In 1944 a bomber pilot from Peekskill suffered a collapsed spine and was left crippled by World War II. While he recovered, friends and family back home quickly united to help. Today, 79-year-old Korean War veteran John H. Donohue still remembers the outpour of community support for that veteran’s family. Churches, school groups and individuals donated time, service and thousands of dollars to Lt. John H. (Jack) Buhs’ family to build him a house and help him transition back to life at home.
“It took three years to build a house, but his wife lives in it yet. This community came together and it spread out through the entire county,” Donohue said of the Peekskill and Cortlandt area.
Today, Donohue is asking the community to come forward again like it did 70 years ago. With the support of the local American Legion Post 274 and others from across the Hudson Valley region, Donohue is starting a “Hometown to Heroes” program, the first in New York State he said.
“Hometown to Heroes” is a Legion program, similar to “Wounded Warriors” that provides support for severely injured military members and helps them to transition back to their lives at home. The first meeting for the program will be held at the Peekskill American Legion this Saturday.
Already, Donohue has received support from the local community, as well as from surrounding areas.
“I didn’t ask for a dime, and people are already voting to donate money to us,” he said.
Part of the program is emotional and practical support for wounded veterans – helping them get to ther installing a ramp at their homes – the other important part of the program is raising money.
“This country does not have enough money to deal with what is coming back. It is not just the wounded, but the others that are coming back…there are no jobs. We have got to get involved because it can’t be done by the government,” Donohue said. He emphasized that he wants everyone to leave politics at home. “I need Americans. I don’t need the political perspectives. That is not what we are here for.”
This Saturday Donohue is expecting a good turnout for the first “Hometown to Heroes” meeting. Local officials, religious groups, school groups, community organizations and individuals will gather to talk about resources they have to offer and how to make the program happen. It is a meeting to “enlist people willing to serve.”
“The hardest thing in the whole program is to identify those people who need to be helped and have them come forward. Religious leaders cope with families and can direct them to get help and be a catalyst to get it done,” Donohue said, explaining the important role different groups will play in getting the program off the ground.
The group plans to start women’s and Sons of the Legion auxiliaries to help out as well. Donohue is already inspired by the support he has seen from surrounding communities.
“The County Legion Commander will be there and we sent the information to every Legion post in the county. Since then Rockland and Dutchess county Legions have been inquiring about it,” Donohue said.
Donohue sees hope in this support. The kind of hope he recognizes from when he was a 12-tear-old boy and Lt. Buhs returned home crippled from the war. Donohue remembers workers donating half their pay and management matching their contributions, school children collecting hundreds of dollars for the cause (at a time when people earned an average of about $26 a week), and dozens of other community groups sharing the little they had to help a veteran in need. A May 31, 1946 issue of the Evening Star reports that not only were people happy to help, they were thankful to the Citizens Committee for undertaking the campaign.
“The early contributors are not only giving generously, but letters accompanying their offerings reflect sincere and whole-hearted appreciation of the community’s effort. Genuine gratitude to the Citizens Committee for undertaking the campaign is expressed in the letters,” the Star reporter wrote.
That Evening Star article reported that the children of the Franklin Street School pledged to raise “not less than $50” for the Buhs and by the end of the first day’s drive had raised $488.
Donohue has already seen an early outpour of support in the form of donations, as Yonkers and Thornwood Legions have already reported they plan to donate hundreds to the program.
This weekend’s “Hometown to Heroes” meeting will form a committee to run the program and lay down a foundation to work from. Donohue plans to take the program “on the road,” with plans to present the information to community groups around the area who are interested in helping. Check with Patch for more information. We will be posting any Hometown to Hero announcements and public information as the program takes shape.