GERRY - On a remote country hillside during a cold and wet day, American pride ran deep.
Dozens of people, including members of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA Chapter 865) and the Veterans of Modern Warfare Chapter 20, gathered on Saturday to honor a true American hero. Local wounded veteran U.S. Army Spc. Tim Newman was honored by friends, family and veterans alike for his service and sacrifice to our country.
Newman, 25, is originally from Dallas, Texas, and moved to Western New York to be with his wife, Hannah, whom he met in 2010. He served in the army as an infantryman from 2005 until 2011 and went to Iraq during 2008 and 2009 where he was wounded.
U.S. Army Spc. Tim Newman and his wife, Hannah, pose at a benefit honoring wounded veterans and Tim’s military service.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
"I was injured by an IED in Iraq," said Newman. "After that, I got out of the army and started doing Homeland Security. I am also National Guard from Dallas, Texas. One day, Troy Smith (director of the Chautauqua County office of Veterans Services) contacted me and said that somebody wanted to sponsor me and have a benefit to thank me for my service."
That person was Lynda Walters, area resident and owner of On the Hill, a new handcrafted gift store. According to Walters, the benefit originally started as a way to promote On the Hill, which opened in May.
"Beth Lindstrom and I started this out as a way to do something for the store," said Walters. "I vend and consign with about 38 different artists selling everything from honey to syrup to handmade potholders. But I don't have a lot of my own product so advertising is very costly. But we thought that if we held a benefit and started raising some money, we could raise money for a wounded veteran and just give it to them. Well, we started out really small and it has snowballed to this. We got ahold of the VVA and VMW and everybody just kind of buckled in and here we are. This all came together in about four weeks and we're just raising money for Tim and Hannah."
The benefit, which hosted a variety of vendors, games and food including Big Pits BBQ, also provided a military service that started at 11 a.m. The service opened with a benediction and musical renditions of "Taps" and "The Star-Spangled Banner." There was also a military salute provided by the color guard and firing squad.
Also in attendance was state Assemblyman Andy Goodell, who gave a speech and personally thanked Newman and all military veterans who were present for their service.
"I'm really glad to be here to support this particular wounded veteran and all wounded veterans," said Goodell. "My daughter served in Iraq during 2002 with the Marine Corps in mortuary affairs, so for me it's very important that we do what we can to help them. When someone is killed in action, there's a military funeral, the entire community shows up and it's very open in public. But when someone returns home wounded, they often suffer in silence. And so it's very important for us as a community and a nation to support those who made it home but were injured in service to their country. We don't see or understand the horrors of war, thankfully, but these guys have. That's why I'm particularly supportive of the wounded veterans program."
The Fall Gala benefit for Newman was sponsored by the On the Hill giftshop, VVA Chapter #865 and VMW Chapter 20, including president Joe Paladino. It was hosted at On the Hill, located just outside of Gerry on Damon Hill off of Gerry-Ellington Road.