- Many turned out for the 11th Annual Veterans Salute Open House on Wednesday, which honored all veterans.
The event was hosted by The Salvation Army and took place at Ladore's conference center. The day started with a service from American Legion Post #807 that honored "past and present" veterans. Vice Admiral Edward M. Straw (retired) was the featured speaker.
Commander Tom Sheridan was in charge of setting up the program. Major Ray Bartholomew, an administrator for Ladore, and his wife, Major Ruth Bartholomew, who sang, welcomed the veterans in. Jean Ogden played the piano.
There was a car show and flea market for the public to enjoy as well as music by DJ "Rick Z-Pilot of the Airwaves." A lunch was provided at no cost and after, Officer Dave Kaneski of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission gave a wildlife presentation.
There were a number of representatives present, including Sen. Lisa Baker, Rep. Frank Farina, Rep. Sandra Major, a field representative from Rep. Mike Pfiefer's office and Bruce Mackle, field representative for Sen. Baker's office.
PP&L was also there to talk about energy usage and ways to conserve it and Tom McDonald from the Office of Veteran's Affairs of Wayne County was also available to answer questions.
"We never ask for a fee," said Barb Korteling, an organizer of the open house. "It's a free day for all. The lunch is for the community too, which is on a donation basis."
She said that different senior centers brought bus loads of veterans to enjoy the day. They included the VA Hospital in Wilkes-Barre, with wheelchair-bound veterans and the Gino Merli Veterans Center in Scranton.
There isn't even a fee for entrants interested in the car show and Ladore donates trophies.
"It's our way to honors veterans," Korteling said. "All the sacrifices they've made changed their lives."
She added that the political dignitaries were available to talk to and put a face to the names. They had information about services that are available to veterans and also heard their concerns.
"It gives them a one on one," she said.
The open house is held on the first Wednesday of August and there is usually a "big turnout." Korteling said that "between 300 and 500" people come to the event.
"It's a very nice thing The Salvation Army is doing for the veterans," said Jack Ondash, a veteran himself.
Page 2 of 3 - Ondash was a member of the 9th Military Intelligence Detachment in the Army and served from 1966-1969. He served in Vietnam in 1968 and also got a bronze star meritorious for service.
"It makes us feel very appreciated," he added.
"It's a great day to be here," said Harry Feldman, also a veteran. "My duty went well because of the people who came before me and made it safe."
He was a member of the 3rd Marine Air Wing in El Toro Santa Ana, Calif., serving during the Vietnam era. Feldman served in the Marines from 1958-1961.
"It's great to interact with the veterans and it's a great opportunity to hear their concerns and help connect them to the programs they rightfully earned," said Baker.
"I'm delighted to be here," said Major. "It's great seeing the veterans, seeing familiar faces and also meeting new ones. There are good programs that the state offers and we can provide that information to them. It's a nice day to interact with them and thank them for their service."
Baker is also the chair for the Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee.
"We value and appreciate how much our veterans have done for us and recognize our obligation to make it easier for them to access the benefits they have earned," she said in a legislative update newsletter.
She added that they have been working "over the past two years" on fulfilling that responsibility through the approval of "25 laws designed to honor and serve" veterans and their families.
One of the "productive sessions for veterans" is the Veterans Trust Fund. It combines "new private and public dollars to expand and extend services."
PennDOT began issuing the new "Honoring Our Veterans" license plates in January, which was authorized by Act 194 of 2012.
It features an American flag and a bald eagle and contains the words "Honoring Our Veterans." The plate is available for passenger cars and light trucks up to 10,000 pounds. The fee is $35, with $15 from each plate sold going to the trust fund.
Money in the trust fund supports and assists Pennsylvania veterans and their families through grants to "veterans' service organizations and charitable organizations." Funds in the trust fund will also be used to "defray costs of implementing the new veterans' designation" on Pennsylvania's drivers' licenses and other implementation costs.
Page 3 of 3 - Baker said that you "don't have to be" a veteran to display the "Honoring Our Veterans" license plate. All Pennsylvania motorists are able to obtain one by filling out an application.
The application can be found at dmw.state.pa.us and clicking on MV-914, or by calling PennDOT at 1-800-932-4600. You can also contact any of Baker's offices.