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Honoring local veterans while also working to address their challenges

There have been a number of ceremonies and activities honoring local veterans on Veterans Day which was Friday, and other events happening this weekend.

That includes Monroe County’s first-ever Veterans parade which steps off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the corner of South Goodman Street and Highland Avenue. It proceeds up Highland to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on South Avenue.

These activities are more than just being symbolic of sacrifice by people in the armed forces. That’s according Laura Stradley, who is the executive director of the Veterans Outreach Center and is a veteran herself. She said these parades and other commemorations are truly meaningful for many of those who have served their country.

“What’s the impetus to take on that risk and sacrifice if you think that when you come home, nobody even cares in the first place?,” Stradley said. “So if we want to maintain the best military and an all-volunteer force, we have to really think about how do we receive our veterans and in doing things like a parade, and things like the ceremonies that are going on around town today, that’s how we do it.”

The Veterans Outreach Center continues to help local veterans with a variety of issues and challenges including homelessness. A recent study from federal agencies said that new data shows an 11% decline in veteran homelessness since 2020, the biggest drop in more than 5 years.

But Stradley said that Rochester really hasn’t seen that same decline.

“And we’re not seeing a sharp decline in those numbers, unfortunately, I wish we were. For that reason, actually, Veterans Outreach Center is undergoing right now an expansion of our homeless shelter because on any given night, we’ve got over 70 homeless vets. And we currently can house 30, with our expansion we’re going to be able to house 46, as well as some other transitional housing, additional beds we have there,” Stradley said.

On Friday, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation sponsored by State Senator Jeremy Cooney (D-56) and Assemblyman Josh Jensen (R-134) designating a portion of the state highway system in the Town of Greece as the “Sergeant Gary Beikirch Memorial Highway” as well as a portion of the highway in the Town of Parma as the “Specialist Jason Hasenauer Memorial Highway.”

Beikirch, from Greece, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam where he aved lives as he suffered life threatening injuries. He died last December after a battle with cancer.

Hasenauer, from Hilton, was a member of the U.S. Army’s 83nd Airborne division and was killed in 2005 when the Humvee he was traveling in overturned due to a roadside bomb.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.