Burgettstown area veterans help Wounded Warriors

BURGETTSTOWN, Pa. – Several area veterans groups have come together to assist those with physical disabilities participate in hunting and fishing.

The Burgettstown Kucher-Saska Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6955, Atlasburg Fischer-Lonick Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6490, Slovan Barto Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6553, Post 6553 Auxiliary, Burgettstown American Legion Post 698, Sons of the Legion Post 698, Legion Riders Post 698, Burgettstown Knights of Columbus and JMS Business Machines of Slovan held a chicken roast Saturday to benefit Western Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors Inc.

The knights initially contacted the local veterans groups, because they wanted to do something to benefit veterans in the local area.

“We had done things for veterans in the past,” said Grand Knight Paul Marcucci. “We had done collections for soldiers overseas, but we have a lot of people in the area who are veterans – this area has a lot of veterans – and we see these guys every day, and we just wanted to do something for them.”

Area veterans were soon on board with the project.

“We were contacted by the Knights of Columbus,” said Tony Strapazzon, Legion Riders. “They wanted to do a benefit with the veterans and said we could pick the project. We picked the (Western Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors Inc.) because it was local. It just snowballed and took off.”

Strapazzon said the event’s success was owed to the many volunteers, many of whom had experience in holding large-scale events.

“I just want to thank everyone for coming out,” said Strapazzon. “It’s unbelievable, how everyone stepped up the way they did. I can’t thank the committee enough, and all the volunteers out here, helping veterans and people in need.”

The Western Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors operates a handicapped-accessible hunting area and handicapped-accessible pontoon boats for fishing trips. The grounds are completely accessible and also include a pavilion and pond that is an accessible fishing point.

Jeff Curtis, Western Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors president, said the group began with a group of veterans taking fellow disabled veterans out on a pontoon boat for a fishing trip in 2002 under the encouragement of Bud West, and grew from there. The group eventually purchased its own pontoon boats and received a donated boat and leased nearly 3,000 acres in Eighty-Four from CONSOL Energy. Volunteers work to maintain the property and establish accessible trails.

The group is open to anyone with disabilities who want to enjoy outdoor sportsmanship.

“We have some guys who were deaf from birth, and we had a blind guy who passed his hunter safety course,” said Curtis. “It is open to veterans and civilians.”

Funds go to maintain the grounds and pontoon boats and for conservation and stewardship to encourage a large population of game animals.

A banquet to thank those who volunteered their time to the chicken roast will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Slovan VFW. At that time, the groups involved will present the proceeds of the roast to the Wounded Warriors.

To send a donation to the Wounded Warriors, make checks payable to the Western Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors Inc. and send them to 139 Mitchell Road, Eighty-Four, PA 15330.

The Western Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors Inc. is not affiliated with the Wounded Warriors Project.

For information or to learn more about upcoming fundraisers, visit the website at www.wpawoundedwarrior.org.

(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at swallace@pafocus.com)