Movie, assistance keep focus on veterans

Allen Crick of the Falconer American Legion, left, Rebecca Martel of the Brocton Legion and Jack Hood of the Dunkirk American Legion stand ready to help veterans.

Last week’s release of the movie “Dunkirk” brought another spotlight for some worthy local residents: our veterans.

Not only did the movie turn back the clock on the glorious Dunkirk to Dunkerque Days that took place here in 1946, it gave us a reminder at a time that was not Veterans Day or Memorial Day regarding just how valuable these men and women are in keeping us safe and securing our freedom.

At the movie opening last week, Diane Andrasik did a quick history on our French sister city and the massive amount of donations raised after World War II. What was collected as more than $100,000 then is worth more than $1 million today.

Just as touching were those in attendance who served the United States during the wars. Some were from Korea, more were from Vietnam and others served in the Persian Gulf War and in Afghanistan.

Those who serve, especially on foreign ground, are tested every day. “Dunkirk” has become a celebration of sorts for our community. Somehow, our city needs to build on that history, maybe even through its Central Connection initiative with Fredonia.

Just look to the South as an example. In North Carolina, the Civil War is a huge part of its history. There are signs dedicated to the battles throughout the state and its museums are filled with Confederate memorabilia.

Dunkirk could celebrate that extraordinary effort of 1946 somewhere and somehow, maybe even at the Historic Lighthouse. It is a story that will never get old, especially for those who are tourists and lifelong residents.

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Was there anything Dunkirk’s Leonard Catalano was not involved in locally? Catalano, who died Monday at 92, was laid to rest on Thursday.

Many know of Catalano’s work in the public sector and in politics in the city. He also was a true World War II hero.

Serving in the U.S. Marines, Catalano was a flamethrower. He rarely talked about his experiences, but did so privately with friends. “We were the first ones in and we took care of business,” Catalano would say. “The second wave of Marines would come in and clean up.”

Catalano, however, never missed a chance — almost daily — to remind others that the United States is “the greatest country in the world.”

Rest in peace, “Big Lou.”

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For the second year in a row, the OBSERVER is sponsoring the chautauqua County Joint Veterans Council booth, which is located near the entrance at Parking Lot 5 of the Chautauqua County Fair.

Headed up by Allen Crick, council trustee and member of the Falconer American Legion, the outreach effort is seeing an increase in visits by those who served. Normally they are seeking information about area veterans organizations or stopping by due to ongoing medical problems. Crick noted through Wednesday, 114 veterans have visited the tent, some from as far away as Florida.

The council is well on its way to surpassing the number of veterans assisted last year, which totaled 140. “We’ve helped a lot of people over the years,” Crick said.

Dedicated volunteers will continue to man the booth through Sunday at the location and Greg Carlson, Veterans Administration director for Chautauqua County, will be making a stop at the site this afternoon.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to or call 366-3000, ext. 401.