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veterans

April 1, 2020 - 3:25pm

Press release:

VA Western New York Healthcare System is committed to providing high-quality care while keeping veterans safe from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Due to COVID-19 precautionary measures and out of concern for our veterans, we are honoring current social isolation and distancing guidelines,” said Michael J. Swartz, executive director, VA Western New York Healthcare System.

“Through VA’s virtual care tools, we are able to leverage available technology to make sure that our patients and staff are as safe as possible during this time.”

To help us address our Veterans’ most-urgent needs first, VA Western New York Healthcare System asks that Veterans use our online tools for routine or non-urgent questions.

Here are some examples:

Telephone or Video Appointments – Veterans can receive care at home — either over the phone or via video using VA Video Connect on their computers, smartphones, or tablets.

To set up telephone or video appointments, Veterans can send their provider a secure message on My HealtheVet by visiting myhealth.va.gov. Veterans may also call, but VA is requesting that veterans only call with urgent needs at this time.

To learn more about VA Video Connect, click here.

Prescription Refills – Veterans can request prescription refills and order and ship medications to their homes using My HealtheVet or the Rx Refill mobile app. Download the app at mobile.va.gov/app/rx-refill.

Text Message Reminders – Veterans can use Annie’s Coronavirus Precautions protocol to send automated text messages with information about COVID-19.

This application helps Veterans monitor for symptoms and can assist if they need to contact their VA facility for care. Enroll at mobile.va.gov/annie.

Secure Messaging – With My HealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal, Veterans can send online secure messages to your VA health care team to ask them nonurgent health questions. Register at www.myhealth.va.gov.

For more information about VA’s Connected Care technologies, visit connectedcare.va.gov or buffalo.va.gov.

February 19, 2020 - 3:37pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, steve hawley, veterans.

Press release:

Assemblymen Steve Hawley (Batavia) and Jake Ashby (Castleton), both veterans themselves, alongside their colleagues in the Assembly Minority Conference co-hosted a “Voices for Veterans” event today at the American Legion Cottreall-Warner Post 942 in Webster, where they called for the immediate restoration of Gov. Cuomo’s planned $5.68 million cut to veterans’ services.

Gov. Cuomo’s 2020-2021 Executive Budget takes aim at initiatives that range from helping soldiers manage PTSD and mental health challenges, to enabling veterans to find job-training and successful careers, to improving access to VA services and quality healthcare.

“Our veterans and their families have sacrificed so much to serve and protect our great nation. They have more than earned our support – this is why I am fighting to restore $6 million in funding for veterans programs,” said Ashby, the ranking Republican member on the Assembly Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Every year the governor tries to chip away at funding for veterans – funding that provides mental health services and critical help with the transition to civilian life. We won’t let him get away with it. New York must restore its support and commitment to veterans now.”

The largest cut proposed is to the wildly successful, popular Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer-to-Peer Program. The governor’s budget eliminates more than $4 million from the counseling program that allows veterans to connect with other men and women who have served in the Armed Forces and are facing challenges similar to their own.

“These programs are the life blood of our veterans’ support network. Gutting funding for them is a slap in the face to the men and women who have risked their lives to protect ours,” Hawley said. “This isn’t a game. I am calling on Andrew Cuomo to restore his proposed funding cuts and stop playing politics with the well-being of our veterans.”

Among some of the other veteran-related programs facing funding cuts are:

  • Helmets-to-Hardhats: $200,000—Assists post-9/11 veterans’ transition into careers in the building trades.
  • Clear Path for Veterans: $200,000—Serves as a key source for veterans in upstate New York to access resources and programs including professional skills and training development, peer and wingman services and K-9 therapy programs.
  • NYS Defenders Association Veterans Defense Program: $500,000—Provides training, legal assistance and support to provide representation of veterans and service members involved in the criminal or family court systems.
  • SAGE Veterans Project: $100,000—SAGE advocates and offers services that help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults who are veterans of military service improve their access to the VA and other veteran services, as well as support their overall health and wellness.
  • Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Veterans and Military Families Advocacy Project: $200,000—Provide assistance with applying for veterans benefits and representation before the Board of Veterans Appeals and in federal court, at no cost to veterans, when benefits are denied.

“The governor’s budget includes $178 billion in spending. In recent years, he’s fought to use your tax dollars to give illegal immigrants free healthcare, free college tuition and driver’s licenses," said Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (Canandaigua). "He wants taxpayer-funded political campaigns. He continually finds public contracts for his biggest political donors. At the same time, his budget would cut funding for veterans’ services by millions and millions of dollars. It’s unconscionable, and he should be ashamed. I’m proud to join my colleagues in fighting to restore this funding. Our veterans represent the very best of us, and the very best is exactly what they deserve from their government when they come home.”

Assemblyman Mark Johns (Webster) said “Veterans have sacrificed everything – their lives, time with their families and friends, their personal and professional goals – in order to protect our freedoms. It is vital that we do everything we can to show our appreciation, and ensuring the future of programs like the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Counseling Program is a great place to start. This program works. It is a proven life saver and its funding must be restored in this year’s budget."

“Why does the Governor always have to mess with the funding that our veterans hold dear?” asked Assemblyman Peter Lawrence (Greece). “Every year he finds it necessary to play political ping-pong with funding that is crucial to our veteran’s services. Services like the Dwyer Program should never be in jeopardy of being cut from the budget, and it seems like year in and year out the governor uses this funding as a political pawn during budget negotiations. I remain adamant about seeing it restored, and believe with continued pressure it will be included in the final budget.”

“Unfortunately, Gov. Cuomo’s planned cut to veterans’ services is not the first of its kind,” said Marjorie Byrnes (Caledonia). “For the past four years, the Dwyer Program, a peer-to-peer counseling service, has been nixed from his Executive Budget. The very people who fight for our freedom should never have to worry about losing services dear to them. As budget negotiations continue in the coming months, know that I will fight to see this funding restored and available for all counties.”

“It is an absolute travesty that the governor has, yet again, for the fourth year in a row, proposed a cut to funding for programs relating to veterans’ mental health,” said Assemblyman Brian Manktelow (Lyons). “I applaud Assemblyman Jake Ashby and Assemblyman Steve Hawley for taking charge with the 'Voices for Veterans' events to call for Gov. Cuomo to restore services immediately. I fully support this motion and hope to see the governor not only restore this back to the budget immediately but to increase the funding as well so all of our veterans are well taken care of.”

The Conference is also pushing to codify the expansion of the MERIT scholarship program for Gold Star Families by enacting it into law. After public outrage about the scholarship being threatened last year, the program was temporarily saved due to an executive order. Members of the Assembly Minority Conference are pushing for the scholarship to be properly passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.

February 18, 2020 - 11:29am
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, steve hawley, veterans.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley announced today that he will join Assemblyman Jake Ashby local veterans and members of the Assembly Minority Conference tomorrow morning, Feb. 19, for the first of several events calling on Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders to restore proposed cuts to vital veterans’ programs in this year’s budget due on April 1.

The assemblymen are calling for the immediate restoration of Gov. Cuomo’s planned $5.68 million cut to veterans’ services in the 2020-21 Executive Budget.

The largest cut proposed is to the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer-to-Peer Program. The governor’s budget eliminates more than $4 million from the counseling program that allows veterans to connect with other men and women who have served in the armed forces and are facing challenges similar to their own.

“Too many veterans come home after serving their country living with the horrors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and to cut these programs that are vital to protecting our nation’s heroes is an utter disgrace,” Hawley said. “Our veterans deserve to feel protected and cared for just as they have protected us from enemies foreign and domestic.

"In a budget that exceeds $170 billion eliminating vital programs for our veterans should be the last we are focusing on. I am hopeful we can call attention to the necessity of these programs and work with state leaders to see they are restored ahead of the budget deadline on April 1.”

Hawley, son of a World War II veteran and member of the Ohio Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves, will be joined by Assemblyman Jake Ashby who served eight years in the U.S. Army Reserves and rose to the rank of Captain. Ashby is the Ranking Minority Member on the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee and Hawley is a longtime member and former ranker.

February 17, 2020 - 12:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in American Warrior Festival, veterans, T.F. Brown's, video.
Video Sponsor

On Saturday night, Dan Clor, director of the American Warrior Festival, threw a party to thank T.F. Brown's and other sponsors of the festival that supports veterans.

February 11, 2020 - 5:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in American Warrior Festival, news, T.F. Brown's, veterans.

The American Warrior Festival -- a free show to celebrate our troops, veterans and American way of Life -- will be held at T.F. Brown's Restaurant in Batavia this Saturday (Feb. 15), starting at 4 p.m. and going until 1 a.m.

T.F. Brown's is teaming up with Strength in Numbers Entertainment for this special event with several live bands, including:

  • Lonesome Road
  • Tetness
  • Zackstreet Boys
  • Vette
  • Zynaptic Gap
  • Axton Landing
  • The Remediators
  • Joel Russlett
  • Old School

Sponsors are: The Original Red Osier Landmark Restaurant; Oliver's Candies; OrCon Industries Corp.; WMW Welding's Most Wanted; Smokin' Eagle BBQ & Brew; and The Firing Pin.

T.F. Brown's is located at 214 E. Main St. in the City of Batavia.

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.

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