FALCONER - Area veterans had an opportunity to kick off their Labor Day weekend by receiving assistance with their government benefits earned through military service.
On Saturday, motorcycles lined the parking lot as patrons and veterans alike visited Harley-Davidson of Jamestown to participate in its special "Harley's Heroes" event, which ran in conjunction with its Labor Day barbecue.
The Harley's Heroes program came about after the Harley-Davidson Foundation made a $1 million grant in 2006 to Disabled American Veterans. Founded in 2007, the program brings benefits, education and counseling to veterans throughout the country through the DAV Mobile Service Office.
Area veterans line up in front of a Disabled American Veterans mobile service office tent to speak with Tim McGowan, DAV National Service Officer assistant supervisor, pictured at left, during Saturday’s Harley’s Heroes event at Harley-Davidson of Jamestown.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
In hosting Harley's Heroes, Harley-Davidson of Jamestown was able to bring DAV National Service Officers - all of whom are wartime veterans - from the Buffalo Veterans Affairs regional office to Falconer. This provided an opportunity for area veterans to speak with these service officers without having to make a long trip to see them.
According to Megan Arnone, marketing manager at Harley-Davidson of Jamestown, the event marked the first time DAV service officers have come to the area.
"They're here providing free benefits counseling to veterans and their families," Arnone said. "Just kind of helping them find out about different claims and things they can make that they might not be aware of, because the system is so confusing."
Tim McGowan, assistant supervisor National Service Officer from Buffalo, discussed the benefits of DAV's Mobile Service Offices to veterans living in rural communities.
"Being in Buffalo, you've got headquarters in bigger cities where the regional offices are," McGowan said. "The smaller towns don't have a VA regional office in every city and every village. So, being able to go out and do these outreaches to the smaller areas just helps inform the veterans and get them information. Sometimes they like to meet face-to-face and see who we are."
While the DAV service officers provided assistance to veterans, all proceeds raised at the Harley-Davidson of Jamestown's Labor Day barbecue will go directly to DAV to support its services and programs. Arnone said holding the events simultaneously is beneficial to both organizations.
"I like to tie in all of our events with charity events and fundraisers, because I think it's important to give back to the community," Arnone said.
The barbecue featured live music, free lunch, cornhole and horseshoe tournaments and a giveaway of Buffalo Bills tickets.