i am a veteran

After living here for more than 10 years, I finally joined the American Legion here in town. I’m not sure why I never pursued any involvement before; I suppose I was always busy with school or work or, now, having a toddler. I was also guilty of assuming it was only few old guys who hung out there; on the contrary, there are plenty of members my age with young families. In fact, this particular post–362–is the ‘youngest’ in Western New York.

Perhaps it was the Veteran’s Race downtown last year that started getting me interested in getting more involved with the veteran community here. I ran it on a whim, placed second female veteran overall, and had a very positive experience, despite COVID restrictions. The race benefits the Veterans One-Stop Center and the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park downtown.

Fast forward another year, and when I received an email about the Veteran’s Race, I signed up without hesitation. I ended up finishing first female veteran overall, and won a turkey! (And all the sides for the big meal.) The post-race party was top-notch (breakfast burrito bar and beers at Southern Tier Brewing Co.) and I even had a running-group friend to keep me company.

Later that week, our local legion held a Veteran’s Day ceremony and Maelle and I attended. The local paper’s photographer even got us in one of his shots! (Maelle is in the pink pants.)

Photo Credit: Marty Wangelin (East Aurora Advertiser)

After the ceremony, we joined everyone inside for lunch and I took home an application form. I also found out they were collecting stocking for local veterans, so Maelle and I shopped and filled a couple to donate to the cause.

This is the first time I haven’t lived in a military community, and it truly ‘feels’ different. There’s just something–a bond, a commonality–that is shared between military families. I’m thankful for my youth, my health, and that we can get our needs met easily. That’s not true for everyone, especially aging veterans with health issues. I have the time and talents, and I want to give back to a community of people who are perhaps the most deserving of help.

When I think about it, I can list four or five local friends I know of who are veterans. I’m hoping to get them to join so we can get more involved together. Andrew, Maelle and I recently attended the Pearl Harbor Day ceremony, that was followed by snacks and the Bills game. It’s a fun place to be! Bonus: it’s the cheapest beer in town!

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