Lockport) were killed in a motor vehicle accident in September of 2021.

Glenn Elliott presented the report at a meeting hosted Monday in Corfu by Rep. Chris Jacobs. Elliott is the environmental director in the office of facility planning, construction and facility management at the VA.

"The draft study concludes that the intersection meets NYSDOT standards for sight distances and the US Federal Highways Administration Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices," Elliott said. "This is the standard used by roadway managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways and private roads open to the public."

He also said, "It finds that the sight distance is at the State Route 77 in Indian Falls Road intersection for greater than design criteria. Concluding sight distances do not propose a safety issue for traffic turning off Indian Falls Road. It concludes neither an all-way stop nor a traffic signal are required for the applicable criteria of METCB. It finds the expected crash frequency not significantly higher than the predicted crash frequency. Therefore safety performance is consistent with what is expected at this intersection. Since November 2020, when the cemetery opened, the crash frequency incident rate did not increase."

And, "The study finds that the expected crash frequency is not significantly higher than predicted crash frequency. Therefore, the safety and performance of the intersection is consistent with what is expected for this type of intersection."

However, because of the interest within the veterans' community in the safety of the intersection, the report reviews seven potential changes to the intersection.

  • Eliminate the existing departure passing zones at the Indian Falls Road intersection.
  • Install a flashing intersection control beacon or alternatively install side-mounted flashing warning devices along Route 77 intersection warning and involves road stops.
  • Install rumble strips on the shoulder and centerline on State Route 77.
  • Eliminate the existing departure and passing zone mentioned earlier.
  • Installed larger right and left stop signs with reflected posts on Indian Falls Road, including placards for cross traffic does not stop at stop pavement markings on Indian Falls Road.
  • Install larger intersection signs on State Route 77.
  • Install a roundabout at the intersection of route 77 and Indian Falls Road.  

None of the possible changes are explicitly recommended though flashing beacons, signage and pavement markings, and a roundabout all score the best when mathematically weighted for effectiveness in reducing accidents.  Roundabouts reduce accidents by 60 percent and fatal accidents by 99 percent.

One suggestion by the study explicitly deemed ineffective is reducing the speed limit approaching the cemetery.

Jacobs said he organized the meeting in order to give community members a chance to review the report and make their own comments about it and potential changes to the intersection. 

"It is clear that more needs to be done to make this intersection safer for our veterans and our families who come to pay respects to our fallen heroes," Jacobs said. "I am committed to working with the veteran community to ensure meaningful changes are made."

For more details and for comments from among those who attended, watch the video above.

A Vietnam vet's journey brought him to Batavia and a better life at Liberty Square

By Howard B. Owens


Eagle Star housing is "in the business of saving lives," Dennis Mahoney told the dignitaries and residents gathered Tuesday morning for the Liberty Square ribbon-cutting ceremony in Batavia.

Mahoney, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, said he isn't sure he would have made it without the assistance of Eagle Star.

His path to Liberty Square started with getting admitted to the PTSD program at the VA in Batavia.

"Getting there was a journey that took me decades," Mahoney said. "I was a great Marine but a horrible civilian. I didn't make the transition too well, but I also said the country didn't treat us too good coming home. That's been turned around greatly. Now I'm proud to be a veteran, proud to have served my country and served as well."

Mahoney's rocky journey after the war included a few encounters with law enforcement, he said.

"I was a mess when I came home," he said. "I'm not gonna use that as an excuse. Not all veterans did that. But I got myself together. And I wanted to make a life for myself. And I found that very difficult. I went from a hotel in Upstate New York with the intention of taking my life."

That attempt got him to a veterans hospital in Montrose, then transferred to Bath, and then Batavia.

Treatment in Batavia, he said, "literally saved my life."

But that wasn't the end of the journey.

"I had no idea what I was going to do," Mahoney said. "After I got out of treatment, I was totally lost. Eagle Star housing had something waiting for me (in Pembroke) where I could ground myself and look for a place to live. That was very difficult. I had no history. I had no way of marketing myself. My only talents were what I learned in the Marine Corps, so not very marketable."

Eagle Star's house in Pembroke is meant to be temporary assistance, but Mahoney held on until Liberty Square became available.

Now Mahoney has safety and security and he's also found a purpose in life.  He attends City Church, where he volunteers to help people with disabilities get to church and helps with food distribution.

He is grateful he found Batavia, he said.

"It's a great community. I found a life here. I've found things that I was able to do and I can give back to the community."

He credits Eagle Star and Liberty Square with rounding out a long and difficult journey to a better life.

"So many veterans with PTSD aren't making it every day," he said. "This facility, if we could replicate this all over the country, we would help veterans stay alive, not only prosper and find employment, but find a home that's affordable."

See also: Liberty Square apartments a 'much-needed' addition to Batavia

Photo by Howard Owens

Liberty Square apartments a 'much-needed' addition to Batavia

By Howard B. Owens


The ribbon is cut, but Liberty Square, 554 East Main St., Batavia,  has been serving as a residence for as many as 28 veterans since December, and for Zach Fuller, executive director of Eagle Star Housing, that is "mission accomplished."

"Our mission is getting veterans back on their feet back into the community and interacting with the community," Fuller said.

Liberty Square is a collaborative project between Home Leasing, LLC, based in Rochester, and Eagle Star, with financial assistance from the State of New York through Homes and Community Renewal.

"We started the program for transitional 60-day programs, but we knew that if the veteran didn't have anywhere really to go from a transitional housing situation they would face difficulty and not have support services," Fuller said. "Working with New York State and the governor's office and HCR, where they came out with a program a few years ago with a housing-first model that allows us to get our veterans into safe housing. From here we're able to provide support services for them 24/7. We provide them with apartment furniture, any type of toiletries, and day-to-day needs they have. We're here to help them. We're trying to do everything we can to keep them on their progress path back to stability and back into civilian life."

The complex cost $12 million and includes 39 additional one-bedroom apartments, and eight two-bedrooms targeting people with a household income of 60 percent of the area's median income.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said the complex is a welcome addition to Batavia.

"Every study that the City and the County has done since 2010 has identified housing as one of our main needs," Jankowski said. "I realized what projects of this magnitude require. It's a lot of work by a lot of people. I was talking to Zach earlier and he said when this project started, his son was a newborn. And now he's five years old. So it goes to show you how long and how much perseverance it takes to get a project like this off the ground."

That perseverance is paying off, he said, because "for our veterans and those who qualify, these apartments are going to be a much-needed addition to the city. They're going to provide a safe and comfortable space to call home."

Photos by Howard Owens


Zach Fuller.


A plaque in the rec room will honor Bill Mosman, the late owner of Mosman Paint, which stood on one of the properties now occupied by Liberty Square for more than six decades. Mosman served in the Navy during World War II.

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