60 World War II Veterans to Share Their Stories
Veterans from western Pennsylvania, from Punxsutawney to Uniontown, will gather at Duquesne University on Friday, Nov. 11, for one of the largest Veterans Day breakfast salutes in the Commonwealth.
The Friends of Danang, a group of Vietnam veterans and friends who have carried out humanitarian work in Vietnam, started the event 13 years ago with a patriotic fundraising mission in the presence of 32 veterans, family and friends. This year, upward of 480 veterans, from World War II through today’s struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their friends are expected at the event.
The breakfast will be served in the Duquesne Union Ballroom with check-in at 7:30 a.m. and the program beginning at 8 a.m. The keynote will be presented by the Rev. Michael D. Wurschmidt, founder and pastor of Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship in Uptown, which provides help and hope to Pittsburgh’s homeless veterans.
At 10 a.m., 60 Pittsburgh area World War II veterans will share their stories. They have been brought together by historian and author Todd DePastino of Mount Lebanon, executive director of the Veterans Breakfast Club, which provides a monthly forum for veterans to share their stories of service.
For the first time, Duquesne and Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship are formally joining Friends of Danang as hosts. The breakfast serves the dual purposes of honoring veterans and helping to raise money to support vet-related causes: the Friends of Danang, Shepherd’s Heart and a new veterans-related endowment at Duquesne.
Duquesne’s share will be used as seed money to establish an endowed veterans student resource fund, which will support veteran students’ non-tuition needs such as books, housing and other living expenses, said Don Accamando, military program director for the School of Leadership and Professional Advancement and brother of Friends of Danang co-founder Tony Accamando. The University works with a number of veterans’ educational programs, but this special funding will help to fill financial gaps and ease other financial obligations.
The Friends of Danang, cofounded by Duquesne alumni Tony Accamando and George D’Angelo, came to life in 1997 after a return peace-time trip to Vietnam. “People who went were so moved they wanted to continue their work, so we started a Friends of Danang breakfast,” explained D’Angelo, a Green Tree resident.
Since then, this dedicated group of just 30 members has raised more than $350,000 for schools, dental care, a women’s health care clinic, a bridge and other humanitarian causes in Vietnam.
“Vietnam had a tremendous impact on our society, whether you served or you didn’t serve; more than 58,000 lost their lives. It was the first TV war,” Tony Accamando said. “We felt that whatever we did could resonate with them.”
D’Angelo felt and saw the healing that happened when Vietnam vets returned to the country they had known in much different circumstances decades earlier. “Every one of us was overwhelmed with emotion,” he said.
“We’ve been blessed to have this experience,” Tony Accamando said, “and frankly, it’s the spirit of Duquesne encouraging us to do this.”