Zoo hosts Operation Salute for veterans

Jun 12, 2012

Veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and their families will get a special welcome home this week at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse.   The idea is to show these vets that the community appreciates their sacrifices.

Felica Plunkett was in the Navy for eight years, serving on a couple of missions in Iraq.  And she admits that making the transition from military to civilian life was difficult.

"I'm always the one that's supposed to have been together.  And now that I have a family to support, it's even a huger responsibility for me to get my act together.  It's huge.  But I'm doing it," said Plunkett.

The reason the transition is so difficult is because these soldiers come out of war with a military mindset.

"The military mind frame is always like, just do it.  Get it done.  Your pride is there, and you are always supposed to be in control.  But some people coming back from war might not have that control.  So they need the support from the community from the VA to get them back in the mindset of being a civilian again," said Plunkett.

The VA, or US Department of Veterans Affairs is hoping Operation Salute, which opens up the zoo in Syracuse to veterans and their families Thursday evening helps with that transition a bit, and  lets them see that the community is behind them according to Veterans Affairs social worker Gregory Brown.

"We want to make sure that all our veterans returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq get a proper welcome home.  Too often there's times that veterans don't get that proper welcome home,"  said Brown.

Veterans Affairs expects a thousand vets and their families to stop by the Rosamond Gifford Zoo Thursday evening for the welcome home event.