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Veterans’ services in Erie County expanding under new SALUTES program

Michael Mroziak

Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns is expanding local services and recognition for veterans of the United States military.

Kearns announced, on Thursday, the launch of the Showing Appreciation Loyalty and Unity Towards Erie County Servicemembers program, known in short as SALUTES. Initiatives under the SALUTES program will aim to either provide a service or pay tribute to veterans.

Among the new initiatives is one to recognize the county’s many Purple Heart award recipients. Kearns said his office will work to collect the names of all recipients and publish them each year. Only 162 veterans are registered with the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and Kearns is hopeful that many more who received the honor will make themselves known.

“One of the things that we’re finding is, in speaking with the Purple Hearts, many of the men and women are very humble and they’re not coming forward,” said Kearns. “We want them to contact the clerk’s office if they are a Purple Heart veteran. If you have a spouse of a Purple Heart veteran. We want every single name in this book that will be displayed at the clerk’s office.”

The book will be named the William J. Donovan Purple Heart Recipients Book of Honor, in recognition of Buffalo native and World War I veteran William J. Donovan, who is known the ‘Father of American Intelligence.’

Purple Heart recipients will also be recognized for their sacrifice with new signage around the county, including designated parking spaces at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park.

Also under SALUTES, Kearns has set a goal of expanding the county’s popular Thank-a-Vet discount card program.

“We’ve had many different businesses contact me since I’ve been clerk,” said Kearns. “They want to thank our veterans for the great service that they’ve done for our community. And as I’ve said, right now we have 1400 businesses. My goal is to create at least 2,000 by the end of the year.”

19,000 veterans are currently enrolled in the Thank-a-Vet program. With approximately 60,000 veterans in residence, Erie County has one of the highest concentrations in New York State.

SALUTES also includes Valentines for Vets and the WNY Veterans Housing Coalition Family Christmas Drive.

More information on veterans services from the clerk’s office are available on the Erie County website.

Follow WBFO's Avery Schneider on Twitter @SAvery131.

Follow WBFO's Michael Mroziak on Twitter @MrozWBFO.

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.
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