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Military appreciation day is open to veterans throughout region

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POTSDAM — The military appreciation day and career fair June 16 at Clarkson University has St. Lawrence County in its title, but is open to all veterans, active-duty personnel and their families in the region.

“We are targeting veterans in Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Franklin and Clinton counties and Ontario. What a lot of people don’t know, there are veterans who live in Canada,” said William R. Murphy, chairman of the Fort Drum Retires Council. “It is open to anybody in the military, but the focus is on veterans.”

The event, from registration at 8 a.m. through 3 p.m. at Cheel Campus Center, will include vendors with information about benefits, health care, the GI Bill, the post exchange, tax exemptions, Social Security, behavioral health, counseling, retiree services, educational opportunities and veteran-friendly employers. Four lawyers will be available to do health care proxies, powers of attorney and simple wills. There will be briefings and presentations on different service areas to augment what is available on the floor.

“With the fact we’re having about 100 vendors, I can’t see that any veteran who comes won’t learn at least one new thing. Any kind of information a veteran, active-duty person or survivor is looking for should be available at this event,” said Patrick R. Rourk, the former director of the St. Lawrence County Veterans Department. “I know I personally plan on going down on the floor and getting information, and I did this for a living.”

Organizers are expecting more than 1,000 people to attend but there could be far more as there are approximately 47,000 veterans in the region, including close to 30,000 in St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties, Mr. Murphy said.

Opening ceremonies from 9 to 9:30 a.m. will include remarks by Clarkson President Anthony G. Collins and from Jim Wilkes, an Army wounded warrior and endurance distance triathlete. The Canton Veterans of Foreign Wars will provide a color guard.

The only part of the event exclusive to St. Lawrence County veterans will be the launch of a Return the Favor discount card from area merchants that will be administered by the county clerk’s office. More than 60 businesses are participating.

“It keeps growing,” Mr. Murphy said.

The event will include displays of military equipment and the use of golf carts for those less mobile.

“We’ve been actively working on this since last October,” Mr. Rourk said. “It’s pretty incredible the people who have stepped forward. Clarkson donated the event to us.”

The retiree council will sponsor similar events in September in Plattsburgh and at Fort Drum and in November in Syracuse. An information session was already conducted in Rochester.

“They’ve never had an event of this type in St. Lawrence County. This is not a one-shot deal. This is going to be an annual event,” Mr. Murphy said. “We want to connect with the veteran community and say to them, ‘What are your needs?’ and then create solutions.”

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