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Campaign aims to thank those who fight for us

Enjoying freedom allows us to have strong differing opinions on any topic. One topic that has divided our nation is the topic of war. But no matter what your moral or political stance, one thing is certain: there are thousands of brave men and women serving in our country's armed forces who deserve our support and gratitude.

Western New York has felt the chilling effects of war with the loss of individuals like Medal of Honor recipient Jason Dunham, Niagara Falls native Lorne Henry Jr. and others. We now have the opportunity to collectively say "thank you" to them and to their brothers and sisters in arms serving in the Middle East and around the world.

Seneca Gaming Corp. is proud to be sponsoring "Buffalo/Niagara to Baghdad," a community initiative aimed at thanking our American service men and women and supporting them when they return home. As a community, we can separate the war from the warrior and let those individuals in uniform know that Western New Yorkers understand and appreciate the job they have to do.

The focus of this important initiative is twofold. First, we are producing a "Thank You for Serving" video that will feature business and community leaders from across the region sending their regards and well wishes to members of the U.S. military. When completed, a copy of this video will be sent to every U.S. military base, every U.S. ship at sea, every U.S. Veterans Hospital and every U.S.O. organization in the world. Indeed, the voice of this community will be heard the world over.

As has been explained to us by many of the veterans who are leading this initiative, the scars of war never leave the soldiers. They remain with them forever. The adjustment back to civilian life can be difficult, not only for the soldiers, but for their families as well.

That is why the funds generated through this initiative will support numerous veterans organizations that are designed to work with the returning troops and ensure that they receive the help, benefits and compensation they have so bravely earned.

Bravery is not limited to the battlefields worldwide. Our community saw bravery firsthand when Buffalo Police Officer Patricia Parete was seriously wounded in the line of duty last year. A portion of the funds raised through "Buffalo/Niagara to Baghdad" will support Parete in her road to recovery.

As the father of a student at the Naval Academy Preparatory School, I can only hope that my son's life is never put in harm's way.

At the same time, I am extremely proud of the choice he is making to serve. Should the time ever come when he is far from home in a situation unfathomable to most of us, I would want him to hear the words that every soldier wants to hear: thank you and welcome home.

I hope the generous business leaders of Western New York will help us send that message to those who serve today.

E. Brian Hansberry is President and CEO of Seneca Gaming Corp.

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