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Public is invited to Veteran’s Day Celebration, to benefit PTSD Residential Programs

Ceremony will recognize Veteran Craig E. Lehner of BPD

The local Association of the Airborne 3rd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group of the United States Army National Guard will sponsor an elaborate and patriotic Veterans Day celebration on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 12:00 noon in Russell J. Salvatore’s Patriots & Heroes Park, 6675 Transit Road, Williamsville.

The second annual “Jump In On PTSD” tribute to our veterans is also a fund raiser to benefit the Jack H. Wisby, Jr. PTSD Clinic & Center for Hope at the Batavia VA Medical Center. Donations will be placed in a special “Holy Grail” and collected by members of the 19th Special Forces Group.

All funds raised at the “Jump In On PTSD” event goes directly to assist Veterans at the clinic and the accompanying “Center for Hope,” a new resident facility for female Veterans.

The Veterans Day celebration in the Park will include a USO-style musical performance by Music on the Front Lines, led by Founder, CEO and Music Director Van Taylor and COO Ron Walker, both of whom are members of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. Taylor has been performing these shows around the world for our servicemen and women for 42 years. Melissa Kate and Joyce Nixon will be the vocalists.

Members of the US Navy Sea Cadets Honor Guard marching into the park last year.

Ms. Kate will perform a salute to the five branches of the armed services while she and Walker will end the festivities with a rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American.” The tribute will open with a procession into the park, featuring the Caledonian Bag Pipe Band, with the colors presented by the 914th AW Color Guard and the United States Naval Sea Cadets, The Sullivans Division and an Honor Guard from the Buffalo Police Department, the Sea Cadets, local Boy Scouts and veterans.

Following an invocation by Rev. Edward J. Dillon, a veteran from St. Luke’s The Evangelist parish in Geneseo, the Master of Ceremony, John DiScuillo, will ask for a moment of silence for all veterans who have passed. He will then recognize the late Craig E. Lehner, a former member of the Buffalo Police Department’s K-9 and Underwater Rescue team who died tragically during police dive training on Oct. 17. Members of his family and BPD officials will be in attendance.

“We built this park on an extremely valuable Transit Road acreage to honor America’s fallen patriots and heroes,” explained Salvatore, a veteran who served in the U.S. Army in the early 1950’s and whose generosity has benefited many veteran’s organizations over the years. “We want all veterans—and citizens—to feel at home in this park as they relax and reflect in a tranquil setting. The Veterans Day event is what the park was built for.”


During the 1960’s and 70’s the local Special Forces Company conducted Airborne missions all over the country with helicopters and C-130’s from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. These U.S. Army Green Berets, along with their sister units, another Company based in Schenectady and a third from White Plains, with their Headquarters Detachment also from Westchester County, have continued to remain close, and held a 45th reunion in 2013 at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.  Over 100 veterans and their families dedicated a tree and monument to honor 47 fallen comrades.

Attendees stand for attention during the singing of the national anthem at last year’s event

While looking for a cause to support as a group, they learned of a Vietnam Veteran from their group who was dealing with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other health issues. PTSD is caused from experiencing severe trauma or being in a life-threatening event either during war or in a noncombat situation and for many veterans, it impacts and alters their everyday lives. Relapses are common.

“This Vietnam Vet who served in our group told us about the outstanding care he is finally receiving and it is right here in Batavia at the Jack H. Wisby, Jr. PTSB Clinic at the Batavia VA Medical Center,” explains SGM John F. Harrington (RET). “We have since learned of other fellow members of our Veterans Assn. who have received tremendous care at that facility.”

SSG Louis A. Scarozza (RET) adds, “It turns out this little known clinic is among the highest rated in the entire United States and it is right here in our backyard in Batavia. It reminded us of one big happy family on vacation.”

The goal of the “Jump In On PTSD” campaign is to raise funds so the clinic may better serve its veterans and gain public recognition of its successes and the results of the professional medical care it provides.

Those wishing to contribute are encouraged to make checks to: “VA WNY Healthcare System,” and on the memo line, enter “GPF 1935 PTSD Residential Treatment Program.” This ensures every cent goes to the Jack H. Wisby, Jr. PTSB Clinic. For the Center of Hope, makes checks out to: VA WNY Healthcare System,” and on the memo line, enter “GPF 1933 WOMAN VETERANS RESIDENTIAL PROGRAM.” If you cannot attend the ceremony to place your donation in the Special Forces’ “Holy Grail,” donations may be sent to CSM Alfred R. LaChance (RET), “Financial Minister,” 4732 Porter Center Road, Lewiston, NY, 14092. For more information, visit

Lead image: A donation is made into the Holy Grail for the PTSD Clinic at the VA Medical Center in Batavia

Written by Michael J. Billoni

Michael J. Billoni

A journalist for nearly 50 years who was an award-winning sports reporter for the Buffalo Courier-Express until it closed in 1982. He was the former vice president/general manager of the Buffalo Bisons and a member of the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame. Handled the promotions and publicity for Buffalo’s undefeated heavyweight boxer, “Baby Joe” Mesi. Founder and is managing partner of Billoni Associates. He authored and managed “Robert E. Rich—Memoirs of an Innovator,” the biography of the founder of Rich Products Corp; published 'All In," the memoir of businessman Ronald Zoeller and is currently publishing The Seasons of Buffalo Baseball, the most comprehensive history of professional baseball in the city. It will be released April 17, 2020.

Mike and is wife Debbie love Western New York and always try to help others and encourage positive thoughts

View All Articles by Michael J. Billoni
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