November 11, 2008 - 5:00 AM
Not every story I get to write on war veterans has a happy ending, but the story about 88-year-old Joseph J. Stefaniak of Grand Island certainly does.
After 60-plus years, today -- Veterans Day -- he will receive the French Legion of Honor Medal in Veterans Park on Grand Island. (If you can make the ceremony, it's at 11 a.m. and the park is off Bedell Road by the library. Joe would love to see you).
Known as "Little Joe," the high-spirited gentleman is thrilled to be receiving the honor, even if it's a bit late in coming. He helped defend a French town during the D-Day invasion in June 1944 and suffered a leg wound during the action.
On another note, a story I wrote for Friday's Buffalo News regarding a national effort to get mental health professionals to donate one hour per week to help returning combat vets and their family members regain their footing has received a number of positive responses.
Many folks in the mental health profession have asked how they can help.
Here's the fellow you need to speak with:
Thomas P. McNulty, president and chief executive officer of the Mental Health Association of Erie County. His phone number is 886-1242, Ext. 314. He will be holding a news conference with more details at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 2 at the Mental Health Association, 999 Delaware Ave.
The story featured vets I have previously profiled who experienced difficulty getting services from the VA. It was time to revisit them and see how they were doing.
Each time I write one of these stories, the families of vets and other vets contact me and encourage more coverage of this and other veteran issues. Others try to marginalize these vets as malcontents.
As I've told VA officials, the stories are not done to poke them in the eye, but simply report the situation as seen through the eyes of men and women
who have gone to war and need help now that they are home and grappling with
As for the Navy's newest ship, the USS Freedom, docking here this coming
weekend at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park at Erie Canal
Harbor, a number of folks have asked how they can get in on the limited number
of public tours.
The best person to contact is Patrick W. Welch, director of Erie County
He is helping arrange the ship's visit and can be reached at 858-6363. By
the way, he is also looking for volunteers to help show the crew members some
of Buffalo Niagara points of interest, including a stop at the appropriately
named Anchor Bar for some wings.
-- Lou Michel