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N. Huntingdon VFW welcomes vets to Appreciation Day

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 9:09 a.m.

In an effort to heal the wounds of war and welcome home the latest generation of combat survivors, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 781 in North Huntington is holding an open house on Aug. 7 to kick off what organizers hope becomes a weekly event.

Running from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the 100 Billot Avenue post, the First Veterans' Appreciation Day is open to all war vets, even if they're not VFW members. Post commander Don Kattic said that Irwin's Dunkin Donuts on Route 30 pledged to donate coffee and treats.

Local artist Bob Battiston is erecting a military display and musicians are pitching in to play for those who stop by.

Members of the VFW's Auxiliary are preparing gift baskets, and the post honor guard will help seat the disabled after they arrive.

“This is part of our mission,” said Kattic, 81, a Marine veteran of the Korean War. “Our job should be to make this post a place of support, healing and camaraderie for vets and their families and, as a community, to welcome back everyone who went overseas on our behalf.

“We do that every day at VFW, but this is our first time doing it in a formal way, so I don't know what to expect. What I do know is that there was no band playing for me in San Francisco when I came back from Korea, what we call the ‘Forgotten War.' And it was worse for the Vietnam guys. So we're going to make sure that we don't forget about what the men and the women did for us today.”

The get-together isn't an oral history project. No tape recorders will capture the stories.

Kattic, a retired Norwin High School history teacher, said that the goal is to unite those from different generations who have borne the wounds of war – to body and the soul – so that they can heal within a spirit of appreciation.

“It's important for veterans to get the chance to tell their war stories and for those to listen to them and share their experiences,” said Kattic. “A lot of guys don't like to tell those stories, and I don't either. I didn't tell my kids. I just told them about the good things in the corps and left it at that. And I'm not going to talk on Appreciation Day because I want the other guys to get the chance to tell their stories.”

Named after J. Howard Snyder, a local doughboy who was killed in World War I, the post has been toiling over the past decade to bridge the generation gap between veterans. Volunteers collected 3,000 soccer balls to give to the children of Iraq during the U.S.-led occupation there. Kattic said he “had to take a truck” to White Oak to pick up the $4,000 worth of chocolates donated by Dorothy's Candies for Veterans Day in November.

“The community always has supported what we're doing here,” Kattic said. “But in the end, this is something veterans have to do for veterans. We have to be there for each other.”

Carl Prine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7826 or cprine@tribweb.com.

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