When veterans are discharged from the military, according to John Gryn, chairman of the Lower Southampton Township Veterans Advisory Council, many aren’t aware of the education, healthcare and disability benefits they’re eligible for.
“It’s just amazing that some of these older veterans, they just aren’t aware that these services are out there. And it’s just a matter of showing them the forms that need to be filled out, or giving them help filling the forms out to become part of the VA system,” Gryn said. “They earned these benefits, and a lot of them don’t utilize it.”
In order to share information with local veterans as well as unite them in a day of camaraderie, the Veterans Advisory Council is hosting its annual Muster on Saturday, April 4, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Neshaminy Activity Center, located at 1842 Brownsville Road, Trevose.
This is the 10th year for the event, which welcomes approximately 100 attendees from a number of communities.
“Over the years, it has become much bigger,” said Gryn, explaining how the Muster was once held in a small room at the Township Library of Lower Southampton. “We take in a lot from Northampton, we have people come in from Yardley, pretty much all over the county.”
Throughout the day, veterans can enjoy good food and friends, and speak with representatives from 25 organizations, including the VA. Dan Fraley, director of the Bucks County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, will be on hand to host a breakout session for older veterans and their spouses about benefits they’re entitled to.
“It’s a yearly thing people know we have. People like it,” Gryn said. “And sometimes, you just have older veterans who don’t really have anyone else. They just want to come and hang out, sit down and eat some food and chat, spend some time with other vets.”
In Gryn’s opinion, this year’s Muster will draw an even larger crowd thanks to guest speaker Ralph Galati. Born and raised in Philadelphia and Delaware County, Galati was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. Galati attended USAF Flight Training in 1970, received his Wings in 1971, was a Weapon Systems Officer in the F-4 Phantom aircraft, and was assigned to Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand in the fall of 1971.
Galati qualified as a Laser Guided Bomb lead, and was soon elevated to the role of Forward Air Controller. On Feb. 16, 1972, he and his pilot were shot down over North Vietnam and were immediately captured and taken to Hanoi. He spent the next 14 months as a Prisoner of War, and was repatriated on March 28, 1973.
While the Muster offers ample opportunity for veterans to learn about their benefits, Gryn stressed that the Veterans Advisory Council is available to serve them year round.
“We’re a subsidiary of the board of supervisors for the township to deal with veteran issues, answer questions and be a resource in the community to help veterans see what benefits they are entitled to, or any kind of needs,” Gryn said. “Most of us are veterans. If anyone is having any sort of veteran issues in the township, they know to give us a call.”
Examples of the group’s services include the proper disposal of worn-out flags, hosting an annual Veterans Day ceremony, and aiding individual veterans and their families.
“A big thing is, some of these older veterans that are living alone with financial needs or something happened to their house, over the years, we’ve learned a lot about who can help fix things and provide low-cost maintenance to veterans,” Gryn said. “We’re sort of the spot they come to, and then we can help get those right people involved, whether it be a new roof or damage after a storm and getting a tree removed. Sometimes, they just don’t have the money right away. We try to get it taken care of.”
The Veterans Advisory Council meets on the first Tuesday of every month, at 7 p.m., at the Lower Southampton Township Administration Building, 1500 Desire Ave., Feasterville. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 267-982-2199.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com