VA Western New York Healthcare System
Welcome Home Picnic
VA Western New York Healthcare System held a “Welcome Home” picnic on September 10, 2011, to honor Veterans and Servicemembers. Festivities began at 11:00 a.m. with a classic car show, Zoomobile in the children’s activity area, the Erie County Sheriff's Mounted Reserve Unit, United States Customs Air and Marine Division with their boat, Buffalo Firefighters /First Responders trucks and firefighting equipment and VA programs and community organizations information tables for over 1,400 Veterans, their families and the community. The event featured a ceremony with remarks from Congressman Brian Higgins, Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, Cody Meyers, representing Senator Charles Schumer and keynote speaker Lt. Col. Patrick Perretta, Chief Operations 914th Airlift Wing, Niagara Falls, who has had five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Ambassadors of the Amherst Male Glee Club provided a patriotic and musical tribute with 88yr old Army Veteran, and Purple Heart Recipient, Henry Dinder leading the group in The Pledge of Allegiance. The 9/11 tribute along with fifty-one names of our fallen WNY heroes who served in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn were read as bells tolled.
Bagpiper, David Gray brought tears to Program Manager, OEF/OIF/OND Kathy Smythe’s eyes as he played “Brigadoon.” “The day to day work we do to help Veterans, active duty members and their families is still emotional for me, even after 34 years,” said Smythe. “Our goal is to make the transition from military to civilian life seamless. We are here to reassure our Veterans and Service members that we will help them coordinate all health care and benefit needs. We are here for them."
The playing of Taps by Bob Boccaccio from the Pine Hill Drum and Bugle Corp and the sound of motorcycle engines as they paraded through the grounds gave all who attended a sense of reverence as they passed by the 9/11 flag tribute.