Cicero WWII veteran speaks to St. Camillus Veterans Club
Farah Jadran Pike 12/12/09
After seeing an impressive display at the USA Day celebration held at Gillette Road Middle School a few years ago, Debbie Christiansen, of Cicero, had no doubt that she wanted WWII veteran Ed Zaluski, 85, to visit the St. Camillus Veterans Club.
Christiansen, the director of creative services for St. Camillus Health and Rehabilitation Center in Geddes, said Zaluski’s display at USA Day was amazing. Zaluski is a member of the Cicero VFW No. 7290. Zaluski, who flew B24 Liberator Bombers with the U.S. Air Corps 11th Bombardment Group, visited St. Camillus in the afternoon Friday Dec. 11.
Since the fall of 2008, St. Camillus residents who are war veterans from different U.S. military branches have been gathering for monthly meetings and events for their Veterans Club.
Formulating the idea for the club came with some hints and assistance from a resident.
Mary Ellen Steele, the director of recreational services at St. Camillus, said there was a resident who suggested the idea although he was “never a big group joiner.”
“He asked me, ‘What can we do for veterans?’” Steele said. “I thought, this could be something we can go to get him to come to activities.”
Unfortunately, the wise resident passed away before the club came to be, said Steele, but he is honored by the fact that the club is now a reality and still going strong. Now, when any resident is admitted to St. Camillus, he or she is asked if they are a veteran and if they want to join the club.
The club collaborated ideas for a T-shirt design that Christiansen developed. Members regularly wear their red, white and blue Veterans Club T-shirts that have each military branch represented.
Steele said the club generally meets once a month to share stories, listen to speakers such as Zaluski or brainstorm ideas on what they can do as a group to help active soldiers. The club is currently hosting a donation drive to collect small items that can be sent to a regiment in Afghanistan.
Another St. Camillus recreational leader, Sue Mulligan, has had many family members serve in the military as well as one family member who is currently serving in Afghanistan. Because the group takes pride in supporting veterans and active soldiers, the group unanimously chose to support Mulligan’s family member.
Steele said each of the 20-plus members have been taking turns collecting donations in the St. Camillus lobby. The club’s family members and St. Camillus employees have made cash donations as well, Steele said.
One member in particular, Azad “Ozzie” Minasian, 91, did a lot for the donation drive, Steele said. Minasian, known for his 150 “crazy hats,” of which he wears a different one each day, said he enjoys the Veterans Club.
Minasian served the U.S. Army during the ‘40s and the ‘50s teaching combat tactics to hundreds of soldiers.
“I enjoy a good speaker, and he was a good speaker,” Minasian said about Zaluski’s presentation at St. Camillus. “He did a hell of a job.”
Zaluski, a Cicero resident, said he was glad to come to St. Camillus to visit with fellow war veterans. He even met a man who also flew B24 Liberator Bombers like himself. Zaluski talked about the 30 missions he went on while serving. Each mission lasted more than 15 hours, according to Zaluski.
Zaluski’s wife of 63 years, Betty, 83, accompanied him on the visit to St. Camillus as she always does. Zaluski said he saw his wife Betty when he was 18 years old, just before he entered the service.
“I met her for 15 minutes,” Zaluski said. “And I knew I wanted to get back from war to see this.”
Both Ed and Betty said they plan to continue doing presentations like this one for as long as they can.
“I like the feedback and opinion from the other veterans,” Ed said. “I feel I have touched a lot of lives doing this.”
CATEGORY: General Society
TAGS: St. Camillus Veterans Club, St. Camillus, U.S. Air Corps 11th Bombardment Group, WWII, Cicero VFW 7290, Ed Zaluski