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and respectful burial for veterans was also available. Past Exalted Ruler Joe Burke, of the Colonie Lodge, repre- sented Saratoga National Cemetery, which provides burial for all veterans and their spouses at no charge. Burke’s booth was adjacent to the booth where free flu shots were being offered. As veterans passed his table, he greeted them with a smile, and said: “If you don’t get your flu shot, you can wind up in the cemetery.” Assisting him was Doris Morrison, past president of the Colonie Lodge ladies auxiliary. Given the subject, there was a general lightheartedness apparent as well as a quite pragmatic connection. One veteran said, “I’m a stonemason and was out of work seven months last year. Does the cemetery hire stonemasons?” Burke said “Yes” and gave the man a phone number. Gail Clark, a recruiter for the state- funded Educational Opportunity Center, distributed booklets providing information on how qualified veterans can enroll in training programs for jobs such as welder, security guard, and information processor. Clark said: “We recently helped a vet enroll in a six-month culinary program, and when he completes it, we’ll help with job placement.”


Getting Back into Society “ M


ANY VETERANS don’t want to hear about homeless veterans. Their attitude is, ‘I came home, I got a job, you get a job.’ I’m happy for those veterans, but we have a lot who didn’t come home to families and didn’t get back into society and still aren’t back in society. If we’ve helped one veteran to function in society, then we’ve done our job.”


—US Marine Corps (Korea) veteran and Stand Down volunteer James Haggerty, of the Colonie, New York, Lodge


Patricia Hopps was one of eight staff members from the Albany Housing Coalition who attended the Stand Down. Her team talked to almost 100 veterans that morning. “We’ll have many success stories from this Stand Down,” she noted. “Success is getting permanent housing or legal services or benefits for a veteran. In the past, we got one veteran into a detox program and then into decent housing and now he has a good job. We have an office and veterans can walk in the door without an appoint- ment, but we see more veterans at one time here than anywhere else.” County, state, and federal offices were also well represented, as were several private veterans associations. Veterans who previously hadn’t had a


satisfactory personal connection with a veterans counselor were able to meet experienced advocates at the Stand Down. One such advocate was Viet- nam veteran Robert Reiter, past exalted ruler of the Brunswick Lodge, who is also the director of Rensselaer County Veterans Service Agency. “I hold the Veterans Administration accountable to federal law and will represent some veterans, if necessary, in the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims,” he said. “There’s always a way for homeless veterans to get their benefit checks.”


Working Together to Help Veterans Colonie Lodge Stand Down Chair- man Doug Williams believes the event has grown steadily each year because of support from some important local organizations. “There are too many to name,” he said, “but Catholic Chari- ties (Albany) and St. Mary’s Hospital (Troy) jumped in early and gave us credibility. So did Jay Amodeo and Ron Olson, now both past state presidents. The VA hospitals just keep giving and giving.


“Our friendly security guys are Dick Durant, Past Exalted Ruler Jeff Lodge, and Past Exalted Ruler Pedro Rosa, all from Rotterdam. They set the mood for the day, thanking the veterans for coming, shaking their hands, and saying, ‘Make sure we take good care of you.’


“Some work release prisoners from u T H E E L K S M A G A Z I N E


the New York State Department of Corrections come every year to unload clothes from the tractor trailers. The Burnt Hills–Ballston Lake High School sends students who make bag lunches and turn our pavilion into a place that looks like JC Penney’s. Harry Loucks and Jim Porter work for weeks to get our pavilion ready. Bob Doty does a fantastic job running the


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