Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans's Day

My header picture today is a group of our local Veterans that were honored at our recent Kiwanis dinner. I know personally more than half of these men, and I admire them all. The articles below are ones that I put into the local papers this week.  I hope they convey my respect for these brave people.  I have added personal notes after each article.

November 4, 2011
Please Publish:

The Kiwanis Club of Marilla held their salute to Veterans this week at their meeting, with many activities comprising the program. First, all were treated to a very elegant meal by the staff of the Whistle Stop, with patriotic linen colors. Centerpieces were donated by Leona O’Brien, and made by Country CrossRoads Florist and Gifts.

Every year the club honors it’s own Kiwanians who are Veterans with a special program, and in addition to that, this year, the members of the Marilla Veterans Club were invited guests, newly retired Army Lt. Col. Timothy Zack was a featured guest, and the speaker was someone who is known as a Hero in the area, Distinguished Marine Mark O’Brien, lifelong Marilla resident.

A description of what Kiwanis International is and the club’s activities were listed for those attending by the club President, Paul Wagener. In recognition of their service to their country and the community, The Kiwanis Club made a donation to the Marilla Veterans Club to help with their needs, and this donation was accepted by Commander David Kryzen.

Then retired Army Officer Maurice Janeczko gave a presentation of the many achievements and awards which Lt. Col. Zack has received in his 22+years in the military, and on behalf of the Kiwanis Club, a certificate of Recognition was presented to him. He was honored to have received this recognition from his friends and fellow Kiwanians.

Mark O’Brien, Distinguished Marine was introduced to speak by his Grandmother, Kiwanian Leona O’Brien. Mark discussed his reason for entering the military, his training, tours of duty including two in Iraq, his life-threatening injuries, his brave recovery and his current life and goals.

As Mark was telling his story, the almost 30 fellow Veterans in the room were very quite and attentive, possibly thinking about their own tours of duty and hardships which they were exposed to.

To establish the proper ending for the program, Kiwanian Diana Janeczko read a moving essay about Remembering the Veterans. All were in agreement with her instructions to “Never Forget”.

The Kiwanis Club of Marilla has always been a strong supporter of Veterans, and was proud to have been honored by the presence of so many brave soldiers.

As I sat in this room that held more Veterans than we have ever had at our dinner, I was also thinking about our Veteran Kiwanis members that were not there, some are having health or family health problems, some have passed on, and then there were my family members in my thoughts.  My two brothers are Veterans-both served in Vietnam, and I remember there were no parades for these brave Vietnam Veterans, they were doing what their country asked of them, but somehow, they were perceived  to be the bad guys, not the administration who chose their path. And my step-fathers, and  my father, and my uncles, an aunt,nephew, great-nephew, some cousins, the list goes on and is mirrored in your life also SReader. It is wonderful to acknowledge what these brave people did, fighting because we asked them to, but sad that honoring them does not even come close to what we owe them. Thank you all, God Bless You.

Mark O'Brien and sitting to the right of him, his wife and parents.

November 4, 2011
Article #2, Please publish:

Recently, the Kiwanis Club of Marilla was honored to have Distinguished Marine Mark O’Brien, who grew up and currently resides in Marilla as a speaker.

Mark was introduced to speak by his Grandmother, Kiwanian Leona O’Brien, who gave her opinion as to his background in recovery from illness or injury: when he was a child and needed to spend time with her instead of going to school if he was ill, he would have a rapid recovery as soon as the school bus went by!

Mark said his reason for entering the service was the same as many who enter the military-he wished to defend his country. In his case this happened when he was 18 and the tragedy of the Attack on the World Trade Center Towers occurred. He knew he must get involved. He had extensive Marine training, fought in many battles during his two tours of duty in Iraq, and was injured severely during one of many fierce battles. After the injury, he saw that his vest which contained hand grenades was on fire, and when he realized that he had extensive injuries to his right arm, he knew that he needed to put the flames out with his left hand. He then realized that his right leg was also severely injured, and almost completely severed. He thought that he would not survive as a medic tried desperately to stop the bleeding from his leg injury, and actually stated that they should let him bleed out. Eventually, the bleeding was brought under control, saving his life. He was airlifted, and treated en route to a hospital, and when he awoke, his parents, Gale and Dave O’Brien were beside him. Due to medical tubes in his throat, his communication with them was in writing, and he wrote that “He had no regrets, God was shielding me.”

His recovery proceeded, and he knew that without the support of his family that he would not have made it, family support is something that not all wounded soldiers have.

He received 11 months of therapy including physical, occupational and prosthetic training and he was ready to come home as soon as all the release papers were signed. This process did not happen, and Mark became anxious, sharing this frustration with his grandmother during one of her frequent telephone calls to him. The next day, the release papers were signed, and he was on his way home. The saying “Never underestimate the power of a Grandmother” proved to be true.

During his time in the service, and especially during his recovery, he corresponded with a friend from home, Michelle Pierce. Her dependable support made a real difference to him, they fell in love, and today are married with two young sons. Because of his injuries,losing both his right arm and leg, he had to give up his dream of becoming a police officer as his father and brother both are. He is employed currently by the Erie County Sheriff’s Department as a dispatcher, and is happy to look ahead to a good life.

Mark is extremely active physically now, including riding a bike, and he recently taught himself to try archery after making his own modifications to the bow. He is planning on attending the Wounded Warrior Paralympics in 2012 in Colorado, and the Kiwanis Club of Marilla was proud to give him a donation to help fund this effort with money raised partially at the Marilla Ag Day event. In addition to Kiwanis, The Rademacher VFW Post, represented by Veteran and Kiwanian Stu Rowland also gave a donation to Mark, and then a donation from himself and his wife Margot. Sandra and Paul Grunsweig, owners of the Marilla Country Store gave Mark a donation too. They sold candy at Ag Day to raise money for Mark.
Mark O’Brien will forever be a symbol of bravery to all those who heard him speak that night.

Picture (l-r): Paul & Sandra Grunsweig, Paul Wagener, Mark O’Brien, Stu and Margot Rowland

On the right, making a ppresentation to Mark is Stu, who is one of our Kiwanians, and a Distinguished Veteran.  Stu has been kind enough to share his story of service to our country during World War II, he was reluctant to share his memories with the club a few years back, and only did so out of respect for our club.  His journey in the service was filled with just what they try to depict in the movies, but he bravely served though it all.  I imagined what these two men had in their lives that were so similar, and if you look at the strength of the handshake that Stu is giving Mark, that tells it all.  Stu is very important to me, and his wife Margot is one of my best friends, they are equal, strong partners, she supported him during his days of active duty, and her love brought him home.

As a mother and a wife, and I grandmother, I struggled to hear Mark speak of his injuries.  I know this is not the first time they heard all the details, which I did not include in the article, but I can't imagine what it must have been like to live through this trauma with him. And I know his story of injury and recovery is repeated daily across this country.  May God continue to give the families strength to handle whatever the outcome is for their beloved family members.
article #3

November 6, 2011

Please publish:

At the recent program to honor Veterans offered by the Kiwanis Club of Marilla, Dee Zeigel, Promoter of a Veterans Support Group in Wales announced that the Veterans Day Observance for the Town of Wales will be November 11, 2011 11 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial Park 12345 Big Tree Road, Wales Center.

Dee also gave those attending information about the group called “Operation Prayers and Cookies” . The program started as a result of a conversation she had with an active duty soldier who asked for prayers, and a few cookies too. She and a dedicated group of bakers started this program, and could use some help to take care of the growing needs for this form of troop support. She emphasized that no matter what your politics are, we should all support the soldiers.

She stated that “now,with the holidays rapidly approaching, it is a time for thinking of those who will not be with their families and friends. We need individuals and/or groups to make holiday cookies. Our small core of dedicated volunteers has stood by us for many months (and years) and we need to replenish and give our bakers a much needed break.

Prayers & Cookies also sends Christmas cards from our residents. If you would please take a moment to sign a card or two to be sent along in the December 5th package, I know it would be greatly appreciated.

If you know of any local resident serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, we would be happy to add them to our list. This is only a small token of appreciation to remind them of “home”, but one we feel will make them know we remember them and care. On the 5th of every month cookies are sent, not only to our own Wales military, but enough to share with their Company, some of whom receive no packages or mail from home. If you are unable to provide baked goods, but would still like to support our troops, donations of baby wipes, phone cards, snack foods, hard candy, gum, sports magazines, paperback books, writing paper and pens, plain white socks, etc. may be made. If you would like to take part in this effort, please call and bring your homemade cookies, any variety and/or personal items to: Dee Zeigel – Coordinator 4498 Woodchuck Road,Wales Center, 652-6776God Bless You and God Bless Our Troops!” For those who don’t bake, but would like to help, the group also collects donations of baby wipes, phone cards, snack foods, hard candy, gum, sports magazines, paperback books, writing paper and pens, plain white socks, etc, may by made.

Dee tries to get everything for each month mailed by the 5th. December especially needs to get out asap after I receive cookies...regular holiday mailings can also slow down the military packages. She packs cookies in layers in plastic tubs, however, they can be delivered in any box or container to her as she divides them up equally amongst all.

Picture: Mark O'Brien and Dee Zeigel, Operation Prayers and Cookies
I pretty much have only baked cookies because I needed to, when the kids were growing up, with SGrandson when he was younger with all the cute slice and bake holiday designs. I used to bake a lot of cookies for Christmas, and freeze them, but I soon found out that SSon as a young boy did not mind eating frozen cookies.
I will be baking for this cause, and not just for Christmas. And each cookie will be infused with a prayer as I bake them. A cookie, who would think it would be so important.........................
Thank you SReaders for reading, I hope you have a chance to salute our Veterans.

1 comment:

MAFW said...

Thank you for this inspirational message about the veterans.