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East High Street community recognizes disabled female vets

By Staff | Jun 1, 2018

Several representatives of the East High Street community gathered at Cullison Commemorative Park on Memorial Day at noon to honor disabled female veterans.

The gathering, which has taken place since 2011, is held every year near an oak tree donated to the park by the residents of East High Street, as a permanent reminder of those who have sacrificed themselves for the safety of their country.

“This tree was planted as a memorial tree to honor Vietnam veterans,” said Borys Tkacz, whose wife, Zenia Kuzma, came up with the idea to fundraise in the neighborhood to buy the tree.

“My wife isn’t in the military, but she is a licensed therapist who has counseled many veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s why she’s been so interested in continuing this,” Tkacz said, as four girls from East High Street decorated the base of the tree with bouquets of flowers and American flags.

James Pate’s two daughters helped with the tree decoration this year.

“They really enjoy it, with putting the flowers and American flags in the ground,” said Pate. “This is a time when we remember, so (veterans) know they’re not forgotten – you’ve got to keep their memory alive.”

Kuzma, who was unable to attend this year’s ceremony due to work obligations, spoke on speakerphone to the attendees, thanking them for participating in the event.

“We do this every year, but this year is a special year because it’s for disabled women veterans,” said Kuzma. “Remember, that tree is a community tree. We planted it six or seven years ago, so just remember when we walk past it to water it, because it’s our neighborhood tree.”

Kuzma also expressed her appreciation for the town’s maintenance of the tree and park.

During the ceremony, Tkacz read the stories of several female veterans who died or went through perilous experiences to serve their country. The stories included those of Private Cathay Williams, who was the first known African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Army, and West Virginia native Colonel Ruby Bradley, who fought in World War II and the Korean War.

“This ceremony is a tradition in the neighborhood, and I think it’s important to keep our veterans’ memories alive. It’s also important to educate the younger generation,” Tkacz said. “It’s a nice way to do something meaningful.”