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veterans connections

photo courtesy of Lindsay Cray

Members of the Rochester community say local veterans owe a debt a gratitude to Tom Cray, founder of the Veterans Outreach Center.

Cray died of brain cancer last Friday at the age of 67.

He served two tours in Vietnam and then returned home and worked to get veterans access to the services they needed.  Former VOC board member Fred Elliott said Vietnam veterans didn't always get a warm homecoming, but Cray said you had to separate the warrior from the war.

photo courtesty of Lindsay Cray

A key figure in local efforts to help Vietnam and other veterans has died. Tom Cray died Friday at the age of 67.

It was disclosed in January that he was suffering from brain cancer.  His daughter Lindsay had noted at the time that her father served two tours in Vietnam and when he came home to Rochester he worked with government agencies to establish services for veterans.

As Veterans Day approaches, Compeer Rochester is reminding local veterans that a program it offers can help them ease back into civilian life.

CompeerCORPS has been around for five years.  It brings veterans together for group and community activities with the ultimate goal of establishing one-to-one connections.  Program manager Mike Buckpitt, who is a U.S. Army veteran himself, says it's all about the personal connections.

U.S. Amy captain Sam Brown is in Rochester to share his story of recovery and resilience. While responding to an ambushed patrol in Afghanistan in 2008, he was set on fire when his vehicle drove over a bomb. He now uses his experience to helped wounded soldiers and returning veterans.

Captain Brown is a guest of CDS Life Transitions for its “Salute: A Toast to Our Veterans," event, but first, he joins us in studio to share his remarkable survival story. Our guests:

  • Captain Sam Brown, U.S. Army (retired)
  • Sankar Sewnauth, president and CEO of CDS Life Transitions
  • Wendy Dettmer, Warrior Salute program manager at CDS Life Transitions

www.veteransoutreachcenter.org

The federal government has cut millions of dollars in funding for veteran programs, and Rochester’s Veterans Outreach Center is one of those affected.  

The Center received an annual $2 million grant to help local veterans secure and search for housing. It's a grant they've received for the past six years but they're now one of 36 grantees to see funding loss as the Veteran Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families program was down-scaled dramatically. 

Since ancient times, combat veterans have suffered from war stress, PTSD, and suicidal urges. The Veterans Outreach Center is bringing Theater of War to Rochester to examine those issues. The classic Greek story of Ajax depicts the warrior, struggling with pride, reputation, family, and ultimately suicide. Centuries ago, as today, it was difficult to talk about these issues. Theater of War aims to open the door to discussion and to healing. Our guests:

  • Nick Stefanovic, veteran and board vice president for the Veterans Outreach Center 
  • Melissa Fitzgerald, actor in Theater of War
  • Zach Grenier, actor in Theater of War

Caitlin Whyte / WXXI News

Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn announced a new housing area in the downtown Monroe County Jail specifically designated for incarcerated military veterans.

Laura Stradley, Executive Director of the Veterans Outreach Center says it’s important to focus on these defendants because they once put their lives on the line for our country.

"They spend possibly years away from home, time away from family and situations in circumstances that many Americans can’t even fathom."

freeimages.com/Thomas Pate

The Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary "The Vietnam War", which debuted on WXXI-TV this week, could trigger symptoms for some veterans who suffer from PTSD, depression, or other conditions.

Actors from popular television dramas of the past and present are coming to  Rochester on Friday, September 22. However, they’ll be performing a different type of drama -  live reading of the Greek Tragedy Ajax. The ancient play describes the visible and invisible wounds of war. The play is part of an innovative public health project intended to create an open dialogue and understanding about the impact of war on veterans, their families and communities. We discuss the importance of Theater of War and how it can serve as a bridge to understanding.

Everyone from Whoopi Goldberg to Samuel L. Jackson have sought to find the answer to one question” where am I from? But tracing DNA to find family roots has also resulted in significant discoveries. The connection between genetics, ancestry and health on this edition of Need to Know.

Also on the show, why TV stars are traveling to Rochester to set the stage for a community conversation about veterans, their families and post-combat wounds.

And it’s the war some refer to as an “unfinished history.” Preserving stories of the Vietnam War to better understand its impact. That just before a special 10-part, 18-hour series on PBS. 

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