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September 1, 2015 - 5:00pm
posted by Billie Owens in veterans, steve hawley.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today announced that U.S. veterans who paid a New York State Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) fee of $12.50 to have a distinguishing mark on their driver’s license or identification card will be issued a refund.

Hawley, a veteran and Ranking Minority Member of the Assembly’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee, praised the law, which was signed into law in August.

“I am proud to have championed and voted for this legislation on behalf of our veterans and the sacrifices they have endured,” Hawley said. “Many restaurants and businesses already offer discounts to vets and this law will make proving one’s status convenient and fool proof.

"I applaud my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate for passing this measure and consider it a small token of gratitude for those who have given our country so much.”

The law applies to those seeking a “veteran” designation on or after Oct. 3, 2012. The DMV will be automatically sending a refund to those who qualify.

August 13, 2015 - 8:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in va center, batavia, veterans, music.

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It's a year today since local musician Frank Penepento started playing the National Anthem on his trumpet every morning at 7 a.m. at the VA Center in Batavia.

This morning, he was joined by several other players, including Mitch Cayea, now in the Navy and home on leave, who was in high school when he first filled in for Penepento on a morning Penepento couldn't play.

Penepento missed a period of playing while recovering from neck surgery, so other trumpeters filled in for him, and all but one of those stand-ins joined him this morning.

Besides Cayea, playing this morning were Harold McJury, Donny Allen, Ross Chua, Don Shirk and Tom Cecerce. Unable to play this morning was Richard Samsel.

Together, the group has performed the National Anthem at 7 a.m. at the VA Center through rain, sleet, snow, zero-degree mornings and golden ones like today.

Previously: Trumpeter plays National Anthem every morning at VA to honor veterans, and his father

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July 15, 2015 - 5:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, veterans, batavia, va center.

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Assemblyman Michael DenDekker was in Batavia today as part of a tour of Steve Hawley's district, with stops at the state's Veterans' Hospital and the VA Center as well as Lamb Farms. DenDekker, a Democrat, is chairman of the Assembly's Veterans' Affairs Committee. Hawley is the ranking minority member of the committee. The tour was aimed at helping DenDekker increase his knowledge of veterans issues across the state as well as introduce him to rural Western New York.  

One of the stops was the A Ward in the VA hospital that is being remodeled into private and semi-private rooms. Conducting the tour were contractor Martin Brothers, left, and Royce Calhoun, assistant director of the Batavia VA Center.

July 6, 2015 - 11:45am
posted by Billie Owens in steve, hawley, patriot trip, veterans.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) recently announced his eighth annual Patriot Trip to Washington, D.C., will take place Sept. 17–20. More than 100 veterans and family members participated in the 2014 trip, which included stories of valiant service members and valuable time spent together reflecting on the courage and dedication exhibited by our nation’s veterans.

Hawley is a longtime supporter of veterans and currently serves as the Ranking Minority Member of the Assembly Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

“I look forward to this trip each year as a way to give back to those who have served our country and remember those who have perished in combat,” Hawley said. “I came up with this idea following a similar trip I took with my father, a World War II veteran.

"Through experiences of my father and my own service in the Ohio Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves, I have gained a tremendous understanding and respect for the sacrifices endured by our veterans. It is for this reason that I continue the Patriot Trip each year and encourage as many of my constituents who are veterans to sign up as soon as possible.”

Attractions Hawley plans to visit this year on the trip include:

  • World War II Memorial
  • Korean War Memorial
  • Vietnam War Memorial
  • Iwo Jima -- The Marine Corps Memorial
  • American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial
  • Air Force Memorial
  • 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon
  • Arlington National Cemetery, including the Changing of the Guard
  • Wreath Laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns -- Vietnam Veterans
  • Gettysburg Battlefields
  • Mt. Vernon

Space is limited and sign-ups are first come, first serve with priority given to the oldest veterans and first-time attendees. Immediate family members may accompany a veteran.

If you or a veteran want more information about this year's Patriot Trip VIII, please call 585-589-5780 or 585-813-1608; e-mail: [email protected]

To view photos from previous years use the following link: http://vetsdctrip2008.shutterfly.com/.

June 11, 2015 - 6:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Frank Panepento, flag, veterans, Flag Day, batavia.

We posted earlier today about the upcoming Flag Day tribute at the VA Center, which will be at 1 p.m., Sunday.

This afternoon, Frank Panepento was at the sign in front of St. Joe's to help promote the event, so here's a quick video of Frank playing "You're a Grand Old Flag."

June 11, 2015 - 9:50am
posted by Howard B. Owens in va center, batavia, veterans.

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There will be a Flag Day celebration starting at 1 p.m., Sunday, at the VA Center in Batavia.

Here's the schedule for the event:

  • 1 p.m.: Prayer and Motorcycle Procession
  • 1:05 p.m.: Western New York Skydivers, led by Bill Ziphel
  • 1:10 p.m.: Flyover, Navy World War II plane, a 1943 Navy SNJ, piloted by Greg Barnhard and Jarod Cummings
  • 1:15 p.m.:  Assemblyman Steve Hawley Presentation
  • 1:30 p.m.: Flags & Students presentation to administration and vets.
  • 1:45 p.m.: 21-Gun Salute -- American Legion, Jim Neider, American Legion
  • 1:50 p.m.: Echo Taps
  • 2 p.m.: Concert with St. Joe’s Brass Ensemble
June 6, 2015 - 1:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in VA Hospital, veterans, PTSD, batavia.

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The names of five more veterans were added to a walkway of honor at the VA's PTSD Clinic in Batavia this afternoon. There are 45 names on the walkway. Each year, the names of those who have been through the PTSD program but passed in the previous year are added to the walkway.

June 1, 2015 - 8:25am
posted by Jess Wheeler in entertainment, music, veterans, batavia, weapon-x.

The ignition of the fuel on a diesel engine creates a low, aggressive grumble, booming bass and grungy chugging. Who would have thought that the same sounds could be heard in songs written in the Marine barracks in Iraq?

Dan Clor, 39, who grew up in Le Roy, wrote the songs in 2006. After his tour, he brought them to Los Angeles, where he lives now, and started recording them in 2007. From there, Weapon-X was born.

The name comes from a Marvel comic. It was recommended to Clor by a Marine friend. The band started playing live shows and people took to the name. Clor asked Marvel and they let him use it.  

As a Marine, Clor is moved by his time in the military. The band plays shows for veterans and receives a lot of support from them.

“I feel like three out of four veterans hear our music and latch onto it pretty well. Marines and vets are usually in your corner as long as you don’t screw up,” he said.

Although their songs have a lot of military and underdog overtones, Weapon-X doesn’t want to be put into a corner. They’re inspired by a lot of heavy and forceful music.

“It all started with Pantera, Metallica and (Black) Sabbath. I like everything from Johnny Cash to early '90s rap stuff,” Clor said. “Metallica is the band that made me go to House of Guitars and buy my first guitar. I didn’t know what to do with it.”

Not only did he learn how to play guitar, but at 18, Clor was teaching music lessons at Roxy’s when it was in the Batavia Shopping Center. He’s grateful for the time he spent in Genesee County.

“I thought it was cool to be raised in the small-town atmosphere,” he said. “Everyone is real close to each other. I did like just kind of having that closeness, but I felt a little stifled. I knew I wanted to move somewhere bigger. I needed more activity, more opportunity.”

Clor moved to L.A. in 2003. He went to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. After running low on money, he decided he had to get right to work in the industry. Now, in addition to being the front man of Weapon-X, Clor owns Victory Music Academy in L.A. There, he helps build and develop young bands. He aims to be a mentor for people who like to play edgier and darker music.

For now, Clor is back in town. He and Weapon-X are preparing for the Beast Coast Tour. This tour marks the first time the boys are playing the East Coast since the band's inception.

“We decided to come back here because we were getting a lot of response from people back home,” he said. “We put feelers out there and the response was really good.”

The tour kicks off at Montage Music Hall in Rochester on Friday for $15. They will play a second show at the same location on Saturday. Both shows are being sponsored by Center Street Smoke House. The tour will also see stops in Syracuse, Cambridge, Mass., Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C.

The band consists of Clor on lead vocals and guitar, Bill Scott on guitar, Ryan Whyman playing the keyboard, Jesus Rauda on bass, and David Thueson on drums. Unfortunately, the usual bass player and drummer could not make it. The Beast Coast Tour will see Jared Swaney on bass and James D. Jackson on drums.

May 29, 2015 - 4:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in va center, batavia, music, entertainment, veterans.

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Country singer Ricky Lee performed at the Batavia VA Hospital this afternoon. His set list included patriotic songs, songs honoring veterans and even some George "The 'Possum" Jones.

Each veteran in attendance was given a copy of his latest CD for free.

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May 25, 2015 - 7:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, Memorial Day, batavia.

The video is comprised of photos from the Memorial Day ceremonies at the VA, Upton Monument and the War Memorial at St. Jerome's. Audio provided by WBTA, our news partner.

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More photos in the slide show. To purchase prints, click here.

May 23, 2015 - 10:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Memorial Day, veterans.

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Dozens and dozens of families passed through the St. Joseph Cemetery today to place flowers on the graves of loved ones who served in the military. Above, Adam Figlow adjusts a flag on the veterans marker for the grave of his grandfather Anthony LaFarnara, who served in the Army during World War II, while his son Noah looks on. Below, Adam with is father, Tony.

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May 13, 2015 - 8:30am
posted by Steve Ognibene in SCOPE, 2nd Amendment, gun rights, veterans.

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At Tuesday's SCOPE meeting in Batavia, local veterans were honored by the Honor Flight Network.

Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. The group transports veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at the memorials of the various wars. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with veterans who may be terminally ill.

Of all of the wars in recent memory, it was World War II that truly threatened our very existence as a nation—and as a culturally diverse, free society. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII veterans die each day. Our time to express our thanks to these brave men and women is running out.

John Foy (pictured above), a WWII infantry machine gunner vet of the "Battle of the Bulge," who overcame many obstacles, including sub-zero temperatures, heavy snow at times, and surviving the violent, pounding barrage of artillery.

"Only a very few of us had proper winter clothing," Foy said. "Frozen feet were a big problem and 24 hours a day we were outside and very little time was spent inside a house or shelter."

For a brief moment in history, these men held our nation's destiny in our hands. We did not fail. There are an estimated 16 million vets who fought in WWII and only 1.6 million are left. The average age of that generation is 92.

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Pictured below is John Cipolla, paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division, signing his book for someone.

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All vets were honored tonight with a choice of a copper memorabilia coin with their appropriate military service.

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SCOPE meets the second Tuesday of each month at the Calvary Baptist Church on Galloway Road in Batavia.

For more information: http://www.scopeny.org/contact-2/chapter_info/genesee-county-chapter/

May 9, 2015 - 10:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, vfw, chris collins, steve hawley.

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The VFW Post in Batavia is in a poor state of repair, and Rep. Chris Collins is pushing legislation that could help the post, and veteran's service organizations throughout the country.

Collins highlighted his legislation today with an appearance at the post.

Incoming Post Commander Ronald Jackett gave a tour of the building, with it's stained and missing ceiling tiles, corroded bathrooms and peeling paint.

Jackett estimates repairs -- including a new roof -- will cost $40,000.

To help raise funds for repairs, the post is selling tickets for a Harley-Davidson raffle, but he certainly welcomes the proposal being pushed by Collins to make Community Development Block Grant funds available to the nation's veterans services groups for building repairs and upgrades.

"Many of these organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion are able to fund themselves by offering their facilities for special events such as birthdays and weddings," Collins said. "Their facilities serve as community centers, bringing neighbors and families together for special events. These organizations should have the ability to repair their existing facilities and further ensure the safety of those using them for special occasions and gatherings.

Collins said by using CDBG funds, the program draws from an existing expenditure, rather than creating new spending that would add to the federal budget deficit.

Wherever the money comes from, it would certainly be welcome, Jackett said.

"I don't know how we're going to do on this motorcycle raffle," Jackett said. "It's very slow going. It's very important. If we don't get enough off this motorcycle raffle, we're going to be looking everywhere else we can to try to get funding."

The post hasn't been able to use its kitchen for more than a year. It used to be an important source of revenue, generating as much as $1,000 a week in sales.  

The Harley is routinely on display at Chesley Auto on East Main Street, Batavia, where raffle tickets may be purchased.

The bill sponsored by Collins is similar to one introduced by other members of Congress in previous sessions, but never passed.

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After their appearance at the VFW, Collins and Assemblyman Steve Hawley visited Ken Barrett Chevrolet, which was hosting a recruitment drive for the county's veterans' groups, with WBTA broadcasting from the dealership.

April 28, 2015 - 10:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, veterans, civil war, Milestones.

Press release:

The dedication of the Private Conrad Litt memorial headstone will take place at 5 p.m. this Memorial Day, May 25, in the Old Section of Indian Falls Cemetery.

The Civil War veteran was killed at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, S.C.

Members of Col. John B. Weber Camp No. 44 (NY Dept., Sons of Union Veternas of the Civil War) and the Weber Guard will honor and mark the memorial headstone at the cemetery located at Indian Falls Road, a quarter mile east of Route 77, Pembroke.

This service is part of the Memorial Day Ceremony to be held at the Litt gravesite. This cemetery is adjacent to the newly acquired VA National Veterans Cemetery.

Conrad Litt enlisted in the 100th New York Volunteer Infantry, 2nd Brigade, Company C., on Oct. 24, 1861 as a Private. 2nd Brigade was known as the “Eagle Brigade,” which was sponsored by the Buffalo Board of Trade.

He experienced conflict in Virginia at the Battle of Fair Oaks, where more than half of his Regiment were killed or wounded. Conrad was killed in action on July 18, 1863 during the Union’s night assault on Fort Wagner, Morris Island, S.C., when he was struck in the breast and died instantly.

Conrad’s bodily remains were never recovered for a proper burial, as the fighting continued for another month by laying siege to take control of the Rebel held fort and battery, which was the key to entering Charleston Harbor and the Federal reclaiming of Ft. Sumter, where the first shot of “The War Between The States” had commenced in 1861, announcing the formal Secession of the State of South Carolina from the Union.

The Brothers of Weber Camp No. 44 are honoring him for his actions during the Civil War.
This memorial service in honor of Conrad Litt is adapted from a 1917 Service used by the Grand Army of the Republic to re-dedicate a member’s headstone. The G.A.R. service is scheduled to coincide with the 150 Sesquicentennial celebration of sponsored by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Memorial Day was established to honor the veterans on the fourth Monday in the month of May. It was originally known as "Decoration Day," in the terrible aftermath of our American Civil War, with the decorations of wreaths, flags and flowers, laid upon the graves of those fallen soldiers by their loved ones.

April 22, 2015 - 5:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, Oakfield.

Timothy Burch sent in this picture from this morning of a funeral procession in Oakfield for Alan H. Myers, who died at the age of 88.

According to his obituary, he led a heck of a life:

At age 11, he worked for adult wages on the Elba muck. He delivered newspapers by bicycle, set bowling pins, and in the winter, ran a muskrat trap line. He served during World War II with the Marine Corps and was awarded medals for marksmanship. He was stationed in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

After an honorable military discharge, he was employed by U.S. Gypsum for 11 years and survived severe injuries from a mine tunnel collapse. He farmed and ran a chicken egg business.

He was trained as a draftsman with the aid available from the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, eventually retiring from Eastman Kodak Co. as a master draftsman engineer in 1989.

Al Myers was an exceptional craftsman in home repair and antique restorations and a gifted landscaper. His land and home were his passion. An avid naturalist and protector of wildlife, Al was also a marble shooter, game player, chess player, hunter, lover of dogs, cats, and the comedy duo Laurel & Hardy. He was a renowned billiards player, friend of Native Americans, and a Civil War enthusiast. He helped found the 44th NY Volunteer Civil War Regiment and was instrumental in the development of the North South Skirmish Association, where he won many marksmanship medals in antique firearms competitions.

March 10, 2015 - 3:02pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, veterans, Veness Strollo.

On Saturday, March 21, the Vaness Strollo Ladies Auxiliary VFW Post #1602 will host a Spring Fling to benefit veterans' programs here and overseas. It will be held at the VFW Hall, located at 25 Edward St. in Batavia.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and pizza and snacks will be available for purchase. Entertainment will be by 87 Southbound, a popular country and rock band.

A $3 donation will be collected at the door.

There will be a Chinese Auction and a 50/50, the latter will benefit a special project called Team Red, White and Blue. This is a program that enriches the lives of America's veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

Please come out and support our veterans, active military, and have some fun doing it.

February 25, 2015 - 6:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, veterans, VA Hospital, va center.

The VA Hospital in Batavia has a new NCO Club on the third floor thanks to the efforts of residents, staff and several area veterans groups who donated money and material to make it possible. The club will be a place for veterans to gather and socialize while at the VA.

The new club, a converted storage room, was dedicated today with speeches and a ribbon cutting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 22, 2014 - 7:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, VA, veterans, PTSD.

Today staff from the Attica Correctional Facility made a $5,000 donation to the Men's and Women's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Residential Program at the Batava VA Center.

Photo and info provided by the VA.

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