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veterans

December 19, 2019 - 10:58am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Bereaved Parents of the USA, veterans, suicide prevention.

James Thorman is seeking legislative support – from either a local U.S. Congressman or Senator – to establish a mental health well-being program for veterans and their families.

Thorman has been reaching out to local and national lawmakers as well as Genesee County government officials, Veterans Administration personnel and veteran-affiliate groups, youth bureaus and sportsmen’s clubs in an effort to advance a committee to help those at risk.

The Byron resident has seen firsthand the devastating effects of suicide as two of his daughters succumbed in that manner in 2011.

He first spoke about his proposal in front of Batavia City Council last September, and he continues to contact those who he believes could play a major role in making this program flourish.

“We need to rally the nonprofit organizations to help veterans with the project and we need Congressional help get this off the ground,” Thorman said. “This is not a political (movement), so this means that everyone would be able to get on board (in a nonpartisan way).”

While Thorman is still waiting to find a legislative backer, he has been able to enroll his committee as a new chapter of Bereaved Parents of the USA, a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 by a group of bereaved parents from across the country to offer support, understanding, encouragement and hope to fellow bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents after the death of their loved one.

This purpose remains the thrust of BPUSA today.

According to its website, Bereaved Parents of the USA is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of BPUSA members nominated and elected yearly by chapter members. All work within the BPUSA organization on both the national and local chapter level is done by volunteers. No one receives a salary within BPUSA.

Known as the Genesee/Orleans/Wyoming chapter of BPUSA, the committee meets at 6:30 p.m. every third Thursday of the month at Richmond Memorial Library.

Thorman said there has to be a “Congressional inquiry” prior to his group being recognized as a viable entity and, subsequently, he is writing letters to attorneys and calling upon local and national politicians to assist him in making this happen.

"This is the reason that when a Congressional Inquiry is petitioned, the Government of State Assembly is the next tier of accessibility for the nonprofit (organization, such as the suicide prevention committee)," Thorman said.

"The establishment of common ground in that no new or changed laws and without setting precedents ... can be the fuel for closing the gap between the numbers of suicides of veterans and the numbers of veterans opting for mental health treatment at the behest of friends or family."

For more information or to get involved in a support group for veterans, teens and others who may be at risk of committing suicide, contact Thorman at [email protected].

December 6, 2019 - 2:54pm
posted by Billie Owens in pearl harbor, veterans, World War II, steve hawley.

A statement from Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) on tomorrow's anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor -- Dec. 7, 1941.

“The attacks on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor will forever stand as a chilling and infamous day in American history," said Assemblyman Steve Hawley. "Over 2,000 men and women lost their lives defending America’s freedom on this day, but their courage and memory reminds us that our nation is strong, persistent and full of time-honored patriots who will always be ready to stand guard to defend it.

“As the son of a World War II veteran and a veteran myself, I can attest to the dedication and sacrifice of our state’s veterans and active service members and hold them dear to my heart as I strive to give them a voice in Albany. It is important that we take time this weekend to recognize the brave men and women who perished some 78 years ago and thank current service members who are defending our nation at home and abroad today.

“I would like to recognize and thank all surviving World War II veterans and their families for what they have done to protect our country. The men and women of the Pearl Harbor attacks will never be forgotten, and their legacy will always serve to remind us to remain vigilant but forever proud to be an American.”

December 5, 2019 - 1:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Western New York National Cemetery, pembroke, news, veterans.

Press release:

Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, Randy Reeves along with other VA National Cemetery Administration officials visited Western New York yesterday, meeting with Veterans, Contractors, Federal, State Veterans and County representatives reviewing progress on the new Western New York National Cemetery.

“I am pleased to see work on this moving forward,” said Randy Reeves, under secretary Memorial Affairs. “The team of VA staff, Service-Disabled Veteran-owned Small Business contractors and the community are working together to ensure Western New York Veterans and their families will have access to this benefit, as soon as possible, close to home.”

VA operates 139 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers' lots and monument sites in 41 states and Puerto Rico. For Veterans not buried in a VA national cemetery, VA provides headstones, markers or medallions to commemorate their service.

Information on VA burial benefits is available from local VA national cemetery offices, online at https://www.va.gov/burials-memorials/ or by calling VA regional offices toll-free at 800-827-1000.

To make burial arrangements at any open VA national cemetery at the time of need, call the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 800-535-1117.

November 14, 2019 - 1:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, Veterans Day, batavia, UMMC, video.
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At 9:27 p.m. on Veterans Day, Franklin Morales-Monterroso and Taylor Henry, who met while serving in the Navy, welcomed their first child into the world, Julian Michael Morales, at 8 pounds and 28 1/2 inches.

Julian is a Veterans Day baby, born at UMMC, to parents who are veterans and several family members who are veterans, including his grandmother, Tammy Henry, who gave birth to Taylor while serving in the Air Force.

November 11, 2019 - 3:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Veteran's Day, veterans, batavia, video.
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November 11, 2019 - 1:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, Veterans Cemetery, veterans, news.
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For more than 13 years, Assemblyman Steve Hawley and other members of the state Assembly have been pushing to get New York to do what many other states have done and build a state-run veterans' cemetery.

Yesterday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he's ready to back such an effort. Hawley is co-sponsor of Assembly Bill 5347, which would establish a cemetery, and AB 887, which would help secure funding for a cemetery.

November 11, 2019 - 7:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, Veterans Day, news.

Today's Veteran's Day ceremonies:

  • 9 a.m.: Genesee Co. Park (VVA)
  • 10 a.m.: Batavia VAMC
  • 10:15 a.m.: NYS Vets’ Home
  • 11 a.m.: Upton Monument
  • 11:30 a.m.: Jerome Center (UMMC) Monument

Organizations participating:

  • Veterans of Foreign Wars of Genesee County
  • Genesee County American Legion
  • Disabled American Veterans – Chapter #166
  • Marine Corps League – Hansen Brothers Detachment
  • Vietnam Veterans of America – Chapter #193
October 24, 2019 - 8:00am

Submitted photo and press release:

For more than 20 years, Genesee Community College has invited the public to its Main Campus in Batavia on Veterans Day for two very important events -- welcoming potential new students with an Academic Open House and honoring veterans for their service to our country with a Veterans Day Ceremony.

On Monday, Nov. 11, the tradition continues to host potential students of all ages and their families to Open House from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. and the entire community to the annual Veterans Day Honor Ceremony at 12:30 p.m. 

The Academic Open House session will begin with an early bird registration and campus tour at 8 a.m. for those early risers. General registration will be open from 8:30 a.m. - 9 a.m. when the program will begin.

During the program's information sessions, attendees will hear from Admissions, Financial Aid, GCC's Student Success Center representatives and more. Then, the hour-long Academic Fair will open promptly at 10:15 a.m., where GCC professors and instructors from across campus gather to showcase their programs, meet and chat with interested students and family members.

Complete campus tours that include the new Richard C. Call (athletic) Arena and Student Success Center as well as the new apartments at College Village, the Library, Book Store, Student Union, Genesee Center for the Arts and GCC's many state-of-the-art classrooms and labs will be from 10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. for anyone interested.

In addition, an optional Nursing Program Information Session will begin in room T102 at 12 p.m.

Online registration for the Open House is the best way to reserve a seat for the opportunity to explore GCC.

Whether you are looking to attend college for the first time, return to college to advance your current career, or even launch a brand new venture, GCC's success coaches are specifically trained to guide individual pathways to success.Meet your success coach at Open House!

The campus tour lasts approximately 60 minutes and participants are encouraged to dress comfortably and wear walking shoes. Self-guided tours are also an option, borrowing a digital tablet from GCC's Admissions office.

A virtual tour is also available fully online here

Immediately following Open House, GCC will host its annual Veterans Day Honor Ceremony at GCC's Batavia Campus beginning at 12:30 p.m. featuring community and student veteran guest speakers.

At 1:15 p.m. a complementary lunch will be served to all veterans.

Those unable to attend the event in Batavia are encouraged to enjoy the event live-streamed at: https://www.genesee.edu/home/event-streaming/ or watch the broadcast at one of GCC's Campus Centers in Albion, Arcade, Dansville, Lima, Medina and Warsaw.

GCC is also holding a special Financial Aid Day / Saturday Visit Day on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 from 8 a.m. 'til 1 p.m. featuring admissions and academic program information.

On this day, with an official transcript or copy of a GED, attendees will be able to apply and be admitted on the spot!

Those specifically seeking help with completing the FAFSA forms should register here or visit https://www.suny.edu/attend/events, click on "SUNY Financial Aid Days" and find the Genesee Community College Nov. 23 event to register.

Visit Day walk-ins are welcome; however registration for the event guarantees a one-on-one session with a financial aid expert to help complete the FAFSA application online. Interested individuals are encouraged to call GCC's Admissions Office at (585) 345-6800 with any questions.

With more than 65 affordable degree and certificate programs, online courses, Hyflex learning opportunities and seven campus locations, GCC makes it possible for anyone to achieve his or her higher education dreams.

October 14, 2019 - 12:15pm

Press release:

Victor Roberts, Veterans Benefits advisor, NYS Division of Veterans' Affairs, will be at the Downtown Batavia Public Market (Bank Street and Alva Place) at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Oct.17th, to distribute NYS FreshConnect Checks to local Veterans who missed the original distribution in July.

FreshConnect Veterans Checks are a component of Governor Cuomo's "New York FreshConnect Farmers' Markets" (FreshConnect) program. The program is designed to assist New York farmers by increasing the sale of locally grown food in communities.

FreshConnect checks will be issued as a one-time annual benefit: 10 - $2 checks ($20) -- one packet per household, per season.

Checks will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis to the first 25 veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States, current members of the Armed Forces, members of their immediate families, or un-remarried surviving spouses.

"This second distribution of FreshConnect checks is for those Veterans that did not receive checks at the July distribution," says Roberts, "Recipients will not require ID but they will need to sign a form accepting the program's rules and regulations."

"The checks can be used to purchase fresh produce from participating vendors at the Market," says Market Manager Mike Bakos. "The Market is excited to, once again, be a distribution point for FreshConnect Veterans Checks and we thank all veterans for their service."

October 11, 2019 - 1:58pm
posted by Billie Owens in NYS Veterans Home, veterans, batavia, David Bellavia, news.

Submitted photos and press release:

Medal of Honor recipient David G. Bellavia appeared at the NYS Veterans Home on Thursday, Oct. 10, as part of a wish-granting experience created by the local nonprofit, Senior Wishes.

Bellavia, an Army Staff Sergeant and the first living Iraq War Veteran to receive a U.S. Medal of Honor, spoke to residents, staff and guests, including members of the Combat Vets Association.

His speech was followed by a reception organized by Senior Wishes which included refreshments, and the opportunity for guests to meet with Bellavia, who graciously shared his Medal of Honor, posed for pictures and signed copies of his book.   

The event was planned as part of an introduction of Senior Wishes to the Batavia community, as the program has just expanded from Erie and Niagara counties to also serve residents of Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties.

Established in 2013 by the United Church Home Society (UCHS), Senior Wishes’ mission is to honor and recognize the lifelong contributions of our oldest citizens by granting meaningful wishes that will enhance seniors’ lives.  

According to Wendy Miller Backman, Senior Wishes executive director, “Senior Wishes was created to recognize that our aging seniors still have things they want to do, places they want to go, or people they want to see. We transform those dreams into a reality.”

The program has granted more than 250 wishes in Erie and Niagara counties, and strives to grant more wishes to seniors by expanding into more counties. 

Wish requests may be big or small. Previous wishes have included air travel to visit long-missed family, cheering on a favorite team in person, and revisiting an abandoned hobby.  

Wish recipients must be 65+ and a resident of Western New York with an annual income under $38,000 for a household of one or under $44,000 for a household of two. Permanent residents of care facilities are exempt from the income qualification. Vacations, medical items, household repairs, bill payments and travel outside of the continental United States are excluded.

To learn how to apply for a wish, visit www.seniorwishes.org or call Wendy at 716-508-2121.

October 10, 2019 - 10:13pm

The City of Niagara Falls is honoring David Bellavia at 3 p.m. Saturday with a Key to the City and Bellavia will deliver a talk, "Duty 1st with David Bellavia: Serving Country and Community."

Duty 1st is offering 50 percent off on tickets for this event to readers of The Batavian. Use this link to purchase the discounted tickets.

Press release:

The public is invited to "Duty 1st with David Bellavia: Serving Country and Community," a 3 p.m. talk by the Medal of Honor recipient, who will be honored by the Niagara Falls community with a Key to the City. In addition, there will be a full speaking engagement and meet-and-greet.

Since getting the Medal of Honor, Bellavia has had the honor to talk to audiences from children to World War II veterans all around the Country -- he’s talked about patriotism, and service above self and shared laughs and tears with folks along the way. Now, he will finally get to deliver a talk for his friends and neighbors, hosted by the Rapid Theatre in Niagara Falls -- where half the event will be a sit-down Q&A with the audience.

The Oct. 12 event will also serve as a kick-off for a new nonprofit organization created by Bellavia, called Deuce Deuce Relief Fund Inc., which will benefit soldiers from Bellavia's prior Task Force in Iraq (Task Force 2-2).

General admission tickets are $22 (Deuce-Deuce) at the door – but Batavian readers can get a 50-percent off discount right now by preregistering using promo code Batavian. There are also publicly available deep discounts for military, whether active or VET/retired (75-percent off), and Gold Star families (free) – available at checkout, with no code required.

Tickets are available at DavidBellavia.com or on EventBrite.com – but here’s the custom link with embedded discount code: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/duty-1st-with-david-bellavia-serving-country-and-community-tickets-72099291923?discount=Batavian. If there are any issues, just enter discount code: Batavian.

Staff Sgt. Bellavia also 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.

Prior video coverage of David Bellavia's Medal of Honor:

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October 10, 2019 - 1:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in wny national cemetery, Veterans Cemetery, veterans, news, pembroke.

vetscemetarytownhalloct2019.jpg

Construction has begun on the new Western New York National Cemetary in Pembroke though the initial plan for Phase I construction has been cut back because of budget constraints, Veterans Affairs officials told a gathering of veterans Wednesday in Corfu.

The 132-acre cemetery will accommodate the remains of 96,000 veterans over the next 70 years but veterans at Wednesday's meeting were most concerned about the here-and-now: delays in construction; the need to scale back Phase I; and either budget shortfalls or mistakes by the VA in estimating construction costs.

Congress originally appropriated $36 million for the cemetery but the VA is now asking for an additional $10 million to complete construction.

One of the key legislative supporters of the cemetery has been Sen. Charles Schumer and his regional director, Chris Zelmann told veterans Wednesday that the senator continues to support the project and will fight for more funding once the VA validates the need for the additional $10 million in funding.

"It's paramount to the senator to make sure the VA moves heaven and earth to make good on its commitment to honoring our heroes in Western New York to ensure they can use the benefits they've earned and deserve," Zelmann said.

The vast majority of men and women who served in the U.S. military and received any discharge other than dishonorable are eligible for free interment at a national cemetery. 

Burials at the cemetery are expected to begin as late next year but for veterans who wish to have their remains cremated, their families will have to wait until Phase I-B is completed, perhaps not until 2022.

That phase will contain a columbarium, an arc-shaped area with rows of columns that will hold boxes for cremated remains. 

One woman at Wednesday's town hall said she's been storing her husband's cremated remains for four years.

One reason for the delay in construction said James Metcalfe, the new director of the WNY National Cemetery (top photo), in his experience working with two different contractors -- each phase has different construction contractors -- simultaneously can make it difficult to accommodate funerals. The goal is to get one section open for burials as soon as possible, then finish that construction before the second contractor begins work.

"We want internment and ceremonies taking place while there isn't so much underway at the same time both to maintain safety and a level of decorum," Metcalfe said.

One veteran expressed concern about the plan to use, temporarily, a trailer to house members of the honor guard. He said being an honor guard is physically and emotionally taxing and on days when they are performing services for multiple funerals, the members need a place to rest, relax, eat, and "hang their hat." He expressed concern that a trailer wouldn't be adequate.

Metcalfe said that while he can't provide the exact specifications of the trailer, he assured veterans that it would be appropriate and comfortable for members of the honor guard.

Eventually, the honor guard will have a permanent structure appropriate to their needs.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley, while acknowledging the bipartisan support for the veterans cemetery, said it's important for veterans and their families to keep the pressure on federal elected officials to ensure the project is appropriately funded. He said veterans should keep emailing and writing letters in support of funding.

"These are the people who served their country and they deserve a place to be buried with honor and dignity," Hawley said. "I'm not blaming any of you (motioning toward the VA officials). Even though some of us come from different political parties, it doesn't matter when it comes to taking care of our veterans.

"Today, I emailed Senator Schumer and my contact in the Trump Administration. If it's the money, it shouldn't matter when it comes to taking care of our veterans."

vetscemetarytownhalloct2019-2.jpg

Assemblyman Steve Hawley

vetscemetarytownhalloct2019-3.jpg

September 28, 2019 - 7:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in The Firing Pin, veterans, video, bergen.
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The Firing Pin hosted a “22 to None Fun Run” in support Mission 22, an organization dedicated to assisting veterans in getting treatment when they need it most.

The event included a 2.2K fun run, raffles, food and beer.

“I have personally lost seven friends that I was deployed with to veteran suicide,” said Patrick Kimball, TFP Advanced Training director and combat veteran. “Together, we can help our veterans get the help they deserve before it’s too late.”

September 28, 2019 - 10:18am

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 DavidBellavia.com.

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.

September 26, 2019 - 5:40pm

Press release:

Every day, more than 20 U.S. military veterans take their own lives. The Firing Pin (TFP), Western New York’s finest indoor shooting range, is hosting a community fundraiser Saturday, Sept. 28, with all proceeds going toward efforts to reduce veteran suicide.

The Firing Pin’s “22 to None Fun Run” will support Mission 22, an organization dedicated to assisting veterans in getting treatment when they need it most.

The event includes a 2.2K fun run, raffles, food trucks, live music and a craft beer tent.The event’s title sponsor, Rochester Precision Optics, is looking to hire veterans. They will have a booth at the event with more information.

“I have personally lost seven friends that I was deployed with to veteran suicide,” said Patrick Kimball, TFP Advanced Training director and combat veteran who will be speaking at the event. “Together, we can help our veterans get the help they deserve before it’s too late.”

Who: The Firing Pin, LLC and Mission 22

What: 22 to None Fun Run

  • 22 to None Fun Run -- 2.2K run/walk (map on second page)

  • Chinese/Silent Auctions

  • Craft beer tent by Eli Fish Brewing Company (all proceeds directly to Mission 22)

  • Food trucks - Center Street Smokehouse, Red Osier Landmark Restaurant, wood-fired pizza from American Masonry

When: Saturday, Sept. 28

Schedule of Events:

  • 9 a.m. -- Shop and range open; raffles begin

  • 10 a.m. -- Registration for Fun Run

  • 11 a.m. -- 2.2K Fun Run

  • 11:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. -- Beer tent and food trucks

  • 1 - 4 p.m. -- Live music from The Fog

Where: The Firing Pin LLC, 8240 Buffalo Road, Bergen

Why: The sad truth is that more veterans die at home on U.S. soil than in combat zones overseas. Mission 22 is a registered 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to healing America’s veterans when they need it most -- right now. The Firing Pin family has been personally affected by veteran suicide and wants to unite the community in raising awareness and support for our veterans. ALL proceeds from the event will go directly to Mission 22.

Below is the route of the 2.2K Fun Run/Walk, coustesy of Firing Pin General Manager Joshua W. Hawkins.

September 23, 2019 - 5:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Red Osier Landmark Restaurant, veterans, video, Stafford.
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September 23, 2019 - 12:35pm
posted by Billie Owens in patriot trip, veterans, assemblyman steve hawley, news, history.

Submitted photos and press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) departed to Washington, D.C., for his 12th annual Patriot Trip last week.

Hawley, local veterans and their family members will visit a host of famous military memorials in the area of the nation's capital.

The group left from Batavia Downs at 7 a.m. last Thursday and will spend four days visiting historical sites such as Arlington National Cemetery, the Capitol rotunda and the Vietnam War Memorial to name a few.

The group made a stop in Gettysburg, Pa., to visit the Civil War battlefield, and then headed to the Air Force Memorial in Arlington County, Va.

“I’m eager to embark on this journey with some of our finest veterans,” Hawley said. “This trip is consistently one of the highlights of my year.

"I’m grateful to spend time with our heroes and visit some of the most important sites in our nation’s history.”

September 19, 2019 - 1:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, steve hawley, patriot trip, batavia.

patriottrip2019-2.jpg

This morning, for the 12th time in as many years, a group of veterans departed with Assemblyman Steve Hawley from the parking lot of Batavia Downs for Hawley's annual Patriot Trip to Washington, D.C.  

The veterans will visit historic monuments in Washington.

Pictured with Hawley are Jim Freas, of Medina, and George Bakeman, of Albion.

patriottrip2019.jpg

September 16, 2019 - 2:53pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia VA Medical Center, Car Show, veterans, batavia, news.

Photos and information from the VA Western New York Healthcare System:

The Batavia VA Medical Center hosted a "Cruising for Veterans" car show and healthcare enrollment event on Saturday (Sept. 14).

About 25 cars were displayed. Veterans from the three Community Living Centers on the campus were taken down from their lodge residences to view the cars.

Below, the 1963 silver Corvette is a rare car. Only about 6,000 of this type were made.  

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