By Sean Barron
Many military personnel who risk their lives each day serving the country, along with those who already have done so, are grateful for simple, small tokens of gratitude.
Those gestures include everything from a handshake and smile to a care package.
Another means people can use to express such sentiments is personally written notes, thanks to the first Military Appreciation Weekend gathering, which kicked off Friday afternoon
at the Arms Family Museum, 648 Wick Ave. on the North Side.
The event continues from 1 to 5 p.m. today and Sunday at the museum.
Military personnel and veterans, along with their families, will be admitted for free. Nonmilitary attendees who bring a nonperishable food item or toiletry to go to the local Veterans Affairs clinic will be admitted for half price.
“We began a new campaign to do more programs to reach the public,” explained Traci Manning, education curator for the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, which is hosting the gathering. “What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than to thank and salute veterans for what they do.”
“We wanted to put a personal touch on the thank-yous,” added R.J. Markowitz, an MVHS intern and Youngstown State University student who is pursuing a master’s degree in student affairs.
By Friday afternoon, a banner was starting to fill with handwritten notes of appreciation to military members.
The event also features a uniform display that showcases several military uniforms. Examples are an Army dress outfit worn during the Vietnam War and a uniform a Marine wore during World War II.
Also part of the gathering are three speakers who served in the military. The first was retired Army Maj. Carl Nunziato, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam.
YSU has a long-standing relationship with veterans, Nunziato noted. In 1944, for example, the university’s enrollment was a little more than 1,000 students, though by 1946, that number nearly doubled, largely because of an influx of veterans returning from WWII, he explained.
Nunziato also discussed a campaign to raise $1.25 million for a Veterans Resource Center, which is to be built on Wick Avenue between the Wick Pollock House and Melnick Hall and will house YSU’s Office of Veterans Affairs.
The two-story, 6,000-square-foot facility will be mainly for YSU students who are veterans, he explained, noting that it also will be available to veterans groups and organizations.
“In the last year, I’ve had eight to 10 calls from veterans groups who want to be players here, and I said, ‘Absolutely,’” added Nunziato, a YSU alumnus who also graduated from Case Western Reserve University’s law school after having recovered from a severe injury he suffered in Vietnam.
Groundbreaking for the center is planned for next month. It is hoped the facility will be completed in fall 2014, he continued.
Scheduled to speak at 2 p.m. today is Judge Robert P. Milich of Youngstown Municipal Court, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. Maj. Brent Davis of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna is to give a presentation at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The appreciation weekend also has arts and crafts, raffle items to benefit the local VA clinic and a variety of food and games.