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Combat veteran to speak at park

GLENWOOD — The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Grove Committee announced that Dr. Paul Fazekas, author of “Enduring Images: From the trauma of war to lifelong healing,” will speak at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Sprague Brook Park on May 26.

Fazekas is licensed both as a clinical psychologist and psychiatric nurse practitioner. He is in private practice and is a medication consultant at several psychiatric clinics.

In addition, the author is a member of The American Psychological Association, the American College of Nurse Practitioners and the Combat Infantry’s Association and a Western New York resident, with his wife Donna and Funny Face, their miniature dachshund.

Drafted into the United States Army in 1969, at the age of 19, he served with the First Air Cavalry Division Airmobile and the 11th Light Infantry Brigade for a one-year tour in Vietnam.

Despite his efforts to forget combat trauma, he was forced to confront the ghosts of Vietnam in 2002, when he met the family of his squad leader, who was mortally in an ambush and subsequently died in his arms. This meeting opened the way to more meaningful healing from post-traumatic stress, a disorder common among combat veterans, according to the veteran.

The Memorial Day ceremony has been attended by hundreds of people, in past years and the committee expects a similar turnout, this year. Two motorcycle contingents, escorted by Erie County Sheriff Deputies, will ride to the ceremony, one starting from the American Legion in West Seneca and the other from The American Legion in Gowanda, the southwest corner of Erie County.

Some people call this motorcycle group “Rolling Thunder” which was the name given to the B-52 bombings in Vietnam.

Originally, the four-acre memorial site at Sprague Brook Park was planted with one tree for each of the Erie County citizens who “gave the last full measure” while serving their country in Vietnam.

There was also a concrete pad installed next to the pond where people could have a memorial engraving etched for anyone that they wished to memorialize. In the center of the pad stands a hand-carved statue of a trooper dipping his canteen, symbolic of the importance of and the need for water in combat.

In subsequent years, there was another pad and a granite memorial installed at the memorial site, next to the road.

A few years ago, a concrete walk, which is longer than a football field, was constructed from the road down to the pond, to enable people to more easily walk down the hill. At intervals next to the walk are concrete benches sitting just behind insignias, one for each branch of the military and one prisoner of war symbol.

Original seed money for the memorial was given by the AMVETS Post 219 in the town of Boston. Additional funds have been contributed by area citizens and local businesses. The work has been accomplished by a small group of Vietnam and other veterans and local volunteers. Sons of that post made a donation toward the granite wall that was recently installed.

At last year’s ceremony, the committee dedicated a granite wall with the names of those Erie County residents who gave their lives while serving in Vietnam.

While the ceremony is held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Grove, it is important to note that the ceremony honors all of the U.S. citizens who gave their lives in service to their country.

The 2014 Memorial Day Ceremony will commence at 11 a.m. when the AMVETS Post 219 Honor Guard will march to the site. The ceremony ends with a bugle player playing taps, following the honor guard’s rifle salute.

Prior to 10:30 a.m. there will be the arrival of hundreds of motorcycles, to commemorate the occasion.


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