WBFO Veterans News Desk

Funding for WBFO’s Veterans News Desk is provided by St. Bonaventure University’s Office of Veterans Services, helping veterans take full advantage of their educational benefits

Thomas O'Neil-White

Tommy Zurhellen has gone through five pairs of shoes, two walking sticks and two toenails to make it to Buffalo. With a little over 300 miles to go before he reaches his destination of Poughkeepsie, the journey is now mind over matter for the Gulf War veteran.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Today is the annual observance of Purple Heart Day in the United States. First created by George Washington on August 7, 1782, it's the world's oldest military decoration currently being used. Many veterans and families of deceased veterans who are owed this medal, however, must often undergo a painstaking process to acquire the deserved medal.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

He earned a Purple Heart medal three times during his military service. They were delivered to him by mail. Monday morning, at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, Army Sgt. 1st Class William "Roland" Hayes was presented with all his due decorations in a more dignified ceremony. He was also recognized for the battles he fought on two fronts, including one within the ranks.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

David Bellavia, who last month became the first living Iraq War veteran to be presented with the Medal of Honor, was honored Tuesday in Batavia. He spoke of the importance of the nation's military and of the America he has observed while on an outreach tour for the U.S. Army.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A local Vietnam War veteran was presented Monday with several decorations for his service, honors owed to him for roughly five decades.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

State Sen. Tim Kennedy and Erie County Mental Health Commissioner Michael Ranney appeared Tuesday morning at the Veterans One-Stop Center of Western New York headquarters in Buffalo, to announce funding to continue a program that, its advocates say, is helping hundreds of veterans who may struggle with adjustment to post-military life. Some say it is actually saving lives.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

One of the three decommissioned vessels which rest in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park is in need of hull repairs. Earlier this year, a $2 million fundraising campaign was announced to fix the USS The Sullivans. The granddaughter of one of the men for whom the ship was named recently chatted with WBFO to provide an update on that effort.

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 has been signed into law by President Trump. It extends benefts to veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange while serving on ships off the coast of Vietnam. The co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo), talked with WBFO's Howard Riedel about the measure, Wednesday's Democratic Presidential debate and other issues top of mind this week.

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We are learning more about a disabled veteran who prompted a bomb scare at North Tonawanda City Hall earlier this week.

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North Tonawanda Police have arrested a North Carolina man after receiving an alert about a possible armed man at City Hall.

Orleans County native David Bellavia was presented with the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony Tuesday.

Bud Gardner

A reunion of Vietnam War veterans who served in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade continues in Buffalo this week. They'll take in the sights, sounds, and even some tastes of Western New York. But to many of these veterans, the annual reunion brings a renewed opportunity to bond - and heal from old wounds, some of which are unseen.

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An estimated 90,000 veterans who served in the Vietnam War are closer to receiving medical benefits for presumed exposure to Agent Orange. The U.S. Senate has passed legislation which would open VA medical care for Agent Orange-related illnesses to Blue Water Navy veterans.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Officials at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park marked their Flag Day by hosting dozens of Vietnam War veterans for a special ceremony.

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Following his first public statement about his forthcoming Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House, Iraq War veteran David Bellavia spoke one-on-one with WBFO Radio about his pending decoration, putting his memoirs into writing and the qualities he believes makes an ideal citizen.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

He will become the first living Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran to receive the Medal of Honor later this month. Former Army Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, a Lyndonville native, will receive the honor from President Donald Trump during a White House ceremony June 25. On Tuesday, he met with local media to discuss an honor he considers a tribute not to him exclusively, but to his many comrades.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

He was a member of the famed 82nd Airborne, which participated in the invasion of Normandy that began on June 6, 1944. Commencement of Operation Overlord became better known as D-Day. Grand Island native Charles DeGlopper would lose his life three days later, willingly putting himself in the line of fire to help his platoon, pinned down in a ditch, escape that position.

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Congress is closer to passing legislation which would give tens of thousands of Vietnam Veterans medical benefits - decades after they were exposed to the chemical Agent Orange.

March Field Air Museum / Associated Press

A date has been set to remember a New York airman who died in World War II, 75 years after his bomber crashed in the Pacific.

WBFO file photo/Michael Mroziak

This holiday weekend, ceremonies will be held throughout Western New York, from parades to the more solemn remembrances of those who died while in military service for the United States. While there's no shortage of events, there is a growing challenge to staff one of the most important elements of Memorial Day gatherings: the color guard.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Several men who once served aboard the original U.S.S. Little Rock have come to Buffalo to help give it some repairs and cleanup, in advance of the summer tourist season. They've also loaned their voices to share the Little Rock's story to Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park visitors.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

He was born in Germany in 1925. Stephan Lewy and his Jewish family were able to flee that nation just after Kristallnacht in 1938, but he eventually returned to Europe as part of the U.S. Army, serving under General Patton's command and liberating many of his fellow Jews. Lewy, who now shares his life experiences with local students, was honored this week as Erie County's Senior of the Year.

Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park

If you see a huge crane at Canalside Tuesday morning, it is to install a different type of monument at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park. "The Battle Within Monument" is an 8,000-pound steel remembrance to the 20+ veterans who die each day due to PTSD and to those available to provide help.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

She was there in Thailand as U.S. military personnel participated in a daring rescue watched around the world. She represented the U.S. Government as its spokesperson, providing a voice on behalf of those who worked to save a youth soccer team trapped for days in a flooded cave. Air Force Captain Jessica Tait wraps up a visit to Buffalo Monday, having shared her story and some advice to local students since Friday.

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May 18 is Armed Forces Day in the United States. In Western New York, several events are scheduled to mark the day including family-oriented gatherings and one in Buffalo where veterans will be offered information about important services, while having the chance to receive a service at no cost to them.

WBFO file photo

According to federal statistics, there were more than 9,100 people experiencing homelessness in New York State one year ago. More than 1,200 of them were military veterans. Nationwide, veterans account for approximately nine percent of homeless persons. Many slide down a path to homelessness due to mental illness, while others get into economic trouble from which they cannot recover.

WBFO file photo/Chris Caya

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that several dropoffs will be made available for the disposal of old, tattered and faded U.S. flags that will be retired later this month as part of a ceremonial watchfire hosted at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse during Memorial Day Weekend.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

A laborer with the Erie County Department of Public Works, let go last summer while away on active duty with the Army National Guard, is being reinstated to his county job, County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced Monday. The move was announced just moments before Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw and the head of the union representing Sgt. Rapheal Ramos were to host a news conference demanding the employee's rehire.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Human rights issues directly affecting veterans, those still active in the military and their families were dicussed in a day-long conference at the University at Buffalo Friday, hosted in partnership with the New York State Division of Veterans' Services.

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The VA Western New York Healthcare System is receiving funding from the federal government that will allow three studies to proceed at the Buffalo VA Medical Center. The researchers leading the respective projects say these will benefit not only the veterans who will receive treatment but also the wider community.

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