Holidays

Holly Hunt

Gloria Vanderbilt said, “I always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success.”

We see this in action every year at the annual Women’s EXPO at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach. This year’s event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 3 and will feature 82 exhibitors.

Not just a craft show, the Women’s EXPO brings together some of Long Island’s great women entrepreneurs and business professionals to network, collaborate … and SHOP!

While only one day, the work of the EXPO continues all year at the Miller Business Center. Bank of America has been the EXPO’s Signature Sponsor since its inception 19 years ago.

“We’re proud to be back this year as the presenting sponsor of the Women’s EXPO, which provides women entrepreneurs the power to grow their business, attract new customers and showcase their talent,” said Bob Isaksen, Bank of America Long Island market president. “Collaborating with the library in support of these local women-owned small businesses fosters a healthy economy and creates opportunity for all.”

“Seeing the women talking with each other and connecting” is Miller Business Center coordinator Elizabeth Malafi’s favorite part of the event. With items such as soaps, candles, food, jewelry, pottery and home decor, there is something for everyone.

“All are welcome to soak in the excitement of the day,” says library director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips. “The energy at the library on EXPO day is wonderful for everyone who visits.”

Below are just a few of the women entrepreneurs you will meet at this year’s event:

Alegna Soap

Angela Carillo

Angela Carillo really loves soap. Her love for soaps started in childhood when she would look forward to vacations, so she could visit gift shops to see what kinds of soap they carried. Carillo has been making soap for 20 years and once she put her kids and husband through college she turned her hobby into a successful business. Alegna Soap was born 10 years go with three focuses — retail, private label and workshops/conferences. Carillo says that having a diverse focus allows the business to always be steady.

The lasting connections and collaborations of the EXPO have been invaluable to Carillo. “It’s a totally different event than any other I do,” she says. Over the many years she has been participating, Carillo has communicated and collaborated with several of the other women entrepreneurs, including other soap vendors. In addition to the EXPO, Carillo takes advantage of the offerings of the Miller Business Center. Most recently attending Instagram for Business where she learned about using the story feature and promptly began using it on her business Instagram account.

Simply Nicki Supreme Nut Butters

Nicki Gohorel

Nicki Gohorel moved to Istanbul with her husband and was surprised that, while there were plenty of delicious nuts, there were no nut butters. In 2013, she started making her own and gave some as gifts. They were so delicious, friends encouraged her to sell them and Simply Nicki was born.

Gohorel creates nut butters with a focus on high-quality ingredients. Her most popular flavor is Peanut Butter Supreme, which includes amino acids to help the body process the protein in the peanuts more efficiently. What makes Simply Nicki stand out from other nut butters is the variety of flavors and customization capabilities. A traveler, Gohorel has “a mental Rolodex of flavors” that she loves to combine in what some may think are strange ways. Another popular flavor, Almond Supreme, contains almonds, goji berries, nutmeg and sea salt. Not your average nut butter!

But she is not just passionate about flavors and nut butters. Simply Nicki nut butters are packaged with as little paper or plastic as possible at the Made Conscious Kitchen in Cutchogue. This eco-friendly, cooperative kitchen allows small, local entrepreneurs to work together and as Gohorel put it,”lift each other up.”

Holly Hunt Photography

Holly Hunt

Holly Hunt grew up surrounded by photos taken by her grandfather, a professional who photographed the likes of Kennedy and the Beatles. It’s no surprise that his work inspired her to pick up a camera and take up photography. Hunt didn’t intend for her explorations of abandoned places to go past the walls of her own home, but after gifting photos to friends and family, she received encouragement to share them. And it’s no wonder, as her haunting works of art create a beautiful story of forgotten places.

“I was a patron of the EXPO for many years but I never expected to be an exhibitor. I never thought I was good enough,” she said. Thankfully, that didn’t stop her from applying in 2018. Hunt sold most of the inventory she brought to that first EXPO. More importantly were the connections she made with other women. She met so many other entrepreneurs and business professionals. The EXPO even helped organically grow her social media platforms, a hard thing to do these days. She’s looking forward to showing her new work at this year’s event.

From the Page

Callie Meaney

Callie Meaney’s mom loves candles. Growing up, they were always in her house. They became a hobby for Meaney and then a business. With all the candles available on the market she knew hers would need a unique twist. Since she loves to read, Meaney gravitated toward book-themed candles and From the Page was born. With a permanent collection of about 20, each season she introduces new scents. Top sellers right now are Magic Pumpkin Patch and Sleepy Hollow. Each natural soy candle comes in a reusable jar and each label has a picture that has been hand-drawn by Meaney herself.

She is looking forward to her first EXPO so she can meet other women entrepreneurs and business professionals. Before starting in 2013, Meaney had no business experience and hopes to hear other’s stories. As she’s hoping to expand to wholesale as well as a retail location, the knowledge she gains at the event will be invaluable.

Precise Gluten Free Foods

Mayra Robayo

We’ve all heard the proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” but how many of us actually put it to practice? Mayra Robayo does. After her daughter was diagnosed with an allergy to gluten, Robayo began making everything from scratch. But her son wanted good pancakes and the gluten-free ones she was making weren’t cutting it. After a lot of experimentation with different mixes, she created a pancake her son liked. Knowing how hard it is for families dealing with food allergies, she started Precise Gluten Free Foods in 2018 to share the mix with others. Robayo is off and running. In spring 2019, she added an oatmeal cookie mix to the line. Her mixes are gluten, nut, allergy and chemical free and can be found at local stores.

Even though this is Robayo’s first time exhibiting at the EXPO, she has been utilizing the resources available at the Miller Business Center for the past several months. Recently, she attended Grow Your Business with Google and learned that even without a retail location she could create a Google business page. Robayo says this doubled traffic to her website.

Kick off your holiday shopping at the 19th annual Women’s EXPO at the Middle Country Public Library, 101 Eastwood Blvd, Centereach on Thursday, Oct. 3, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free and there is ample parking. Lunch from the Fifth Season Restaurant will be available for purchase in the EXPO Café. For further information, call the library at 631-585-9393, ext. 296, or visit www.womensEXPOli.org.

All photos by Elizabeth Malafi

Photo by David Ackerman

The showers of sparks that rained down on our heads the night of Fourth of July were inspiring — grandiose and touching all at once. Fireworks and Independence Day go together like old friends, a tradition that touches the heart. Long Island is home to many of these shows, from the Bald Hill spectacle to the fireworks set off on the West Beach in Port Jefferson.

Then there are the smaller shows, the ones put on by the local neighborhoods in the cool of night. While the grand displays of the professional shows are like standing in the majesty under the lights of Times Square, the small community shows are more like candles set along the mantle in a dark room. Both can be spectacular in their own ways.

Though of course, one is done by amateurs, often in illegal circumstances. And even after the festivities, fireworks continue to light up the sky despite its danger and how it may impact the surrounding community.

Unlike other New York counties, Suffolk County has bans on sparklers, along with firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles, spinners and aerial devices. The Suffolk County Fire Marshals beg people to put down their own fireworks and attend one of the professionally manned shows.

And it seems they have had good reasons, both past and present, to press people for caution. Two women from Port Jefferson Station were injured with fireworks the night of July Fourth when one ended up in their backyard. While other media outlets reported only light injuries, in fact their injuries were much more severe, and readers will read that story in the coming week’s issue.

But of course, the injuries don’t just happen here on the North Shore. A 2018 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that in 2017, fireworks were involved in an estimated 12,900 injuries. Children under the age of 15 accounted for 36 percent of these injuries. Sparklers accounted for an estimated 1,200 emergency department-treated injuries.

And it’s not over yet. Even a week after July Fourth, fireworks continue to go up with sparks and bangs in the din of night.

Residents know to handle their pets scared by the booms of fireworks on Independence Day, but should they have to cower with their pets for days and days afterward?

And of course, that’s not even to mention U.S. veterans, many of whom know what they must do to stay safe if they are suffering from PTSD on July Fourth, but should they have to sequester themselves every day afterward for a week or more?

Sending up fireworks after July Fourth is inconsiderate, to say the least. We at TBR News Media beg people with excess fireworks to put them in packages or put them aside.

And next time July Fourth comes around, we urge caution when using these explosives. Nobody should have to find refuge from their neighbors on the day of the birth of this nation.

The Mulford Farmhouse. Photo from East Hampton Historical Society

By Nomi Dayan

Nomi Dayan

Before George Washington, Paul Revere and Alexander Hamilton, the first – and feistiest! – patriots were none other than Long Island whalers. The first Colonists were English Puritans who arrived to the east end of Long Island in 1640. At the time, the area was considered an extension of Connecticut and New England – seen as remote and separate from the Dutch-ruled western end of Lange Eylant. 

These pioneers were initially farmers, but they quickly became seasonal entrepreneurs after they noticed their enormous marine neighbors spouting by their shores: blubber-rich right whales.

Whaling companies were launched during the winter months, hunting whales in rowboats on frigid beaches with the labor of local Native Americans. In large iron trypots on the sand, whaling crews stewed blubber until it melted into liquid gold – whale oil. Whale oil was used chiefly for illumination, and later in time, for a variety of manufacturing purposes. Oil even served as a currency (local schoolteachers were paid in whale oil). 

For the next 20 years, Colonists worked to perfect this trade. Whaling quickly became part of community life, with required whale-spotting shifts from able-bodied men. School even let out from December to April so children could help spot and process whales. Oil was shipped to New England rather than New Amsterdam to avoid Dutch taxes.

This trade route was suddenly halted when new commerce rules were set in place by England. The entire Long Island was now a part of New York. All goods were to be exported through New York City. The whale was a “royal fish,” from which the crown demanded a 20 to 50 percent tax. Eastenders were horrified.   

The battle between whalers and England began. Whalers were outraged at taxation without representation – foreshadowing the defiant Boston Tea Party a century later. They rebelled by turning Long Island into a smuggler’s haven, avoiding taxes by continuing to ship their oil to Boston or New London.  

The Mulford Farmhouse is one of the oldest in Suffolk County

A string of upset New York governors tried to enforce the tax – generally unsuccessfully. When the Duke of York investigated how many whales were caught in the past 6 years – and what his share was – he found no records had been kept. Lord Cornbury, a later New York governor, whined that “the illegal trade” was still carrying on between Long Island and New England. 

With Colonists’ protests falling on deaf ears, the towns of East Hampton, Southampton and Southold bypassed the governor of New York and submitted a petition to the court of England to be made a free corporation or continue under Connecticut rule. Their detailed list of complaints is similar to the tune of complaints in the Declaration of Independence. Their plea was denied. Their solution? Ignore the whale tax anyway. 

Colonists continued to smuggle the majority of oil to New England. New York merchants themselves were also flouting the law, which required all international trade to go through England. Instead, they traded directly with the West Indies, exchanging whale oil for rum, sugar and cocoa. 

Taking international trade into their own hands, New Yorkers who felt particularly courageous loaded up their ships and sailed with their goods to Madagascar, where there was an anarchist colony of none other than – pirates! Doing business with pirates was highly profitable, since it was all tax free. An inspector noted that in 1695, Long Island “was a receptacle for pirates and the people generally a lawless and unruly set.”

Whalers continued to protest. One of the pluckiest whalers who objected to the whale tax was Samuel Mulford of East Hampton, who lived from 1644 to 1725. He was a bold and somewhat quirky fellow. He championed the cause of the whalers, himself a financially successful owner of a whaling company of 24 men. 

Elected as a representative to New York Assembly in 1683, Mulford was expelled from the assembly twice for his outspoken demands; Colonists simply re-elected him and sent him back. When he sailed to London to protest the whale oil tax, he sewed fishhooks in his pockets to deter pickpockets during his long wait outside Buckingham Palace. 

Ultimately, the crown eased taxation. Mulford didn’t get to see this victory, as this announcement came five years after his death. Encouragingly, various acts were passed by the British Parliament to support the lucrative whaling industry, but Colonists’ frustrations toward their relationship with England never really went away. During the Revolutionary War, which brought whaling to a standstill, locals repurposed whaleboats for guerilla warfare against British efforts.

After America won its independence, a new era opened for whaling. In 1785, The Lucy left Sag Harbor to whale offshore Brazil; she returned with an unprecedented 360 barrels of whale oil. Americans took notice. To encourage trade, George Washington then authorized the first lighthouse in New York State to be built, the Montauk Lighthouse. The hundreds of whaleships that followed The Lucy would have sailed home from their global voyages directed by this lighthouse – illuminated by none other than whale oil.

Nomi Dayan is the executive director at The Whaling Museum & Education Center.

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The annual fireworks show went off in Port Jefferson for Independence Day. Costs for the show was $20,000, provided by Bellport-based Fireworks by Grucci.

Lisa Gaines, mother of 7-year-old Victoria Gaines, who was killed in a July 4th boating tragedy in 2012 joined town and maritime community leaders at the Harbormaster’s office, where officials announced plans to increase enforcement against unsafe, intoxicated and speeding boaters in Huntington’s waterways during the 4th of July holiday week.  They also announced a joint initiative between Neptune Sail and Power Squadron and the town to provide advanced boating safety training under Huntington’s newly renamed Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program.

Gaines offered words of caution, including safety tips.

“You are responsible for the wake you leave behind,” and cautioned boat passengers not to assume the boat operator has taken all safety precautions, encouraging  passengers to “ask questions.”

On the evening of Thursday, July 4th, from 8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., the Town will be enforcing a temporary 5 mph boating speed limit in the certain zones as identified on a map, which is available on the town’s website HuntingtonNY.gov and its social media pages.

“The Town implements these temporary speed zones due to the overwhelming number of boats in Huntington’s waters–from 800 to 1,000 boats–for the Fourth of July celebration and the danger that a wake from a speeding boat creates, potentially destabilizing a smaller or overcrowded boat,” said Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “Sadly, this exact scenario tragically played out in 2012. Seven years ago, Lisa Gaines lost her daughter, Victoria, who was just days shy of her 8th birthday, when the boat they were on capsized in Oyster Bay after a Fourth of July fireworks display.”

Bay Constables will patrol the waters from 7:00 a.m. until 2 o’clock in the morning every day and will be on call 24/7.

“They [bay constables] will continue to support the Suffolk County Marine Bureau to crack down on speeders, intoxicated boaters, conducting boat stops and ensuring boats are operating safely to prevent unnecessary tragedies,” Lupinacci said.

Dom Spada, Acting Director of Maritime Services cautioned boaters planning to enter Huntington’s waterways for the 4th of July fireworks displays about tidal conditions.

“Later in the evening, around 10:30 p.m. on July 4, we will be experiencing mid-tide,” he said. “Rocks and jetties are barely covered by the water during mid-tide, so they may not be visible to boaters, but please stay in the channels and don’t cut your turns short.”

Senior Harbormaster Fred Uvena added that boaters can call the Harbormaster’s office on Channel 9 when their boats’ waste tanks are getting full.

“Please don’t dump your waste water into the harbor; these waterways are a precious natural resource‑we’ll send a pump out boat to you, just call us on Channel 9.”

The town’s map also lists eight boating emergency pickup locations: Powles Dock; Lloyd Neck Bath Club; Huntington Town Dock; Huntington Bay Club; Huntington Beach Community Association Dock; Northport Yacht Club; Soundview Boat Ramp; and Eaton’s Neck Coast Guard Station.

Uvena also advised boaters of the potential destruction a wake can create – even outside of the 5 mph zone – when hundreds of boats are in the water in close proximity. He gave additional safety tips and warned against BWI, boating while intoxicated.

“We will stop you, we will check you, we will bring you to shore, where we’ll do a field sobriety test, and you will be arrested.”

Supervisor Lupinacci also announced the launch of new advanced boating safety training courses offered at Town Hall to help boaters and passengers avoid tragedies on the water: “Under the banner of the Town’s Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program, I am pleased to announce that the Town is now offering advanced boating safety courses presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, which address planning for and troubleshooting boating emergencies – information that can save lives.”

Philip Quarles, Education Commander for Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, stated: “The Neptune Sail and Power Squadron was founded in 1938 and has been serving Town of Huntington for 83 years teaching boating safety and advanced boating courses. We are honored to be partnering with the Town of Huntington offering classes to residents. “Emergencies on Board” will be offered on August 12. You can learn more by visiting www.neptuneboatingclub.com.”

Gaines said she hopes boaters of all ages and levels of experience continue to educate themselves about boat safety.  She believes the new laws on the horizon will ultimately save lives.

“One never thinks this could happen to them and it absolutely can,” she said. “Have a fun and very safe holiday and summer to all.”

By Heidi Sutton

The Long Island State Veterans Home (LISVH) in Stony Brook honored our fallen heroes with a Memorial Day ceremony on May 24.

The special event featured speeches from Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley); Colonel James McDonough Jr., director of the New York State Division of Veterans Services; County Executive Steve Bellone (D); and was attended by many veterans living at the LISVH, elected officials including Assemblyman Steve Engelbright (D-Setauket) and Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) and many veteran service organization members. 

Rabbi Joseph Topek gave the invocation, Rev. Gregory Leonard gave the benediction, Father Thomas Tuite gave a Veterans Prayer and Lee Ann Brill, Miss NY Senior America 2017, sang lovely renditions of “Star Spangled Banner,” “Wind Beneath My Wings, “Amazing Grace and “God Bless America.”

The afternoon commenced with a wreath laying ceremony conducted by James Carbone, World War II veteran and LISVH member, at the Walk of Heroes on the grounds; a color guard, firing detail and taps memorial by Marine Corps League East End Detachment 642, and a “Tolling of the Bells” memorial service led by LTC Marion McEntee, deputy director of nursing at the LISVH.

Rabbi Topek said it best in his opening prayer. “Today we remember those who have laid down their lives in service of our country, who in the words of President Lincoln have laid the most costly sacrifice upon the altar of freedom … May we the citizens of the United States remain mindful of those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom in the many conflicts of the past — Veterans of World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, Persian Gulf War … May their memories always be a blessing to our nation today and every day.”

Photos courtesy of Doreen Guma and Congressman Zeldin’s office

In honor of Memorial Day, Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park hosted its annual Parade of Flags, while VFW’s in Rocky Point and Sound Beach took the time May 27 to memorialize those servicemen and servicewomen lost throughout the years.

Joe Cognitore, the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 in Rocky Point, read the names of 204 people who have died in the service of the U.S., with each set of names said to the sound of a bell. He said the number of names he reads every Memorial Day grows every year.

Over in Sound Beach, the Sound Beach Civic, along with members of the Sound Beach Fire Department, hosted their own ceremony at the Sound Beach Veterans Memorial. Flags flew at half mast, but veterans of each branch of service, from the U.S. Military, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, helped raise each of the flags high to the bright, sunny sky. Members of the Miller Place Boy Scouts of America Troop 204 played an echo version of taps.

“Flowers, memorials and flags at half staff, and the sad notes of taps, as meaningful as they are, they are not enough,” Cognitore said. What we really must do to honor their sacrifice is to live what they died for.”

 

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Members and compatriots of the American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432 in Port Jefferson Station hosted their annual Memorial Day commemoration at Veterans Memorial Park right in front of Port Jefferson Harbor.

After a presentation of the colors and the wreath laying, veterans moved the flags to half-mast. The group moved onto the Three Village area, where they participated in the unveiling of a newly rejuvenated veterans memorials in Stony Brook Village and the Setauket Village Green. The work is being done with the efforts of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and several local veteran groups and has been funded through outside donations. This first phase of the project was completed by Memorial Day, and the second phase is expected to revitalize the Setauket Veterans Memorial Park and the Port Jefferson Veterans Memorial Park by Veterans Day this fall.

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Craig McNabb with former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Photo from Rich Acritelli

By Rich Acritelli

“Each of the patriots whom we remember on this day was first a beloved son or daughter, a brother or sister, or a spouse, friend and neighbor.”

The above feelings were expressed by former President George H.W. Bush, who was a combat aviator during World War II in the Pacific and in Asia.  These national sentiments will be felt this week as people will begin to reflect on contributions that have been made by members of every armed service to protect American ideals. While this holiday was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, every year the United States pauses to honor all of the men and women who have militarily sacrificed for our country. This Monday, veterans from across this country will recall their own efforts of service at home and abroad.

The Cognitore family. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Joe Cognitore, now the commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 in Rocky Point,  grew up playing football and running track at Farmingdale High School.  Once he graduated in 1964, he went to Dakota Wesleyan University in South Dakota and was drafted into the army in 1969 towards the end of the Vietnam War. Cognitore is an extremely likable figure who has always been drawn toward leadership positions. This was no different in South Vietnam, as he was a platoon sergeant involved in heavy fighting against the Vietcong and North Vietnamese army in Cambodia. For his efforts to care for his men and to distinguish himself in battle, the VFW commander was awarded the Bronze Star.

Once Cognitore returned home from South Vietnam, he wanted to get back to civilian life, to get a job and start a family. This longtime management figure for Coca-Cola was briefly a substitute social studies teacher in Longwood, where he enjoyed working with students and coaching them in sports. Cognitore is one of the many 2.5 million Vietnam veterans who were not warmly received by the American public once they arrived home. Unlike the World War II veterans who were thrown parades and given yellow ribbons, some of these veterans were cast aside by a government that wanted to forget this Cold War struggle.  For two decades, Cognitore coped with the war through the love of his wife Cathy and his two boys Joseph and Christopher. For 31 years, Cognitore was employed at Coca-Cola, where he was promoted to management positions.

It was not until Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 that Cognitore became a major figure within the Rocky Point VFW post. Next to other veterans, Cognitore raised money for necessary materials that were sent to local residents who were deployed during the military campaigns of Desert Storm and Shield. The VFW commander  was also a key figure to raise funds for the athletic programs of Rocky Point High School when it faced austerity in the early 1990s. Since the moment that Hussein started the Gulf War, Cognitore has constantly been a vital fixture at this post to greatly help the communities of the North Shore.

It is the daily routine of Cognitore to attend meetings at government buildings in Hauppauge or Albany, or speak with political leaders in Washington D.C., addressing veterans affairs. While he is now in his 70s, Cognitore has shown no signs of slowing down and ensuring the men and women who have been deployed since the War on Terror began are adequately cared for by this country. For the last 12 years, Cognitore assisted the organization of a Wounded Warrior Golf Outing that has raised more than $200,000 for those local citizens who have returned home with traumatic injuries. His VFW also sponsored the creation of one of the largest 9/11 memorials in Suffolk County at the Diamond in the Pines Park in Coram. Most recently, Post 6249 was a sponsor to ensure that the Rocky Point High School Veterans Wall of Honor was properly funded to build this structure for past, present and future service members. 

In the summer, this veterans organization, spearheaded by Cognitore, has also been the driving force behind the Rocky Point concert series that has brought in talented musicians like Mike DelGiudice’s Billy Joel Big Shot band. And closer to home, his son Joseph has just been promoted to the rank of colonel and he graduated from the immensely difficult Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  He is a proud grandfather who has always wanted to help others.

John Fernandez. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Another local veteran who fondly looks at Memorial Day with extreme pride is Shoreham resident John Fernandez. This talented lacrosse player and wrestler graduated from Rocky Point High School in 1996 and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2001. When he was deciding which college to attend, Fernandez was influenced by the wartime involvement of his older family members to achieve a military education. On this date, Fernandez thinks about both of his grandfathers who fought during World War II in the Pacific and in Anzio, Italy.  

Fernandez left the academy in June 2001, and with Shoreham resident Gabriel “Buddy” Gengler, they drove to their first training station at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  While both men were from the rival schools of Rocky Point and Shoreham-Wading River, they share a tremendous bond with each other. For more than a decade, they have tirelessly pushed for increased awareness to properly assist soldiers gravely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. They represent the newest generation of veterans who are motivated to ensure the strength of this nation at home and abroad.

It was at Fort Sill that Fernandez was instructed in the operation and firing of artillery guns. As he left West Point during a time of peace, this quickly changed on Sept. 11, 2001.  This young officer continued his development by being sent to Fort Irwin in California, where Fernandez participated in major war games. He learned the significance of logistics, supply, armor, infantry and artillery at these exercises. A short time later, he was ordered to Fort Knox where he instructed West Point cadets. As a lacrosse captain in high school and college, Fernandez is a natural-born leader who enjoyed guiding these prospective officers. In 2003, Fernandez was handpicked to be a platoon leader of an artillery battery that opened the primary attack into Iraq during the Second Gulf War.

Once this assault began, this talented lacrosse player who was known as “Spanish Lightning” headed north with thousands of other soldiers towards Baghdad. On April 3, 2003 as his artillery guns were preparing to shell and eventually take Hussein’s national airport near the capital, Fernandez was severely wounded. As he was cared for in the field by the medics, the very next day this vital objective was taken by American soldiers. While Fernandez was treated in Iraq and Kuwait, the war was over for him. His injuries were so severe that he eventually lost the complete use of the lower portion of his legs.  

Ever the optimist, Fernandez stated that he received a tremendous amount of attention from the moment that he was hit to the time that he spent at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. He was later transferred to a larger military medical facility in Bethesda, Maryland, which was better equipped to treat the increased number of casualties from the increased fighting. Once he received his prosthetic legs, Fernandez returned back to his sweetheart Kristi, rented a home in Rocky Point and began physical therapy.  Although he was terribly hurt in Iraq, Fernandez positively identified how fast he was discharged from this hospital and it fostered a faster return home to rehabilitate on his own.  The VFW under Cognitore wanted to properly ensure that Fernandez was thanked by this community. Outside of Post 6249, Cognitore successfully petitioned the Town of Brookhaven to rename the local street in the honor of Fernandez.  

The following year after he was hurt in Iraq, Fernandez’s daughter Madison was born in 2004. The vet went back to school at Dowling where he earned his master’s degree in education to teach mathematics. Along the way, John continued the process of walking again and his high school lacrosse coach Michael P. Bowler never doubted the drive of his former player.  

“John was one of the most determined and courageous athletes that was ever my privilege to coach to exceptional athlete, student and most importantly — a genuine good man,” Bowler said. 

In 2006, he was offered a position to work for the Wounded Warrior Project. It was at this charitable organization that Fernandez raised money and awareness to assist returning veterans who endured overwhelming medical difficulties. Armed with a big smile and a can-do attitude, Fernandez sat in meetings with major corporate leaders, politicians and owners of the National Football League. Just recently, he met President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence.  Today, Fernandez has a family of five children, and enjoys coaching his kids, going on school trips and speaking about his experiences at his former high school and around the nation.  His eyes are always set to help all of those members of the armed forces who have endured combat-related hardships through their defense of the U.S.

The LaRusso boys, with Kevin second from left. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Another graduate of Rocky Point High School who also attended the West Point Military Academy was Kevin LoRusso. Like Fernandez, he was a talented athlete who excelled at soccer, wrestling and lacrosse. This student-athlete was known as K-Lo, and was well-liked for his calm presence during all athletic competitions. After a year at the prep school for this military academy, LoRusso entered West Point in 2005. Although he was also recruited by the Naval Academy to play lacrosse, this cadet chose Army, as he did not want to compete against his older brother Nicholas who was a goalie on this team. This dynamic athlete had won more than 100 wrestling matches in high school and was later determined to win a national championship at West Point.  He was one of many Rocky Point lacrosse players who attended this school and was later named captain for his leadership skills. While LoRusso was a competitive lacrosse player who loved this sport, his true responsibilities rested in being a devoted army officer.

LoRusso is one of four brothers, including Nicholas, Brian and Larry, who all attended West Point and played lacrosse. Three of them became artillery officers. The oldest brother Nicholas is a major who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a combat engineer. From 2010-2012, LoRusso was deployed to Afghanistan and to Germany, serving in the northeastern part of Afghanistan near Mazar-i-Sharif. This area is a unique combination of desert, mountains and flat plains. There, LoRusso encountered heavy fighting against the Taliban, which widely contested the strength of American forces in this region. As LoRusso is known for his calmness, he is sometimes reminded of the fighting when fireworks are unexpectedly detonated near him. This combat veteran took advantage of being sent to Germany where LoRusso and his buddies traveled to more than thirty nations.  He has the fond memories of being with his army friends as they visited France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands and Turkey.  On Memorial Day, LoRusso goes about his daily routines, but always in the back of his mind he thinks of the contributions that have been made by his family and friends who wore a uniform and sacrificed for this country.

Craig R. McNabb was an active kid who participated in football and baseball at Rocky Point High School. As he grew up with his friends and nearby family members, he was always eager to join the army. His father, Craig Sr., worked as a Suffolk County sheriff and he was a member of the Army National Guard that was ordered to Kuwait.   Like Fernandez, McNabb was one of the earliest soldiers into Iraq during the start of the second Gulf War. Ten years later and during his senior year, McNabb enlisted into the same type of Army National Guard unit and occupation that his father held as a combat military officer.

Directly after he graduated high school, McNabb finished his basic training and advanced individual training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. For two years, he was one of the younger combat military officers in his National Guard unit based out of Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn. In 2016, McNabb was handpicked to be deployed to Afghanistan to carry out the sensitive security details of protecting American generals from every branch and foreign dignitaries. With his team, McNabb was responsible for protecting former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and James Mattis. McNabb was sent to a NATO military base in Kabul to carry out this vital mission to ensure the security of leaders that were defying the Taliban.

Craig McNabb in Afghanistan. Photo from Rich Acritelli

For about a year, McNabb ran more than 700 missions to ensure that these key figures were able to carry out their business within that perilous county. Currently, McNabb is a specialist/E-4 and he will soon be eligible to be promoted as a sergeant. This North Shore family shares a rare military bond that is not always seen. After the 9/11 attacks, McNabb was quickly sent into New York City to help the people who were suffering from the terrorist attack. He spent 15 months fighting in Iraq, where he traveled to every major Iraqi city, cleared homes that were occupied by insurgents, conducted patrols and trained police.  There is a unique family connection towards this military police job to assist American army forces in their mission to not only fight, but to provide a better life for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.

This capable young man is still serving in the National Guard and only a couple of months ago, McNabb became a Suffolk County correctional officer. While he is still a young man, McNabb has immensely grown through his experiences in the military, where he has matured into a seasoned veteran. He would like people to think about the importance of Memorial Day and thank those people who have fought in distant lands to ensure that our way of life is not threatened.  

Thank you to all of the veterans of the Armed Forces who continually make this nation proud of their unyielding spirit to always strengthen the resolve of the U.S.  As a North Shore community, we do not have to look far to see the many numerous examples of patriotism as we remember our military on Memorial Day 2019.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.