All gave some, some gave all, and now Catholic Cemeteries are giving back.
Catholic Cemeteries have teamed with the Erie County Clerk's Office to offer veterans a discount on burial services. Through the Thank A Vet program, all honorably discharged veterans can save 20 percent on burial services through Catholic Cemeteries. Two years ago, Mount Olivet Cemetery in Kenmore dedicated a section of its 112 acres for military vets, marked with a memorial to St. Michael.
"We want to do all we can to honor our veterans, so we dedicated a section strictly for veterans and their spouses and/or immediate family members," said Carmen Colao, diocesan director of Catholic Cemeteries. "We have a very special program, a package program, for them here at Mount Olivet (and) in any of our diocesan cemeteries. Just a small token on our part for such a large sacrifice."
The Erie County Clerk's office created the Thank A Vet program as a way to recognize the veterans in the community for their service and sacrifice. The program teams with about 500 businesses to offer various discounts to vets discharged from any branch of the military service, including National Guard.
"We worked hard to try to make this program a real benefit to the veteran community," said Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs. "When we came in, the program was in existence, but there were only 27 businesses signed up. In partnership with a lot of the local Chambers of Commerce, we tried to outreach about it. We have about 500 businesses now signed up. On the other side, we've tried very hard to outreach to the veteran community to get them the discount card."
The program is open to all honorably discharged vets in Erie County. By stopping in the Erie County Clerk's office, 92 Franklin St., in downtown Buffalo, with a copy of their discharge papers, vets will receive a free picture ID that will be honored at participating businesses. An added benefit is that the vets' discharge papers will be kept on file.
"You don't want, in a time of need, to be searching your attic to find your discharge papers," said Jacobs. "We can keep a copy on file. That's what we're charged to do by New York state. So this discount card has a twofold benefit - to provide a significant financial benefit to them, but also to incentivize the veteran and their family to have something for safekeeping on file."
In the past 18 months, 7,000 discount cards have been given out. There are about 60,000 vets in Erie County.
Colao said he plans to expand Veteran sections to all diocesan cemeteries. A bell, originally from Ascension Church in North Tonawanda, will toll on Veteran's Day at 11:11 a.m. to mark the signing the World War I armistice.