Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Commander Hails Sitrin for Wounded Warrior Work

Commander with Sitrin honorees
Commander Governor with Sitrin's
Rosmary Bonacci (l) and Stephanie
Gorczynski. Photo by Doug Malin.

Gold Star Mother, Legionnaire Honored

 ROME/UTICA -- New York State American Legion Commander Kenneth Governor honored Sitrin Health Care for its work with wounded warriors during his official visit to Oneida County on Wednesday. He also honored Gold Star Mother Mary Wheeler and the Utica Chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers for unwaivering support of veterans. While visiting Herkimer County the previous day, the commander honored Edward Falk of Newport for 60 years of dedication to veterans and community.

Governor, who was elected to head The American Legion's Department of New York this past July, presented the Department Commander's Award of Excellence to both Sitrin and the Gold Star Mothers.

Oneida County American Legion also honored Sitrin with The American Legion Red, White and Blue Award.

Governor cited Sitrin's "cutting-edge, out-of-the-box thinking in providing a healing environment for veterans, injured service members, and families."

Rosemary Bonacci
Rosemary Bonacci talks about Sitrin's unique program.
Photos by Doug Malin
He pointed to Sitrin's "comprehensive program for wounded warriors and veterans," and its "adaptive sports program, with disabled veterans participating in a variety of sports on a recreational or competitive basis." He also praised Sitrin's "vision to expand wounded warrior care with plans for a lakeside lodge and medical treatment center, equine-assisted therapy center and athletic training facility, all in a campground setting."

Rosemary Bonacci, Sitrin vice president of development and communications, accepted the award for Sitrin as well as "on behalf of injured service members and their families," she said. "We cannot thank you enough."

She added: "Our program is unique in that we treat the whole person, and also the entire family."

Mary Wheeler and Ken Governor
Gold Star Mother Mary Wheeler receives
Award of Excellence from Ken Governor.
Governor said that Mary Wheeler, who lost a son in Vietnam, and other Utica Chapter 56 Gold Star Mothers "give unwaivering support to veterans and their concerns, and to families who suffer the loss of loved ones in combat." They are "a devoted presence at Memorial Day and Veterans Day observances, and at numerous veterans' activities throughout the year."

Mary is a former national president of American Gold Star Mothers, former president of its Department of New York, and remains active on the state level as the organization's legislative chair. Mary's commitment to veterans, he said, is reflected in a comment she once made to American Forces Press Service:

"I think before we send young men and women anywhere to fight, we'd better be ready to take care of them when they come home. I don't mean just token appreciation. I mean take care of them."

Commander Governor was welcomed to the area by Oneida County Legion Commander David Novotny and other Legion Family members at an 11 a.m. luncheon at Lee American Legion Post 1794 in Lee Center, where the awards presentations took place.

On Tuesday, during a dinner at Crowley-Barnum American Legion Post 25 in Mohawk, Governor honored Edward Falk of Newport with an Award of Excellence. The award, Governor told Falk, "is gratefully presented in recognition of your 60 years of dedication to our men and women in uniform, our veterans, their families and your community."

Ken Governor and Ed Falk
Commander Governor and Edward Falk.
Governor then listed Falk's "commendable" service --  as "Post commander, service officer, honor guard and many other Post positions in the West Canada Valley American Legion Post 1524, and your service to your community with the Newport Volunteer Fire Department, Kuyahoora Valley Ambulance Corps, and blood drive coordinator for the fire department and the Anerican Legion."

Upon accepting the award, the 83-year-old Falk quipped: "I like to think I'm still trying to be a good Boy Scout."

The visit to the area was a joint visitation with Department Auxiliary President Barbara Corker and Sons of the American Legion (SAL) Detachment Commander John P. Chang. On Wednesday they took a tour of Griffiss Tech Park in the afternoon, and then joined Legion, Auxiliary and SAL members from across the county for a dinner at Stanwix Veterans' and Men's Club in Rome.