Thanks to the efforts of the student members of the Keuka College Veterans Club, a local veteran will be able to participate in an Honor Flight from Rochester to Washington, D.C. in the spring.
Honor Flight Rochester is one of 130 hubs in a national network which enables members of the military who served during WWII, the Korean, Vietnam or Cold Wars, to travel free of charge to Washington, D.C. to visit the monuments and memorials honoring their service. The non-profit program, coordinated by volunteers, funds trips entirely through the generosity of donors and sponsors. Veterans fly to D.C. accompanied by a “guardian” who assists them in navigating travel to and from the various sites.
The Keuka College Veterans Club conducted two fundraisers in the spring to raise $300 to donate toward the Honor Flight Program; a veteran’s trip is valued at $500. At this year’s Veterans’ Day ceremony in Norton Chapel, Siobhan Costain ‘17, president of the club, participated in a symbolic gesture of giving to a local veteran; a formal check presentation was made Dec. 17 on campus.
“A lot of times veterans are forgotten more than they should be,” said Costain, whose father and grandfather served in the military. “We are awed by the fact that these men and women have done so much for the country, and this is what we could do for them.”
P. Earle Gleason, former director of the Yates County Veterans Service Agency and an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, helps coordinate Honor Flight travel for Yates County veterans along with locals Norm Koek and Andy Swarthout. According to Gleason, some 23 veterans from throughout the county have taken Honor Flights to D.C. so far and another six to eight have applications in process for the coming year.
The Penn Yan volunteers help coordinate local contingents of Yates County veterans to travel together within one of the three honor flights offered from Rochester each fall or spring. Honor flights are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, with priority given to veterans of the oldest eras first, then to those in more recent service eras suffering terminal illness.
Unlike other Honor Flights around the country, veterans who travel from Rochester enjoy a 36-hour trip, including an overnight stay at the Hilton Hotel at Baltimore-Washington International airport after a full Saturday of travel to D.C. memorials. A special banquet is hosted for the veterans that evening and according to Rich Stewart, president of Honor Flight Rochester, the time after the keynote speaker concludes can be “quite moving” as veterans begin to share their memories.
“A lot of them will open up and tell stories never told before, even with their families,” explained Stewart, who has made the trip a half dozen times as a guardian or bus leader. “People who’ve never publicly spoken in their lives will say ‘I need the microphone’ and it takes your breath away sometimes.”
Thanks to Honor Flight Rochester, 2,121 veterans have visited the military memorials since Rochester trips began in 2008, Stewart said, adding the vets are often greeted in D.C. by military and government officials. When veterans return to Rochester Sunday morning, they may find as many as 500 to 700 people to greet them, he said. In addition to friends and family, the airport welcome includes patriot guard riders bearing flags, a variety of community bands playing patriotic songs, and even members of the Knights of Columbus who create an archway of swords for veterans to pass under, Stewart described.
“It’s really a hero’s march, if ever there was one. It never gets old,” Stewart said. “Please thank the young folks down there for all they’re doing!”
Local veterans from WWII, the Korean War or ill veterans from the Vietnam or Cold War eras interested in applying for the next Yates County tour-within-a-tour are encouraged to contact Norm Koek at St. Mark’s Terrace or the Yates County Veterans Service Agency for an application to Honor Flight Rochester, Gleason advised. While applications can also be made directly online at www.honorflightrochester.com, online applicants may not be grouped with others from Yates County. The Yates County coordinators also work to defray travel costs for guardians.
Some people complain about sending holiday cards.
However, others, like the Keuka College faculty, staff and students who took part in the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program, cherish the experience.
Some 570 members of the College community signed cards that could be sent to veterans and active-duty service personnel at Fort Drum, Togus VA Medical Center, Camp Leatherneck, Sigonella Naval Air Station, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and other U.S. military installations or hospitals.
“This is the time of year where we can recognize those that may not be able to spend the holidays with their friends and family,” said Paulette Willemsen, secretary in the Divison of Social Work. “This is something we can do to help bring them some holiday cheer.”
The College campaign was sponsored by the Staff Advisory Council’s (SAC) Events Committee, co-chaired by Willemsen and BJ Hill, office manager for student affairs.
“We wanted to recognize active service members as well as veterans,” said Michelle Radcliffe, administrative assistant in the Center for Global Education and member of the Events Committee, who indicated that “our campus is home to several active-duty service members and veterans.”
Sandy Miller, instructional resource coordinator in the Wertman Office of Distance Education and committee member, wanted to participate because “Keuka promotes community involvement and experiential education, and we thought this was good way to do both.”
Those who took part were asked to write a short message and sign their name on a card, said Hill.
“This is a good way to let our servicemen and women know that we remember them at the holidays,” she said.
Senior Melissa Garcia agrees.
“It is good to show the troops that they are not forgotten during the holiday season, and that we appreciate them,” said the ASL-English interpreting major from Keuka Park.
In addition to writing messages and signing their names, many members of the campus community donated cards.
Keuka College marked Veterans Day with a presentation by Chris Leahy, associate professor of history and a prayer of remembrance by Rev. Eric Detar, College chaplain.
Members of the Penn Yan VFW sounded a 21-gun salute and played Taps at the end of the service held Nov. 9 at the World War II memorial.
Leahy’s remarks follow:
“Sixteen million men and women served for the United States in some military capacity in World War II; 10 million men served in combat. These men are dying at a rate of nearly 1,000 per day.
“1, 789,000 served in combat during the Korean War; these men are also dying at a rapid rate.
“8,744,000 served in combat in Vietnam; 698,000 men and women served during the first Persian Gulf War.
“1,048,844 troops have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. One-third of them served more than one tour. Of course, men and women are combat veterans now.
“Our veterans hold a special place in the hearts of many Americans—indeed, should hold a special place in the hearts of all Americans.
“When Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, addressed the troops on June 6, 1944, as he launched Operation Overload, the Normandy invasion of D-Day, he spoke simply.
“’Full victory—nothing else,’ he said.
“The brave men who stormed the beaches that day and made their way to the cliffs overlooking those beaches, took those words to heart. Forty years later, on the anniversary of that day, President Ronald Reagan was in Normandy. He honored these men with an eloquent and moving speech.
“’These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc,’” he said. ‘These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.’”
“He told them: ‘Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.
“’The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge—and pray God we have not lost it—that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.’
“President Reagan spoke these words to the World War II veterans who fought so valiantly on D-Day. But he could well have spoken them to veterans of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, or the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As could these words, again, forcefully spoken by President Reagan:
“’You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.’
“Reagan concluded his speech with words that could and should inspire us, as Americans, as we honor our veterans:
“’Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.’
“Veterans of foreign wars, thank you for your service to our country.”
How does a Keuka degree fit into daily military life?
Just ask U.S. Air Force Capt. Ryan Maddox ’07, who graduated with a B.A. in math and a B.S. in business management, and now serves as operations officer for the U.S. Air Force 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron, which includes four officers and 461 enlisted airmen at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. Maddox is second-in-command to the squadron commander.
“I handle operations and she handles the personnel—the pats on the back and the kicks in the butt, so to speak,” he said. “We provide munitions support and we do maintenance. Let’s say after flying, a part gets damaged and needs repair. We repair it through metal fabrication.”
In addition, the squadron handles what Maddox calls “deep tissue maintenance,” such that after every 400 flight hours logged by a particular plane, it will spend from 7-20 days in the base hangar getting stripped down for more intensive analysis or repairs.
“As far as business is concerned, maintenance and munitions is pretty much like any other business. We have a product, a process, customers, logistics, and a supply chain. I market my product to my customers – other squadrons – so they get what they want and I’m able to supply it. It’s almost a direct correlation [to business].” (more…)
For the fourth year in a row, Keuka College has received national recognition for its commitment to educating veterans and military members.
Keuka was designated a Military Friendly School by Victory Media, the premier entity for military personnel transitioning into civilian life. The 2013 Military Friendly Schools list honors the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that “are doing the most to embrace America’s military service members, veterans, and spouses as students and ensure their success on campus.”
The Military Friendly Schools media and website (www.militaryfriendlyschools.com) feature the list, interactive tools, and search capability to help military students find the best school to suit their needs and preferences.
The list was compiled through extensive research and a date-driven survey of more than 12,000 VA-approved schools nationwide.
A story and detailed list of 2013 Military Friendly Schools will be highlighted in the annual G.I. Jobs Guide to Military Friendly Schools, distributed in print and digital form in October to hundreds of thousands of active and former military personnel.
Victory Media is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business. In addition to G.I. Jobs, it also publishes Military Spouse and Vetrepreneur magazines.