Michael Marafino | Staff Writer
Members of Duquesne University expressed gratitude for the service of American veterans by hosting the state’s largest Veterans Day breakfast.
Approximately 700 veterans attended the breakfast in the Union Ballroom on the morning of Nov. 11. The event master of ceremonies was Duquesne University’s own Don Accamando, the director of the Office of Military and Veteran Students and former lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. Accamando was joined by his brother, Tony Accamando, another veteran, alumni of Duquesne University, and co-founder of Friends of Danang, an organization dedicated to raising funds in Vietnam.
Accamando was also joined by Ben Stahl, a former minesweep sailor, Navy veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Executive Director at the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania. Stahl expressed his gratefulness for the services of veterans and also discussed the future of veterans in the United States.
The keynote speaker of the event was Duquesne University’s Roger Brooke, professor of psychology and the director of the Military Psychological Services. Brooke is a South African native, veteran of the 44th Parachute Brigade in South Africa and an examiner for the American Board of Professional Psychology.
Brooke spoke of warriors and the psychological damages veterans undergo, primarily focusing on the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Brooke stated that after service, “one can never simply be a civilian again.”
Discussing the importance of caring for veterans, Brooke mentioned how everyone can help show appreciation and compassion towards the men and women who served. Some actions include buying lunch for, engaging in conversation with, or befriending a veteran and participating in community work.
Following the event, guests were invited to stay and hear stories from multiple World War II veterans.
One spoke of his experience during the Bloody Rapido River Tragedy in 1944 during the brutal Italian campaign during World War II. While retreating from German gunfire, he was shot in his side, and his friend was killed from gunshot wounds.
He was forced to travel wounded back to camp, and he saved his commanding officer from certain death in a river by rushing him to a hospital after he was wounded.
Another veteran, who was drafted in the U.S. Army at the age of 19 in 1944, served on a ship in the Pacific to prepare for the invasion of Japan. Before the possible invasion of the island occurred, the Japanese surrendered, and he was present in Okinawa when the War in Japan ended in 1945.
An interesting story was also shared by a woman who was living in Manila, Philippines, during the attack on Pearl Harbor. When she saw Americans being put into Japanese internment camps, she volunteered to go into the camp at age 16.
“I wasn’t going to stay back. I wanted everybody to know I was an American; I wasn’t ashamed of it,” she said.
She met her husband when he was part of the team that liberated the internment camp.