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November 12, 2012

Area vets see more respect for service

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — ONEONTA — Most area veterans interviewed Sunday said their country is doing a good job honoring those who have served in the military. Many noted that wasn’t always the case.

Veterans shared their thoughts during a 12:30 p.m. open house at the Oneonta Vets Club following Veterans Day ceremonies at Neahwa Park.

Oneonta American Legion Commander Len Carson said the turnout of about 70 people at the ceremony was a “pretty good showing.”

A lot of people think of the day as a time to remember those that have died, he said, but that is what Memorial Day is for.

Instead, “it’s a great opportunity for civilians to thank their local vets,” Carson said.

With the recent end of the war in Iraq and winding down of involvement in Afghanistan, there are a lot of veterans coming into communities nationwide. While Carson said he doesn’t know how many there are in the Oneonta area until they come forward, “Our doors are always open.”

The challenges they face include homelessness, he said. This is one of the issues that the Legion national commander has tried to raise awareness about. It could be among the topics that the state commander will discuss when he comes to the Oneonta Vets Club later this week.

Tim O’Donnell, 63, of East Meredith, served in the 23rd Infantry Division of the Army from 1969-71, including time in Vietnam.

“The day is a lot about respect and hanging out with your brothers — people who appreciate you,” he said. The country is doing a better job in showing their support when servicemen and women return, he said. When he came home, “I was spit on.”

The situation started to change with the Desert Storm operation that liberated Kuwait in the 1990s. “People appreciated that,” and eventually turned their attention to those who served in other wars.

His wife, Suzanne O’Donnell, 44, served in the 204th Engineering Battalion of the state National Guard in Oneonta from 1986-93.

The day was “a time to remember people that have served,” including those who have lost their lives “giving people the freedoms they are accustomed to,” she said.

Recently, there is better recognition of veterans’ contributions and the problems they face when they return, she said. This includes in the last 10 years, a greater awareness of women who have served. “When I went in that wasn’t common.”

Amos Bates Jr., 69, of Oneonta, was in the Army from 1962-65. He was in the National Guard for eight years after. While people may be too busy to honor veterans on their day, “we hang together,” he said. Organizations like the Legion and VFW play an important role in the fight for veterans’ benefits. While he is pretty healthy, there are many people who need the services, he said.

Richard Gorence, 72, of Oneonta, served in the Army from 1965-70, including time in Vietnam. The country better appreciates the contributions of veterans, he said. However with so many people recently in the military, he hopes young and old get the care they need.

Charlie Luckhurst, 73, of Oneonta, has served in the Air Force from 1955-63, including time in Vietnam. He served in the Air National Guard for 21 years after that.

“It’s great,” that more attention is being paid to veterans, he said. While they receive a lot of support in returning, more can be done to help them find jobs, he said.

John Forman, 83, of Kingston, has been a member of the Oneonta and VFW and American Legion for more than 50 years. He enlisted in the Army in 1946. The country could do better in helping veterans return. There are a lot, especially the young and wounded that they are waiting too long for care, he said. “They are not being treated in a timely manner.”