Veterans share thoughts

Allegany veteran Brandon Griffin (from left), his son, Wesley, and wife, Heather Krotz, were early arrivals at this week’s Veterans and Election Day dinner at the Allegany American Legion, Charles Harbel Post 892. The dinner was hosted by the Olean Rotary Club.

ALLEGANY — As a young veteran with a family, Brandon Griffin appreciates the show of support from community organizations.

Griffin, who resides in Allegany, as well as other veterans, shared their thoughts on patriotism and support for veterans — and perceived shortcomings — in honor of Veterans Day, which is observed nationally on Monday.

Griffin and his wife, Heather Krotz, spoke about their gratitude to the Allegany American Legion and the Olean Rotary Club for hosting the annual Veterans and Election Day dinner earlier this week. They also spoke of the struggles that some young veterans have after returning home.

A veteran of the Army National Guard, Griffin served in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009 and suffers from conditions that include post traumatic stress disorder and tinnitus.

“I have ringing in the ears and I’ll be stuck with that the rest of my life, unfortunately,” he said of the latter health issue. “It’s from the shooting and the bombs.”

An employee of the New York State Department of Transportation, Griffin works on the roads in the area throughout the year.

“This is the first time I’ve had a chance to get out” for a veterans’ dinner, he said, noting a busy work schedule. “I’ve gone to the Wounded Warrior project at Fireman’s Park in town, too.”

Krotz said she also enjoys attending dinners and other events for veterans as it “shows a lot of community spirit.”

Griffin added, “It’s nice to get some recognition, because anymore we don’t get the recognition we deserve.

“Pretty much the way I look at it is we get swept under the rug,” he said, adding that he could not get help as a veteran with financing a home at a lower rate in Cattaraugus County.

“We had to go through Chautauqua County, actually, to get help through a USDA loan for being low-income,” Krotz shared. “That’s what most vets are now.”

The couple said that thanks to the outside help, they have been able to buy their own home in the community and will soon move in.

Another veteran, Ed Lias of Port Allegany, Pa., was also at the dinner and noted his wife, Barbara Lias, is a member of the Olean Rotary and former principal of Olean High School. They have attended the dinners in the past.

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he served from 1961 to 1965 during the Vietnam War.

While the memories of the war are difficult to him, what is more difficult for him to observe is the disrespect shown to the country and the American flag by professional football players who have kneeled before games.

“We had over 58,000 guys killed in Vietnam and it’s not showing any respect to them,” Lias claimed.

He said events such as the Legion’s dinner bolster his spirits for the treatment of veterans.

“I think the things that have been done for the veterans since Vietnam has changed dramatically,” he said, choking up with emotion. “This is outstanding, and the stuff the merchants have been doing (discounts for veterans, etc.), I don’t take for granted, I appreciate it.”

Veteran John Rudy of Olean, who served with the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1968, remembers when veterans of his era were not treated with as much respect.

“(Veterans) coming back now get treated a lot better, which is good,” Rudy remarked. “I got spit on at the airport when I got off my plane … I had to take my uniform off.”

As for the dinner, Olean Rotary members Dennis Casey and Doug Price said they enjoyed helping with the event, which was overseen by Carl Vahl, chairman and chief cook of the dinner. Casey said proceeds from the dinner, which had many community members in attendance and numerous sponsors, will be provided to several charitable causes in the area.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)