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Saluting Our Veterans

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Recognition Includes Nonprofit Organization’s Annual Fundraiser

By Daniel Meyer

Veterans Day, which is observed annually on Nov. 11, represents a single day of remembrance that recalls the signing of the armistice, which ended World War I in 1918. Military veterans are honored and publicly thanked for their service to their country on Veterans Day in a variety of ways, including parades, church services and other types of community-wide recognition ceremonies.

Congress officially recognized the end of World War I in 1926 and declared that the anniversary of the armistice should be commemorated with prayer and thanksgiving. Nov. 11 was approved as a legal holiday in 1938 and was originally known as Armistice Day to honor all World War I veterans. Following the mobilization of servicemen to fight in World War II, it was decided in 1954 to change the name of the holiday to Veterans Day.

In addition to the various VFW posts and American Legion halls recognizing our veterans on Nov. 11, a local non-for-profit organization continues assisting veterans from across Western New York. As part of their work to recognize veterans, a special tribute will take place next week.

Focusing their mission of improving the lives of those who served our nation, WNY Heroes is making a difference in the lives of local military veterans, including service members from the Ellicottville area. The organization’s dedicated volunteers will host the fifth annual Red, White & Blue Gala on Friday, Nov. 14 at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens in Depew. The annual fundraiser will recognize veterans who have served and the families of those left behind because of the service of a loved one.

Founded in 2007, WNY Heroes provides veterans and the widows and children of deceased veterans with access to everyday essential living needs, financial assistance and other resources to help support them and help maintain their dignity. The organization is overseen by an advisory board comprised of various business leaders, community stakeholders and representatives of various philanthropic and civic foundations.

Excitement is building for next week’s recognition dinner, which will begin at 6 p.m.

“This is our one major fundraiser where we give recognition to those who have served and those families left behind because of service of their loved one,” said Chris Kreiger, who serves as president and chief executive officer of WNY Heroes. “Last year our office was able to assist our families in need with more than $80,000. We have been able keep them in their current homes, keep their utilities turned on and make sure there is food on their tables. If by chance they are homeless, we pay to put them into housing and get them off the street.”

With next week’s annual focus on military veterans taking place across the nation, Kreiger and his volunteers remain focused on doing what they can to assist those in need.

“These veterans should not be returning home and end up homeless or jobless,” said Kreiger, a U.S. Army veteran who served overseas. “They should be given first choice for job hiring and I know our community is trying to make that happen. You have to understand that it is very hard for veterans today to ask for help. Our military teaches you that asking for help and not doing it alone makes you weak, therefore they do not ask and end up in positions they cannot get out of alone. Holding this annual fundraiser allows us to help them and sustain their dignity once we get them to see that asking for help makes you stronger, not weaker. We have gained much support in our community, not only for what we do, but because it was my promise to our donors that all funds remain local. What we do stays right here in Western New York.”

Kreiger’s message to Ellicottville area residents is to consider making a donation to WNY Heroes.

“With the support of the community through future donations we will continue to grow and expand our current programs in an effort to help the proud men and women who serve our country and preserve our wonderful way of life,” said Kreiger. “Any concern for our veterans and displaying of kindness mean the world to us.”

For more information about WNY Heroes, including how to purchase tickets to the 2014 Red, White & Blue Gala, visit www.wnyheroes.org or call (716) 630-5020.

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