The Cuba Veterans Living Memorial provided the perfect backdrop for a meeting earlier this month between Cuba-Rushford second- and third-graders with teacher Janelle Shaffer and retired U.S. Army Brigadier Gen. Arthur G. Austin Jr.

The students wanted to show their appreciation of area veterans by delivering thank you cards in acknowledgement of Veterans Day. Austin received the cards on behalf of area veterans and answered many questions the students had concerning military life and service.

Questions such as, “How do you get your shoes so shiny?” and whether there are opportunities to “drive boats in the Army” made for interesting conversation as Austin covered several topics in concert with the lessons they had been studying recently.

“It was an honor and a privilege to transport and display the class’ cards at St. Bonaventure University’s Veterans Day ceremony where I later spoke about the significance of the day,” Austin says.

St. Bonaventure has both an Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) as well as a Student Veterans Club. Austin says the cards were enjoyed by the cadets, who are studying to become future Army officers, and the many local area veterans using the GI Bill in the pursuit of higher education at the university.

The cards were later taken to Alfred State College’s Wellsville campus where veterans from around the area were able to read the messages from the students, with some veterans reminiscing about the similar messages received through the USO while deployed overseas.

The Alfred State College Culinary program was hosting a Veterans Day fundraiser for the LEEK Foundation. Retired Col. Ed Fisher, founder of the foundation, was on hand to provide personal insight on their mission. The LEEK Foundation provides an outdoor experience for veterans from the local area as well as nationally who are working through the healing process of post-war experience.

Joining Austin and his wife Karen for the events was fellow Army veteran Terry Forward, state coordinator for the AMVETS 22-a-Day program, which seeks to bring awareness for the prevention of suicide within the population of veterans dealing with the issues of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Forward and Austin greeted the gathering at the Alfred State Culinary buffet, along with Sara Hillyard, a veteran and coordinator of the Dwyer Program.

“To my fellow veterans, thank you for being one of the one percent of our population who were willing and capable of serving,” Austin says.

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