California University of Pennsylvania Veterans make pilgrimage to Michigan to support Gold Star Widow

 
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CalVulcan Follow it here... MOTHAX: I am about to engage on that fateful trip into marrital bliss, so am turning over some of the blog over the next week or so. I was contacted a few weeks ago about a trip that some veterans will be making, and thought it made a great story about the kind of things that our newer veterans are engaged in, and it fit well with what I am trying to do here. A half dozen Operation Enduring & Iraqi Freedom student Veterans will be traveling from the college town of California, Pennsylvania to Saginaw, Michigan on Friday September 3rd in support of their University Football team as well as promoting the support for a current California University of Pennsylvania student whose husband was killed in Afghanistan in June of 2004. Robert Prah, the University’s Director of Veterans Affairs stated, ‘This is a great chance for us to not only travel and cheer on our football team but to make several stops at various American Legions posts along the way in hopes of raising money for our fellow student. In addition to raising money for her, we’ll also get to visit other Posts and see how they operate and support Veterans in their areas.’ The Cal U Veterans will be departing the University on Friday afternoon and making at least 6 stops on the way to Saginaw, Michigan. Continue to follow their journey as they look to raise money along the way by following their blog on the Burn Pit. What follows is Robert's reports from the trip.... _____________________ Well friends, we are packing up and almost ready for the trip north. First stop, American Legion Post 377, California, Pa. If you are interested in having us visit your post on our way to Saginaw, MI, email prah@calu.edu. Keep checking back for updates! 3 Posts so far in 1 hour! It's Robert here...We've already stopped at Post 377, Post 801, Post 940 and now on way to Post 22, Charleroi. A very special thanks to the wonderful people and Veterans at Post 377 and 801! Next stop - Post 22! Hi, this is Joshua Furlong and I'm a junior at cal u. Robert Prah who was just blogging is the Director of Veterans Affairs down at Cal. We have 5 of us on this trip. I'm a veteran of Afghanistan; Robert, Rob, Chris, and Josh are all Iraq veterans. We just left the Charleroi Legion, Post 22 where I met Walter, a Navy Vietnam Vet with 16 years of legion service. They were extremely nice and welcomed us with open arms. IMG00263-20100903-1924 Hey everyone this is Josh again, I just noticed the admin guy just uploaded our pic from Pleasant Hills. We are having a blast. We just crossed the border into Ohio. We currently have raised $368. My hope is that we can triple that on our amazing journey through different legions. The only frustration we have is our gps keeps getting us lost and we are struggling to find Legions to visit. So if anyone on our way wants us to visit please let us know we would love to come see you. Good morning everyone. This is Josh typing. I’m the guy holding the helmet in the picture above. I think I finally got my iPhone to work so that we can blog faster and more in depth. We are back on the road and approaching the Michigan border. We spent the night in Sandusky, Ohio. I’ve never been to Michigan so I’m excited to be making my first trip here. [caption id="attachment_2990" align="aligncenter" width="560" caption="Josh, Chris, and Rob on the road."]Josh, Chris, and Rob on the road.[/caption] I’m going to share some of our road adventures and people that we’ve met. I also would like to share our impressions of the legions because we’ve found some amazing places. In California, at Post 377, as soon as you walk into the Legion on the right hand side they have a wall of honor for all of our fallen heroes of World War II. Lorrence Sutherland’s picture is the second from the right on the bottom row and he was in the Navy. He was only 19 years old, the age of many of students attending Cal U. Seated at the bar with his beautiful wife you can find Michael Costa who was Lorrence’s best friend. He’s been a member of the Legion for 61 years and was one of our areas first Army recruits to World War II. I also got the chance to meet Kelly McMonagle, an Iraq war veteran who joined the Army at 38 and shortly shipped off to war. Everyone was incredibly warm friendly to us on our first stop. They are also a JFK memorial post.  The address for this legion is 254 2nd Street, California, Pa 15419 and their phone number is 724-938-7390. 4:10pm - It's Robert, Well...Cal U Vulcans just defeated the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals, with a final score of 42-41 in OT. Congratso Cal U Vulcans! Right now we are at Saginaw Post 439, Michigan. Huge update hopefully in the next 2 hours, stay tuned.. 5:38 EST: Well we are leaving a local news station near Saginaw, Michigan. Stay tuned for more information and possible link to some very cool stuff on their web page. We have one more stop, to meet with Leaders at the Saginaw American Legion and then start out journey back home. Thanks for the support! Stay tuned.. 5: 48 AM Sunday Hey everyone, this is Josh updating as promised.  Robert just dropped me off at my house after our incredibly long road trip back home.  I will say this is one of the most meaningful journey's I've taken in a long time.  I can't thank everyone enough for letting us run with idea of ours. Now that I'm back home, I want to take the time here to transcribe our 36 hour journey the best that I can.  This pilgrimage of ours really changed my perspective of the American Legion and I met soo many amazing heroes that paved the way before us in the military.  Many veterans of my generation wouldn't be able to go to college if it wasn't for the American Legion fighting so hard to establish the first GI Bill, which was recently transformed to the post 9/11 GI Bill. First things first, I just realized we never told you guys who we were raising money for.  We didn't initially put the name out because she doesn't know what we are doing for her.  However, as we begun getting our mission out to the general public, we had a huge demand to link the story behind what we are doing.  So here's the link.  If you happen to know the widow or her family, we ask that you please don't spoil the secret.  We are planning on donating the money we raise to her on Veterans Day. http://militarytimes.com/valor/army-maj-paul-r-syverson-iii/263061/ As stated earlier, we began our journey by stopping at our American Legion in California, Pa which is minutes from our campus.  Our next stop was to the American Legion in West Brownsville, Pa, Post #940.  While the facility was quite beautiful, we unfortunately didn't spend much time there. Following the Monongahela River through the Mon Valley, we stopped into Post 801.  We were treated like heroes at this Legion.  Josh Hager signed up and recieved his American Legion Membership card while at this post.  I met Roy Tiernan, who's been a social member for 30 years.  Social members have long been cherished members of the Legion, they provide a much needed civilian support for Veterans and remind us that there are loving supporters of what we do in and out of uniform. I also had a chance to talk with Greg Micjan, a former Navy Seal and Vietnam Veteran.  I never realized we had heroes of that caliber in our own backyard.  It was at this point, I begun to realize that we were probably going to come upon many heroes on our journey, and we all wished that we could spend the rest of the night but we had many more legions we wanted to visit and a kickoff fast approaching. [caption id="attachment_2985" align="aligncenter" width="553" caption="Chris posing with members of the Roscoe Legion."]Chris posing with members of the Roscoe Legion.[/caption] Next up on our trip was American Legion Post #22, located in the Magic City of Charleroi, Pa.  Walter Stelma, one of the officers of the Legion welcomed us to his post with open arms.  Walter's been involved with the American Legion for 16 years and is a Navy Vietnam Veteran.  I got word from one of my friends that that Legion is thinking about bringing in a band to perform at their Post to help us fundraise, and I'm still awaiting further details. Our next stop was American Legion Post #790, where our Director of Veterans Affairs and my fellow blogger on here Robert, is an officer.  One of the Legions rule's here is that if you forget your card to enter the facility, you must pay a .25 cent fine.  Robert of course paid up, with the rest of us laughing at him for not having his key to get into his own post.  It was here that I met Reed Cruper, a Vietnam Air Force veteran and Steve Novak, another veteran of the Air Force during the Vietnam era. It was here that I was also able to talk to the father of a Veteran of Iraq who is having problems following his tour of duty at war.  I was able to share my struggles with him.  It's tough for him, because he's never served in war but is a Veteran and the communication lines with his son are complicated because he can't identify with what he is going through.  I can and I was able to offer him hope as well as sharing contact information for the Wounded Warrior Program and a counselor from the Vet Center by the name of Jason who I see regulary.   I also recommended that he get his son in touch with Vets4Vets and get him into one of their weekend retreats. This is something that I'm very passionate about.  We are losing too many of our Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans to suicide.  Last year alone, we lost 18 veterans of OEF/OIF to suicide, 5 of which were under VA treatment.  That's more deaths in one year then soldiers that have died in both conflicts combined in the 10 years we have been at war.  From 2005 to 2009, we have lost a service-member to  suicide every 36 hours. We have much work to do to stop this epidemic.  But its rewarding for me to be able to share hope and resources and possibly help save a life.  It is why the American Legions started following World War II and a testament to the love we have for one another when it comes to the military. We got back onto the road and worked our way into Pittsburgh and stopped at Primanti Brothers to have dinner.  If you ever go to Pittsburgh, I really recommend stopping at this establishment, it's the only place in the world you can get french fries served on your sandwich.  After recharging our batteries, we continued our trek towards Michigan and stopped at the American Legion Post #712 in Pleasant Hills, Pa.  This is where the picture above was shot with me and the helicopter. We had a blast at this legion, and they donated $141 towards our cause.  It was an amazingly beautiful post but we couldn't spend as much time as we wanted because it was getting late and we were still in the Pittsburgh region, not even 35 minutes from our campus.  The members made it hard for us to go as well.  I highly recommend anyone in the area to check them out, we definitely enjoyed ourselves. Back on the road again, we decided we would hit one more legion in Pennsylvania.  However, we started getting frustrated because our GPS kept getting us lost trying to find a Legion and we were trying to look up locations online without much luck.  We did get word that the American Legion is working on an iPhone App that would handle this problem, and I'm very excited to see it come to fruition. Finally, we located American Legion Post #474 in Zelienople, Pa.  When we rolled up, the parking lot was packed with cars.  Excited, we walked into a crowd of about 90 people playing Bingo.  I talked to Harry McFarland, who just became the new commander of this post.  Not wanting to interrupt their games of Bingo, I stopped to talk with Harry for a while while the guys ordered up some of their wings they were cooking.  They also were making pizzas, although, we didn't have the time to order one.  We took our wings with us on the road and they were every bit as good as they looked.  Their facility was utterly amazing. Getting late, we hit the road for Ohio and decided to drive as far as we could before we found a spot to spend the night.  We made it to Sandusky, Ohio before fatigue and exhaustion began to creep in.  We got a hotel room for the night and we all passed out exhausted from our long day. The next day we woke up at around 830 a.m. and hit the road for Saginaw Valley State for the Cal U game.  We got to the stadium around noon with the game already underway.  Much to our chagrin, Cal U was losing.  Wearing our Vulcan colors, we proceeded to make our way over to our section and join the fans that made the trek to see the game.  Their bus left Cal U at 4 am and they still managed to beat us to the game.  It was quite windy and cold, and I was the silly one that went to the game with no sweatshirt or coat.  I however had on my Armenti's Army tshirt underneath my Cal U Vulcans Champions Shirt we all were wearing. If you don't know what Armenti's Army is, let me explain.  Dr. Armenti is our President at Cal U, and Armenti's Army was started to show support for deployed soldiers.  All t-shirts sold with the Armenti's Army logo were used to generate funds for troops overseas.  He's a true supporter of our endeavors, and was the first speaker on the first day of classes when we hosted our First Annual Veterans Orientation. [caption id="attachment_2980" align="aligncenter" width="542" caption="Dr. Armenti poses with us as well as a Cal Legion member."]Dr. Armenti poses with us as well as a Cal Legion member.[/caption] Going into halftime, the Vulcans started mounting a comeback and later in the game we took the lead for the first time.  However, Saginaw managed to come back and take the lead.  In epic fashion, the Vulcans made a comeback and tied it up and forced overtime.  The Vulcans scored first in overtime, then the home team managed to put six points as well.  The Vulcans took a timeout, and the kicker missed the extra point, giving our Mighty Vulcans the win. The thing that stood out the most about this football victory was that the Vulcans fell behind early and it took an entire team effort to overcome the odds and become victorious.  They believed and kept the faith and were rewarded.  Much like the military, sometimes the cards are stacked against us.  When we unite and play together and give it our all, we come out on top.  Definitely was one of the most amazing football games I've seen in a long time.  At the end of the game Dr. Armenti took a picture with all of us taking the road trip.  The cheerleaders were nice enough to pose for a picture with us as well. At the game, we linked up with Mike, a Cal U Junior, and a veteran of the Air Force.  He participated in the Gulf War, various post-Gulf War deployments, and Operation Enduring Freedom.  His wife Jennifer, also an Air Force veteran joined us as well.  She's a veteran of the Iraqi War and other Middle East Deployments.  They had family in Detroit and linked up with us for the game and our journey post-game to the Saginaw American Legion. We found the address and convoyed over to American Legion Post #439.  I found out after arriving that it is the third largest legion in Michigan.  Shortly after we got there, Rob got a call back from an email he sent to NBC 25 and they wanted to interview us.  I called them back and talked with Kim, and talked about our short timeframe we could spend in this area.  She called us back and asked if we wanted to come out to the station and do an interview. Of course we said yes!!  So Robert, Rob, and I rolled out seconds after we got off the phone with Kim while Josh, Chris, Mike, and Jennifer stayed to hang out with the Legion members.  Being low on fuel we had to stop at a gas station to get gas and me and Rob changed from football cheering clothes into Interview appropriate attire. Coming down a road in the town of Frankenmuth I do believe, we saw an American Legion that looked like a farm trailer with a spray-painted Legion sign in the front.  Not having time to stop there on our way to NBC 25, we promised we were going to hit that spot up on our way back to pick up Josh and Chris. NBC 25 was located deep in the country.  We showed up and I was picked to give the talking interview with Kim.  Robert and Rob also made it on camera as well.  Robert's the one in the hat and red coat.  The crew was deeply interested in what we were doing, and took the extra time to talk to us about how to attract the media's attention better. Surprisingly, Kim opened our email to her on accident and we lucked into this opportunity.  As soon as I got there I needed to run to the bathroom so I could try and look pretty on camera, and I noticed the mens room had a sign that said "Peacocks".  That caused me to chuckle and I asked them how the women's bathroom was labeled.  They told me it was "Peahens".  NBC branding is definitely visible here.  We spent about 15 minutes shooting the interview, then they agreed to let us take a tour of the facility because one of my majors is Video Production and I was really interested in seeing how they ran their TV show so that I could share it with my class on Tuesday when we returned to campus. http://www.connectmidmichigan.com/news/story.aspx?id=507070 is the link with the story they did on us that aired on the 11 o'clock news that day. [caption id="attachment_2981" align="aligncenter" width="590" caption="Rob, Josh, Kim, and Robert at NBC25 in Michigan after the Cal U game."]Rob, Josh, Kim, and Robert at NBC25 in Michigan after the Cal U game.[/caption] We could have spent all day hanging out with the weekend news crew, however, they had work to do and we needed to get back to our boys that were at the Saginaw American Legion about 30 minutes away.  So we loaded up in our van and made our way over to American Legion Post #125, the Legion with the spray painted sign and housed in what looked like a barn. We walked into a group of about 8 members who immediately welcomed us with open arms.  I will have to say this was one of the most memorable legions I visited on this trip with the bonding we did in a short period of time.  The Legion was housed in a farm that Dwayne Fent just donated.  As soon as we came in the fellows offered the three of us some apple pie that would have made my grandma jealous in its wonderful taste. I met Tom Jones, the Chapter Service Officer, who works with the VA to talk care of local families of deployed soldiers to help pay the bills and keep food on the table while their loved ones are deployed.   They estimated that they take care of 75-80 area families a month with much needed service and support. [caption id="attachment_2988" align="aligncenter" width="597" caption="Josh, Rob, and Robert posing with Post #125"]Josh, Rob, and Robert posing with Post #125[/caption] I also met Elmer Lerrette who shared with us all the amazing projects they are working on as well as the some details about the National Conference that they just returned from.  The last guy I got to talk to was Bob Matthews, an Army Special Forces Veteran from Vietnam. I definitely promised to get in touch with these guys because they are doing some amazing things, and I could definitely use some of their mentoring and assistance on some of my service projects I have lined up to handle the newest generation of war veterans.  We most definitely could have spent a month with these guys, but we had to return to the Saginaw American Legion to get Josh and Chris. We returned to Post #439, where we were greeted by a large group of their members.  I shared with them what we were doing and thanked them for their hospitality.  They have an amazing facility and I talked with Jerry Kennelly, a veteran who served during the Korea era in Germany.  He told me that during that time, when you joined the Army, half went to Korea, the other half went to Germany.  And Germany wasn't an exactly fun and safe place to be when he served. [caption id="attachment_2987" align="aligncenter" width="590" caption="Post 439 in Saginaw, Michigan posing with us."]Post 439 in Saginaw, Michigan posing with us.[/caption] At this point it was getting late and we had to get back to Cal U.  So we said our goodbyes and began our long journey home.  Only stopping to eat and get fuel, we made it back 36 hours later to our campus. On behalf of myself, Joshua Furlong, as well as Josh Hager, Chris Gray, Rob Marrone, Rohert Prah (Cal U Director of Veterans Affairs), Mike and Jennifer, I have a list of Thank You's we would like to pass along.  This was an amazing pilgrimage that we undertook, and everyone involved was intimately touched and walked away with a much deeper respect of the American Legion. First and foremost, thank you to the American Legion for allowing us to blog on the national site and sharing our wonderful journey.  We got the approval shortly before our trip and were allowed to have a national voice, something that veterans our age seldom have the opportunity to do.  I've greatly enjoyed sharing this journey and would love to blog about other issues facing our younger generation of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank you to all the wonderful people at all the Legions we visited that took us in with open arms.  We were treated like royalty and met soo many amazing people, it was a shame we didn't  have more time to spend with everyone to get more stories to share. Thank you to NBC 25 and the crew that went out of their way to get us into the studio on short notice and did an amazing job of telling our story on their local news and providing us with an internet copy that we were able to share with all you. And finally, thank you to everyone at Cal U that enabled this trip to go down.  Thank you to Dr. Armenti for your leadership and support of our Veterans program.  Thank you to the Cal U Cheerleaders for taking the time to pose for a picture with us and keeping us company at the game.  Thank you to our Vulcan Football team for not giving up and getting the win that sent us into a whole new stage of euphoria.  Thank you to Dr. Susick, Dr. Pinardi, SAI, and all the faculty and staff that made this trip possible.  And last but not least, thank you to everyone that took the time to follow our journey and/or donated to our fundraiser. [caption id="attachment_2983" align="aligncenter" width="440" caption="Cal U Cheerleaders posing with us after the game."]Cal U Cheerleaders posing with us after the game.[/caption] www.calu.edu - One of America's Top Military Friendly Colleges. If anyone would like to contact me, my email is furdiddy@gmail.com and Robert Prah, our Director of Veterans Affairs email is prah@calu.edu.
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Comments

I think what you guys are doing is so awesome! You served our country for years, and yet you continue to serve. Where are you now? Where is your next legion?

Just a live blog update. We are kicking an idea around that the American Legion should come out with an IPhone application. Would be cool to have a more direct route to visit alot more American Legions on the way

How many Ohio legions are you hitting? All tonight?

P.S. And as Rob's girlfriend, should I apologize for him not exactly being the quiet type either? Oy, between Josh and Rob I pity anyone who thought they'd get to sleep in the van, lol!

Hitting as many as we can.

Update us! Have you guys found any Ohio stops yet? That IPhone app sounds perfect, btw!

You guys rock, and we are currently working on that application.

Thanks Mothax! Wish you all the best on your wedding this weekend. All the best and we appreciate the support you have given us!

Thanks bud, wish I could give more, but I can't risk a bridezilla attacking Indianapolis. Just posted the picture you guys sent.
Have fun, go UCal.

Thank you to everyone that has taken the time to remark on our journey. I have some very intimate blog posts I'm about to put up tomorrow, we are hitting the road at 830 am. We stopped and are staying at a hotel in Ohio, we are all beat.

Have fun gents and be safe! Good stuff you are doing! Thanks!

Thanks CPT K. Calu pulls off a spectacular come from behind rally to win against Saginaw Valley State University. On the way to the NBC office in Cilo, Michigan to do an interview about our successful trip. Soon we will be on the last leg of our trip back to California, PA. Thank you to the American Legion for our support on the trip through the various posts. To our friends and family thank you for your thoughts and understanding on this trip. Thank you to the CalU Vulcans for a nail biting game. Lastly thank you to the Veterans that have come before us. Without the sacrifices you have made, this would not be possible. More to come from Josh later.

Rob just txt me with the grand total. Nice work, guys! Can't wait to read and hear all about your MI Legion stops!

http://www.connectmidmichigan.com/news/story.aspx?id=507070. Click that link to see a story we did in Michigan with a local news station. This is Josh we are enroute back cal u and I have a ton of amazing stories I'm going to add to the blog as soon as I can get to a computer.

Are you collecting plates or items from all the legions you visit?

Feel free to chat with us on our trip. We will respond real time and keep you updated.

Paul & Cathy,
Thank you very much for the kind words. The dedication and commitment Josh has shown to further the cause of both the American Legion and the Veterans on this trip. His actions are a direct reflection of the moral values you instilled in him as a child. Thanks for being supportive of Josh.

I hope you have better luck finding them! I'm sure you're all getting tired, but keep it up! We are rooting for you!

Justin,
We are collecting anything each post would like to donate as a token of our trip

We are still in Pittsburgh. Were leaving to Ohio American Legions now.

Sounds like an interesting road trip guys but at the rate of stops you have so far, you may need several weeks to complete the trip! All kidding aside guys, wonderful thing you are doing and hope you have great success with your fundraiser.

Ellen (Josh's mom and honestly guys, I never have been able to figure out a way to make him stop talking. His baby sister agrees but is willing to try duct tape!)

Thank you Josh's mom. We really appreciate that tip, because we have tried about everything else. He is like the energizer bunny

Great job guys, we are so very proud of you as we always have been, thank you for your past service and all you continue to do in your service. We are the other Josh's parents!!! Have fun, thank you, and GO VULCANS!!!!

Dr.Jenny,

No American Legion stops in Ohio as of yet. There was a lot of hospitality in our small area to be had. As of 2300 hours we are just outside of Clevland, Oh. Will keep updated shortly.p

Nothing like having two robs and two joshs on a road trip.

Good morning guys, have a great day, thanks for sharing your journey and again thank you for what you are doing for a fellow soldiers wife and family. I should know by now, you guys take care of each other, the Army way!! :) Be safe, have fun. God Bless.

Have fun at the game today, guys! GO VULCANS!! What are your plans for after the game?

Stop at American Legions on the way home.

Actually good article, it was a plaisure to learn it. I despatched it to all my friends. Really thank you, every little thing is admittedly true.

There has got to be more veterans from Indiana University of PA. Where are they during all of this?

The reason why no one from IUP was represented was because this was just a Val U veteran's club event to both support the widow and to go see the football game up in Mi.

Great job and great cause. We salute you and your efforts. Yes, a iphone would be great. We ran into the same challenge when we were trying to visit legion post across the country.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.