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May 25, 2012 - 6:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, Memorial Day, corfu, Veterans Services.

For 17 years, Hal Kreter has served the veterans of Genesee County, and been a stalwart representative of those who served at Veterans Day and Memorial Day events.

Monday, Kreter will make the rounds for the last time of the various prayers, flag raisings, taps playing and flag saluting memorials in Genesee County.

As the day goes by, Kreter said, he'll reflect on how much things have changed over the past 17 years and the veterans, both living and dead, he has helped.

"I've had the privilege of meeting all of these veterans and listening ot their stories, helping them out, helping them get their compensation and lead better lives and seeing them and their families turn their lives around," Kreter said. "Doing all of the things we do to help veterans is really what I enjoy doing, helping veterans and their families."

When Kreter retires in August, it will be a new chapter in a four-decades long career of service, first through 24 years of service in the Marine Corps, then in veteran services in Genesee County. Kreter expects he'll still be involved in veterans affairs as a retiree in the California desert.

This week Kreter was honored by the New York State Senate when he was named to the Senate's Veterans' Hall of Fame.

Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer nominated Kreter and in a news release called Kreter a "one-man army" on behalf of veterans.

"Hal has helped hundreds and hundreds of Genesee County veterans every year," Ranzenhofer said. "His diligence to serve as a staunch advocate for veterans is equivalent to the strength of an entire army. Clearly, Hal is a distinguished veteran deserving of a special place among elite veterans of New York State.”

In 1996, the Corfu resident received the NYS Conspicuous Service Cross. He's also been VP of WNY Veterans Services Officers Association and been a member of the Marine Corps League, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America.

Kreter, a retired master sergeant, said the hall of fame award was an honor, but also said there are so many veterans in the area who deserve recognition, he couldn't help but wonder, "why me?"

The privilege, Kreter said, has been in serving Genesee County's veterans.

"We have a very proactive veterans community, a very good veterans community," Kreter said. "We've seen the benefits increase throughout the years, with the Veterans ID card and the tax exemptions, the Cold War exemption. It's just a great community and the veterans here are very, very good at what they do. They all stick together and work together."

April 5, 2012 - 3:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, Don Read, County Clerk.

Genesee County Clerk Don Read has organized a program to help honor and reward U.S. military veterans.

It's called "Return the F.A.V.O.R." and provides registered veterans with a card that can be presented to some local merchants for discounts on goods, services and meals.

"We need to show the veterans, beyond that first day they come back and beyond Veteran's Day, how much their service has meant to Genesee County," Read said. "We would not be in the position we're in as a county, as a state, as a nation if it weren't for the veterans and the service they have put in."

The program requires veterans to visit the County Clerk's Office and present their DD214, which serves another purpose for Read, who wants to see all veterans keep copies their DD214s on file with the clerk's office for safekeeping and easy retrieval should the veteran's copy get lost.

A DD214 is a federal document that proves both honorable discharge and military service and is required for a wide range of veterans services.

Some 40 merchants have signed up so far to offer discounts to veterans who show a copy of the "Return the F.A.V.O.R." card, including Delavan's, Oliver's, Settler's, Lambert's Design Jewelers, Valle Jewelers, Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles, Batavia Downs, Roc-City Total Care Care and Tire, Ken Barrett Chevrolet and Kreative Design Kitchen & Bath. (For a fill list, click here).

The card costs $3 and the program adds no extra costs to taxpayers.

Any veteran of any era with a valid DD214 is eligible to receive the card.

November 12, 2011 - 10:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, veterans, hlom.

A couple of years ago Jay Lazarony and his family were touring the Holland Land Office Museum and came across a display of quilts and learned about HLOM's quilt group. They came up with the idea of a quilt honoring veterans with ties to Genesee County.

Today at the museum, that quilt was dedicated.

There are currently 211 names on the quilt and 58 more will be added.

Names were included based on the requests of family members of veterans and patches were filled on a first-come-first-served basis, Lazarony said.

"We thought this was a good way to honor those who served and sacrificed," Lazarony said.

November 12, 2011 - 8:50am
posted by Rick D. Franclemont in veterans, pembroke, Loyola Recovery Foundation.

In honor of Veterans Day, Loyola Recovery Foundation held a recognition ceremony at their East Pembroke transitional housing facility.  

The Loyola Recovery Foundation is a Pittsford-based nonprofit organization governed by veterans, run by veterans and staffed by veterans and civilians providing specialty behavioral health, housing and employment services to veterans and their families.

The 15-bed site in East Pembroke opened Dec. 27, 2010. The site was in need of repairs beyond what was available in their budget so they applied for a $5,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation's "Celebration of Service - Serving Those who Served us All" initiative. The grant was approved in September and was used to replace the roof on the garage, repair and paint the deck, replace the stairs and purchase a new dishwasher and gas stove.

General Jerry Icenhower with store manager Dawn Johnson

General Jerry Icenhower and Home Depot Manager Dawn Johncox

The East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department was also recognized for its support of the residents of the home, and to fire department members Matt Florian and Ray Schramm for help with the repairs. Also helping with the repairs were Dave Coughlin, a former resident himself, and local roofing contractor Anthony (TJ) Peca.

East Pembroke Assistant Dale Lewter and COO Chris Wilkins

Loyola's partnership with the New York Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) initiative was recognized in a commitment and signing ceremony.

From left, Major General (Ret.) Jerry Icenhower Loyola Recovery's president and CEO, Major General Dennis Lutz of the New York State National Guard and Chris Wilkins Loyola Foundations COO.

More about Loyola Recovery Foundation and its work with veterans can be found here.

November 11, 2011 - 3:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, Veterans Day.

Veterans from throughout Genesee County gathered today at Jerome Center at the corner of Washington and Bank for an annual Veterans Day service.

October 12, 2011 - 8:02am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, veterans.

At the beginning of the Batavia City Council meeting Monday night, Jim Neider, left, and Ron Konieczny made a brief presentation about the proposed veterans' war memorial, planned for the corner of Bank Street and Washington Avenue.

The memorial replaces one that was removed from outside UMMC to make way for the hospital's new surgical wing. The previous memorial listed all of the men and women from Genesee County killed in action, as will the new memorial. The name plaques of the former memorial were all saved and will be buried at the site of the new memorial in a ceremony Nov. 12. The new memorial is expected to cost local veterans and supporters nearly $500,000.

August 9, 2011 - 2:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, veterans.

United Memorial Medical Center is contributing $50,000 toward the construction of a new veterans' memorial at the corner of Bank Street and Washington Avenue.

The total price of the project is about $500,000 and local veterans groups have been working diligently to raise the funds.

The former memorial was removed to make way for the new surgical wing at UMMC.

Pictured are Ron Konieczny, left, Dan Waterman, Beth Lapp, Hall Kreter, Marc Schoell, Paul Gaylord, Steve Hawley, Paul Sullivan, Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Clayton Fry.

August 5, 2011 - 12:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, veterans, steve hawley.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C – Batavia) recently announced that the American Legion Auxiliary #332 Batavia has contributed $1,000 to his annual Patriot Trip, a program that brings area veterans to Washington, D.C., for a tour of military monuments and memorials.

The crucial funding will be used to help provide a profound experience available to as many local veterans as possible.

“The contribution made by American Legion Auxiliary #332 will directly serve the veterans participating in this year’s Patriot Trip, and I cannot thank the people of this organization enough for their generosity and commitment to supporting Western New York’s veterans,” Hawley said.

“The Patriot Trip is an inspiring, moving experience for everyone involved, and donations such as the one presented by Auxiliary President Brenda Burg are vital in the effort to provide a trip that will have a lifelong impact on our proud veterans.

"Contributions go directly to enhancing this experience for our local veterans, and it is groups like Auxiliary #332 that make the Patriot Trip affordable for our patriots.”

Patriot Trip IV will include roundtrip private coach transportation from Western New York to Washington, D.C., and accommodations at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. The trip also includes tours of the World War II, Vietnam War, Korean War and FDR memorials, as well as Arlington Cemetery, the Marine Museum, the Udvar Hazy Aerospace Museum and the U.S. Capitol.

Most meals are included with the trip cost of approximately $300.

Individuals and organizations interested in making a contribution, as well as those looking for more information about trip details, pricing, or to sign up, please call Assemblyman Hawley’s district office at (585) 589-5780. Approximately 20 openings remain!

July 14, 2011 - 8:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, elba.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Elba and Genesee County officials along with a group of veterans and residents were on hand at the Maplelawn Cemetery in Elba this evening to dedicate a new Veterans' Memorial Garden.

July 12, 2011 - 1:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, elba.

Press release:

The Maplelawn Cemetery Veterans’ Memorial Garden was created to honor the dedicated men and women who have served in the United States armed forces. 

The Town of Elba will hold a dedication ceremony at 7 p.m. on Thursday July 14. Assemblyman Stephen Hawley and the color guard from the American Legion will participate in the ceremony. 

This project would not have been possible without the generosity of the following donors: 

• Sackett Merrill White American Legion Post 575
• Eugene and Susan Bezon
• Daniel and Penny Bridge
• CY Farms
• Dave and Sylvia Hebell
• Derrick Monument
• Genesee Veterans Club
• H.E. Turner and Co., Inc.
• Darryl Horzempa
• The Insurance Center
• Norton Farms
• Steve Davis
• VVA Chapter 193
• Gene Warren
• Home Depot
• Delre's Greenhouse and Garden Centre
• The American Legion, Batavia post

More than a year ago, Steve Davis, the Town of Elba cemetery caretaker, asked the town board for its support of the project. After securing the board’s approval, he obtained the plants and landscaped the garden. 

“Steve came up with the idea and worked to make it happen," said Town Supervisor Lucinne Kauffman. "He’s really gone above and beyond with this project."

Steve also ordered and installed a granite bench with a bronze plaque dedicated to the veterans.

“Now the project is complete and we would like to publicly thank the men and women to whom the garden is dedicated,” Kauffman said.

The public is invited to attend the dedication ceremony. Maplelawn Cemetery is located on Maple Avenue Extension between the Town Hall and the Historical Society Museum.

May 29, 2011 - 3:00pm
posted by Billie Owens in veterans, Ranzenhofer.

This information comes from Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer's office.

Earlier this month, the New York State Senate approved legislation to help older veterans by creating an advisory committee to specifically assist state officials in addressing important veteran issues.

New York has the second highest veteran population in the United States and bill S.3337, sponsored by Senator Michael Ranzenhofer (R-C-I, Amherst), focuses on improving the care and state support available to aging veterans by creating a panel of gerontology and veterans’ issue experts.

"Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and for the freedoms which we all enjoy,” Ranzenhofer said. “They have earned only the best care and support programs and establishing a Veterans Advisory Committee will ensure that continues.

Older veterans represent a population in New York whose needs and problems pervade multiple geriatrics and gerontology disciplines. This legislation establishes a Veterans Gerontological Advisory Committee, which will advise the Director of the state Office for the Aging on policies, programs, services and trends affecting New York’s aging veteran population.

At no cost to the taxpayers, the advisory committee will be able to provide crucial recommendations aimed at improving the care and support available to aging veterans. The membership will be drawn from the ranks of New York’s finest experts on aging, seniors’ and veterans’ issues, representing medical researchers, practitioners, academia, and veterans’ organizations.

Their mission will be to share information and challenges associated with caring for aging veterans and their families. The panel would provide the Office for the Aging with guidance on pressing concerns including caregiver initiatives, alternative housing trends for veterans, long-term and continuing care, health promotion and rehabilitation, departmental research and dementia research. The committee can also play a role in educating staff and the public on a wide range of issues affecting veterans and seniors.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly.

April 22, 2011 - 2:36pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, veterans, hawley.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C – Batavia) recently announced his fourth annual Patriot Trip for veterans to tour Washington, D.C. It is scheduled for Sept. 22-25.

“The Patriot Trip is an event that I look forward to with great anticipation every year,” Hawley said. “As a veteran, the son of a veteran, and a member of the Assembly Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, supporting New York’s veterans is a source of both pride and responsibility.

"While I continue to advocate for legislation supporting veterans, the Patriot Trip allows me to share my appreciation for the sacrifices made by the heroes protecting our way of life. Over 375 people have participated in this trip over the years, and I am overjoyed to add another chapter to this story with the veterans of the 139th
Assembly District.”

Patriot Trip IV will include roundtrip private coach transportation from Western New York to Washington, D.C., and accommodations at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. The trip also includes tours of the WWII, Vietnam, Korean and FDR Memorials as well as Arlington Cemetery and the Udvar Hazy Aerospace Museum.

Most meals are included with the trip. The total cost is approximately $300.

For more information about trip details, pricing, or to sign up, please call Assemblyman Hawley’s District Office at (585) 589-5780.

March 17, 2011 - 10:18pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, politics, veterans, David Bellavia, kathy hochul.

A program to benefit Genesee County's military veterans is in the works. It will computerize discharge papers filed with the Clerk's Office. It will also provide money-saving opportunities for veterans at participating businesses when they show their photo ID card.

Dubbed "Return the FAVOR" (Find & Assist Vets of Record), it began about two years ago in Putnam County and since then has been implemented in about a dozen counties statewide.

Currently, Genesee County stores the record of discharge papers, called Form DD-214, on paper only. Veterans voluntarily submit their DD-214 to the clerk of record in their community as a safeguard procedure so it can be replaced if need be or replicated.

In a few months, the paper trail comes to a virtual end and the data goes online.

"Paper is fragile," said Clerk Don Read.

Not mention inefficient and cumbersome to keep up to date. The county probably has about 30,000 gun permits archived since 1934 when permits were first issued. But how many are active, valid permits is unknown.

Those who have implemented "Return the FAVOR" rave about what a good idea it is, Read said.

David Bellavia -- a highly decorated combat veteran petitioning to run as an independent for Congress in New York's 26th District -- issued a press release today thanking Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul for bringing "Return the FAVOR" to that county.

He praised her leadership in the program, which he termed "an appreciated salute to veterans," adding that it should be a statewide standard.

(His kind words are perhaps notable because Hochul is widely regarded as the likely Democrat canidate in the 26th District and will be a Bellavia opponent if he makes the ballot. Bellavia recently launched a petition drive to get on the ballot.)

Read said his office looked into providing "Return the FAVOR" here last year but the cost was prohibitive. The computer software and plastic ID cards, etc., was estimated to cost $30,000 and that money was not in the budget.

But last fall, the county negotiated with a computer company which was contracted to begin computerizing records of pistol permits on Jan. 1. They found out the company could also do the veterans record/ID card program using the same tools employed for pistol permits at, according to Read, no additional cost.

"The first thing is to perfect the pistol-permit program," Read said, adding that his office is looking at a launch date of May 1 and the veterans program would begin sometime afterward.

"We are contacting officials and asking how they would like the (new) pistol permit to be formatted," Read said.

County Judge Robert C. Noonan heads up the Handgun and Pistol Permit Program. District Attorney Lawrence Friedman is also being consulted along with law enforcement.

"This will benefit the Sheriff's Office because deputies will be able to access the database on our Web site," Read said. "When they are going to an address, they can find out who has a pistol permit and what kind of weapons they have before they get there."

Regarding "Return the FAVOR," Read said they are communicating with other counties to possibly extend the discount benefits across county lines. For example, a veteran with an ID card from Genesee County could get a dinner deal at a participating restaurant in Erie or Wyoming County.

The estimated cost to the veteran applicant at the Clerk's Office would be a one-time fee in the $5 to $10 range.

Read said his office plans to work closely with the Chamber of Commerce and the Veterans Service Agency to get businesses to support the discounts-for-veterans program.

But since the Veterans Service Agency lost a full-time worker due to budget cuts,  Read said he expects his office will have to do more of the "ground work."

March 7, 2011 - 2:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, Charles Schumer, Veterans Cemetery.

After years of indecision, it's time to put the construction of a new veterans' cemetery in Western New York on the fast track and Genesee County is the perfect place to build it, said Sen. Charles Schumer today at a press conference inside Batavia's American Legion Hall.

Schumer called on Gen. Eric Shinseki, secretary of veterans affairs, to set a hard and fast deadline for construction to begin and to appoint a regional ombudsman to move the process along.

"The purpose is twofold -- to get it done quickly and to have local input from our veterans' groups," Schumer said.

There are 200,000 veterans in Western New York -- representing a proud tradition of service, said Schumer -- and they and their families deserve a cemetery closer than Bath, which is more than an hour from Batavia.

"Families shouldn't have to drive 75 miles to see a loved ones simply because you want to give them a proper burial in a veterans' cemetery," Schumer said.

"If you looked at all the veterans in Western New York and dropped pins on a map, and you had to find the middle, it would be here, in Genesee County."

In January, the Veterans Administration announced it had narrowed its range of possible locations to the Batavia area. The VA is looking for a suitable 200-acre location and a willing seller.

Schumer said the role of the ombudsman will be to act as a liaison between the local veterans' groups and the VA, enabling the groups to make one or two site selection recommendations to the VA and then moving the process along quickly.

The ombudsman should be someone all of the veterans' groups respect and can work with, Schumer said.

"I will bird-dog this until we make sure a veterans' cemetery is built."

February 5, 2011 - 3:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, veterans, business.

If you're a landowner with at least 200 acres in the Batavia area, here's your chance to sell it.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to secure a plot of land that is central to Buffalo and Rochester for a new veteran's cemetery, according to a report in the Buffalo News.

When it was pointed out that most of the land east, west, north and south of Batavia is wide open, he said, “Apparently no one wants to sell.”

At present, the closest VA cemetery for those who have served in the armed forces is more than 100 miles away in Bath.

The parcel being sought by the VA needs to be within seven miles north or south of the Thruway and no farther than 20 miles east of the Thruway and Route 77 or 18 miles west of that rural crossing.

Prospective sellers -- even a mile outside the boundaries -- should call Gary Rothfeld, a VA real estate official at (202) 495-5534.

The deadline for proposals is Feb. 16.

November 12, 2010 - 7:39am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, veterans.

We just received this e-mail that I thought worth sharing:

I kept it to myself for many years that I was a Vietnam Veteran. When I went to 2 Pow Wow's with my Native American girlfriend last year in Florida, as we are snowbirds, I was delighted to be a veteran, as the Native Americans really treat the veterans with great respect.

On Thursday 11, Nov. 2010, I took my turn standing guard at the monument in Batavia. Never in my life did I expect the glory I received that day. It really made me proud to be a veteran again. People I never met came up to me with coffee, water, and snacks. The people that waved to me in cars, trucks, and semis overwhelmed me.

Then people would roll down their windows to thank me for being a Vietnam Vet. I know people have said this many times, that we did not get the welcome home we deserved due to our country being divided in turmoil. I now know what great meaning it is to be a veteran of the United States.

Being in such a great mood while eating supper in The Vets Club in Brockport, there was this young lad that kept admiring my boonie hat. Well after eating and getting ready to leave, I took off my hat pins and gave that boy my hat. I knew I had to do this in return for all the thanks I received from the Batavia residents. Then when talking to this boy's father and grandmother, I found out he was up here from North Carolina waiting for his grandfather's ashes to be sent up here so they could have a funeral. His grandfather was also a vet.

So now, I do not hang my head in shame for being a Vietnam Veteran, but walk with it high in the air. I bleed with all my fellow vets. If you do not belong to either a VFW, an American Legion, or some sort of vets club, do please come out of your shell and join one now. It is very good therapy as I found out. Again, I want to thank the community of Batavia for the great thank yous and waves you gave me on Thursday 11, November 2010.

Bob Polle
(U.S. Navy Retired)
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 193

August 19, 2010 - 2:53pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, veterans, steve hawley.

Here's a news release from Assemblyman Steve Hawley.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley has announced his third annual Patriot Trip for veterans to tour Washington, D.C. This special trip is scheduled for Sept. 23 through 26.

“The Patriot Trip is a very special and memorable event every year,” Hawley said. “As the Ranking Member of the Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committee, a veteran, and the son of a veteran, it is one of my top priorities to support veterans across New York State.

"In addition to my legislative support, this trip is part of my personal commitment to honor these brave men and women. I’m looking forward to this year’s trip and extend an invitation to all veterans of the 139th Assembly District.”

Patriot Trip III will include round-trip, private-coach transportation from Western New York to Washington, D.C. and accommodations at Fort Belvior Army Base in Virginia. The trip also includes tours of the WWII, Vietnam, Korean and FDR memorials as well as the nation’s Capitol, Arlington National Cemetery and the Udvar Hazy Aerospace Museum.

Cost is $325 and most meals are included.

For more information about the trip and its details, pricing, or to sign-up for the trip or mailing list, please call Assemblyman Hawley’s District Office at (585) 589-5780.

August 6, 2010 - 11:28am
posted by Billie Owens in veterans, Chris Barons.

Here's a news release from Chris Barons, Democratic candidate for the 139th Assembly District.

The Returning Vet: A Tale of Two EAPs

Our state prepares to welcome home tens-of-thousands of military personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once the joy of reunion has subsided, our vets will be challenged to reintegrate into the civilian world.

Aside from the dramatic change in duty, our vets return to a highly competitive, repressed job market. Even for those with awaiting jobs, the transition to civilian life promises the strain of adaptive decision-making.

As a gloss, one might presume that veteran transitioning responsibility resides with the federal government. Limited to chronic needs and benefit administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs is the go-to agency.

However, transitioning thousands of returning veterans into an economically depressed setting demands a well-thought-out, comprehensive plan.

New York State has a highly developed Employee Assistance Program that offers a wide, a la carte array of services to participants. The public EAP program draws on public agencies to offer comprehensive support services to public employees. Private businesses typically contract EAP programs through private agencies and insurance carriers.

Their programs are Return On Investment (ROI) modeled and tend toward short-term interventions aimed at improving job performance and lowering absenteeism. Private focus is on the top three performance issues: stress, substance abuse and interpersonal relationships.

New York’s public EAPs offer participants long-term counseling and intervention opportunities. They are publicly funded and draw on public resources, though they serve the public employee workforce. The state EAPs also network with public agencies to provide accessible and diverse services.

Our returning vets will require specialized attention to successfully merge into civilian life. New York State has the existing agencies and networks to assist in that transition.

Now is the time to prepare for embracing our service men and women -- to have a mechanism in place for reintegrating them into our ranks. They have earned a proactive effort on their behalf. Adding our returning military personnel to the list of eligible NYS Employee Assistance Program service recipients is practical and deserved.

July 8, 2010 - 10:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, photos, food, Stafford, Taste of Stafford.

tasteofstafford10a.jpg

Tonight was the 6th Annual "Taste of Stafford," which brought together Stafford's finest food and an event to honor the community's veterans (gathered above for a group picture).

Local businesses and community groups participated -- all to raise money to maintain the Stafford museum.

More pictures after the jump:

June 28, 2010 - 5:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, veterans, Moving Wall.

wallclosing01.jpg

Rain forced the closing ceremonies for the Moving Wall at the VA Center inside today, but dozens of people showed up for the short service. Bill Davis thanked all of the volunteers and donors who made bringing the wall to Batavia possible.

Afterward, a couple of dozen people spent time at the Wall before its removal.

wallclosing02.jpg

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