Photo by Lynne Deliman
Tony Ficarri, former Steelers player Rocky Bleir, James Bruner, Dennis Downie and Ed Carter.
By Michael P. Mauer
VFW District 29 PAO
Former soldier and football legend Rocky Bleier made a keynote appearance as VFW Vesle Post 418 and American Legion Post 618 hosted a Veterans’ Advocacy Day Nov. 21 in McKees Rocks.
More than 100 current and former members of the United States military as well as their family members attended. All learned valuable information about benefits and services from the Veterans Leadership Program and the Veterans Administration.
Other community service groups such as the United Service Organization and the American Red Cross were in attendance. Everyone was provided with a meal, and all veterans earned a chance at door prizes.
Bleier, a four-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers and a Vietnam veteran, spoke about his military service and football career.
He also said that veterans’ service organizations play an important part in linking former service members to the benefits they’ve earned.
“Veterans talk to veterans,” Bleier said at the event. “What we’re really trying to do is get the word out. We’ve got a core that turned out here today, and hopefully, within their circle of friends, they’ll pass along that what the VA provides is important.” Bleier is a member of the VFW.
In addition to providing inspiring words, Bleier took the time to autograph memorabilia, speak individually with fellow veterans and fans, and sign copies of his book, “Fighting Back.” Bleier Bleier served in Vietnam with the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment in the 196th Light Infantry brigade of the U.S. Army. While in combat, he was wounded by a grenade Aug. 20, 1969. He earned the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and several other awards and decorations.
Luke Smarra, a student at Montour High School, also spoke to the veterans. He read from his VFW Voice of Democracy essay contest submission on the theme “America: Where do we go from here?”
Ed Carter III, VFW Post 418 service officer, said the event fulfilled part of the VFW’s mission to help link veterans to benefits they’ve earned through their military service.
“Everybody working together here today has really helped to get the word out,” said Carter, a Navy veteran of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. “I can’t give enough praise to the American Legion auxiliary, the volunteer staff, the members of the American Legion and the VFW, and all the others that helped make this advocacy day a success.”
The veterans’ advocacy day was funded by VFW Post 418, American Legion Post 618 and a grant from the Captain Sean M. Ruane Memorial Foundation. Private individuals and businesses also contributed.
Michael P. Mauer served as an Army photojournalist during Operation Desert Storm. He was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf for his actions during the war, and is a life member of VFW Post 914 Intrepid, West Mifflin.