Veterans

Brookhaven Town will be accepting donations for its food drive to benefit veterans from June 11-29. File photo

Town of Brookhaven’s Division of Veterans Services will be holding a food drive for vets in need from June 11 to 29. Last year’s food drive provided more than 300 bags of food to veterans and their families and was so
successful that the town decided to make it an annual drive.

“Brookhaven Town is home to veterans who have selflessly and courageously served our country,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “Many of them need assistance, and when provided with an opportunity, Brookhaven residents always rise to the occasion to help our neighbors in need. I want to thank the Division of Veterans Services and our local VFW representatives for working together to organize this initiative.”

Drop off points for the food drive are:

•Brookhaven Town Hall at 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville

•Henrietta Acampora Recreation Center at 39 Montauk Highway in Blue Point

•Brookhaven Town Highway Department at 1140 Old Town Road in Coram

•Rose Caracappa Senior Center at 739 Route 25A in Mount Sinai

Suggested nonperishables items include, but are not limited to, canned soups, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, cereal, oatmeal and rice. If you would like to find out more information about this food drive or other services provided by the Division of Veterans Services call 631-451-6574. 

“Brookhaven veterans and their families have sacrificed so much, and it is gratifying to know this drive will provide them with some much-needed relief,” said Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge). “I encourage residents to donate to this very worthy program and for our veterans to contact the town’s veteran services to find out what benefits you may be entitled to.” 

Hundreds of St. James residents wore red, white and blue this Memorial Day to pay solemn remembrance to those who have served our country.

St. James held its annual Memorial Day parade and remembrance ceremony May 28. The parade stepped off from Woodlawn and Lake avenues at 10 a.m. featuring local marching bands, fire departments and both Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.

The community gathered for a wreath-laying ceremony outside Saint James Elementary School. Each veterans group laid a wreath to honor its members, before the names of each member of the services who had passed away in the last year was read while a bell was rung.

Hundreds of Northport residents lined the village streets to honor those who serve our country and have
made the ultimate sacrifice this Memorial Day.

Northport held is annual Memorial Day parade and services May 28, led and organized by Northport American Legion Post 694. The parade stepped off at 10 a.m. from Laurel Avenue School.  As the parade wound its way into the village, members of the American Legion stopped at various memorials throughout town to lay wreaths to honor veterans. One of the wreaths laid was in memory of U.S. airman Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, also a New York City and Commack firefighter, who died in the line of duty March 15.

Raguso was one of seven members of New York’s 106th rescue unit killed in the line-of-duty March 15 when a H-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed while carrying out a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, an American-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, according to the United States Department of Defense.

Plan calls for the hiring of 40 additional engineers and police department staff

A temporary heating and air conditioning unit installed at the homeless shelter of Northport VA medical center. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The new leadership at the reigns of the 90-year-old Northport VA Medical Center has unveiled a three-year plan aimed at making $21 million in repairs to address critical infrastructural and staffing concerns.

Director Scott Guermonprez said since taking up the position in June 2017, he has drafted together a plan that looks to address the out-of-date utilities systems and crumbling buildings that led to the closure of its homeless veterans housing in January, and a brief shutdown of its operating rooms in February.

““We have to figure out how we focus on the resources we have and use them as quickly and prudently as possible.”
– Scott Guermonprez

“There was a facility condition assessment done last year that came out that said if we were to try to fully rehabilitate the entire campus it would cost more than $450 million, or to try to build a new one would cost more than $1 billion,” Guermonprez said. “We have to figure out how we focus on the resources we have and use them as quickly and prudently as possible.”

There are approximately $7 million in projects getting underway this year, according to the director, which includes replacing four of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning units of the main medical center as well as a new roof.

The VA director said they had also received approximately $1.1 million to renovate the homeless veterans shelter, run by the nonprofit Beacon House, with new ductwork and an electronically controlled heating and cooling system. The work is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, according to Guermonprez.

The director said the three-year plan also calls for hiring 40 additional engineering and trade staff to oversee maintenance and upkeep of the 71-building campus under its new Chief Engineer Oscar Prue.

“[Prue] has been very successful in overseeing a large number of projects over multiple years and multiple locations,” Guermonprez said, noting he’s worked on VA medical centers in Albany and Syracuse.

“While this VA has plenty of work ahead of them, I am confident that they have a plan and are moving in the right direction…”
– Tom Suozzi

The first major project Prue is expected to tackle is the demolition of long-abandoned Buildings 1 and 2 which housed the facility’s original hospital, standing opposite the current medical center.

“It’s an eyesore,” the director said. “One of the biggest complaints we’ve had with Northport is insufficient parking. When it was built nearly 40 years ago, the intent was to demolish those buildings. It never happened.”

He anticipates the Department of Veterans Affairs will give him clearance to move forward shortly, with demolition tentatively scheduled to start in the late fall. These two of the 428 buildings nationwide the Veterans Administration has plans to demolish or repurpose. The space cleared will be converted to additional parking space for the medical center, allowing a few hundred spaces to be added.

“We want to add valet parking,” Guermonprez said. “We have the largest number of veterans over 80 years old in the New York-New Jersey health care system. We want to make it easier for them.”

Adding more parking and upgrading the heating and cooling systems will allow Northport VA to consolidate its medical treatment services into the medical center. Currently some programs like the outpatient mental health services and opthamology are in outlying buildings.

“[W]e are expanding police services given the unfortunate incidents occurring across the nation with shootings as we want to keep our veterans safe.
– Colleen Luckner

“While this VA has plenty of work ahead of them, I am confident that they have a plan and are moving in the right direction to ultimately upgrade and restore these facilities so that they can properly serve and honor our veterans here and in the community,” Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said after touring the VA facility with the director in late April.

Other key components of the VA’s three-year plan include replacing the campus’s steam vents and expanding its security force to deal with modern threats, said Colleen Luckner, associate director of Northport VA.

“In addition to the construction projects, we are expanding police services given the unfortunate incidents occurring across the nation with shootings as we want to keep our veterans safe,” Luckner said.

The Northport VA will be hiring on additional staff for its police department as well as implementing new systems such as additional cameras, panic alarms and other such measures.
Later this year, the Northport VA expects to celebrate the grand opening of expansion of its Riverhead outpatient clinic to include more physical therapy space and hearing services in July, before adding physical therapy, occupational therapy and more services to its Patchogue location.

New Ground held a ribbon cutting ceremony at its Huntington transitional home for homeless veterans. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Two United States military veterans and their families will be the joining the Huntington community shortly as they take the keys to their new home.

New Ground, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing veteran homelessness, held a ribbon cutting ceremony May 14 to celebrate the completion of its new two-family Rockne Street transitional home.

“This is such a big deal for us,” said Shannon Boyle, executive director of the nonprofit. “This is our first residential property although we’ve been providing services to homeless veterans and their families for over two decades.”

“This is our first residential property although we’ve been providing services to homeless veterans and their families for over two decades.”
– Shannon Boyle

Boyle said her Levittown-based organization will work in collaboration with the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program offered by Northport VA’s Housing and Urban Development department to provide a place to live for homeless vets while they receive educational training, social services and financial literacy training.

“Out of the 62 counties in New York state, Suffolk County leads not only in terms of veterans in population, but also in the number of homeless veterans,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “It’s great that this two-family home will provide those coming back an opportunity to raise a family in a great neighborhood.”

The home’s first residents are expected to move in June 1, according to Boyle, of which one family has already been identified. She said the veteran is a single mother who is raising two daughters, ages 5 and 7. The girls will be enrolled in Harborfields school district.

“Through Northport VA’s VASH program, the homeless veterans receive a voucher to help afford rent while receiving educational services,” Boyle said.

The veteran is meeting with a social worker from New Ground every week to create and outline a series of goals while studying for her college entrance exams, according to Boyle. The family is anticipated to live in the home for a period of three to five years before being able to afford to rent a market-rate apartment or become homeowners.

It’s great that this two-family home will provide those coming back an opportunity to raise a family in a great neighborhood.”
– Chad Lupinacci

Boyle said a second veteran and his or her family has not yet been identified and approved, but several candidates are currently in the process of being interviewed and screened.

“This is really going to be a miracle in these families lives,” U.S. Rep Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said. “A miracle like this only happens when people at New Grounds and the supporting groups put in the effort.

Boyle said New Ground was able to complete the house thanks to Grant Havasy, managing partner of Blue & Gold Homes in Huntington, donating his time as general contractor overseeing the project. Other companies including AvalonBay Communities, Appliance World, Cosentino, Eagle Electrical Group Inc., and Prince Carpet & Floors also donated products and services.

“On behalf of all the veteran families who will reside in this home as they work to put their lives back on track and establish a brighter future, I extend a heartfelt thank you to all who have made this possible,” Boyle said. “The outpouring of generosity has been tremendous from so many individuals and businesses that we have been able to transform this house beyond what we had dreamed possible.”

Clarence Beavers was the last surviving original member of the first all African-American parachute unit

A secluded Kings Park trail was dedicated to honor a Huntington veteran, who is remembered as “humble” and yet “a trailblazer” by his family and friends.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation unveiled a plaque April 20 dedicating the walking path of the Kings Park Unique Area off Meadow Road to Sgt. Clarence Beavers. He was the last surviving original member of the first class of African-American paratroopers from the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, known better as the Triple Nickles. He died Dec. 4, 2017. “This is a long overdue honor to someone who obviously was a great American and a hometown hero here in Suffolk County,” said Peter Scully, the county’s deputy executive.

During World War II, Beavers and his fellow paratroopers worked jointly with the U.S. military and United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service on Operation Firefly in 1945. Their mission, as smokejumpers, was to respond to any threat or fires caused by the Japanese incendiary bomb attacks on the nation’s western forests.

“My father would be honored, very honored. It was very important to him that the 555th [battalion] and what they did be remembered.”
– Charlotta Beavers

In the summer of 1945, the Triple Nickle paratroopers responded to 36 fires and made more than 1,200 jumps, according to Deidra McGee, the U.S. Forest Services’ liaison for the Triple Nickles. McGee said the unit also led the way in the racial desegregation of the military starting in 1948.

“As people come and enjoy this beautiful trail, they can think of Sgt. Beavers and what he worked so hard to protect for all of us, the beautiful forests of the United States, particularly the west coast,” said state Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James). “It’s an appropriate tribute.”

The Kings Park Unique Area is a 69-acre green space where residents can hike, bow hunt and go wildlife watching. The 0.3-mile trail dedicated to Beavers is handicapped accessible and features an interpretive kiosk that tells the story of the Triple Nickles. The site was chosen because it’s the closest state-owned woodlands to his home, according to DEC spokesman Bill Fonda.

“My father would be honored, very honored,” his daughter Charlotta Beavers said. “It was very important to him that the 555th [battalion] and what they did be remembered.”

Lelena Beavers said she and her husband, Clarence, moved to Huntington in the late 1980s, after he finished his military service, to raise their five daughters and son. He continued to work for the federal government in the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense working as a computer systems analyst and programmer.

“He was a man of faith, a man of courage, and a true leader in his community.”
– Rev. James Rea, Jr.

“Wherever he went, he would always get involved in the community,” his daughter Charlotta Beavers said.

Rev. James Rea,Jr., of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Huntington Station, recalled how Beavers played a pivotal role in helping the church after fire approximately 25 years ago when it was without a pastor.

“Clarence Beavers stepped up out of the ashes, not afraid of the fire or the smoke, and had the leadership that was necessary to have the church restored,” the pastor said. “He was a man of faith, a man of courage, and a true leader in his community.”

Beavers was also a member of the American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244, involved in the Wyandanch Reserve Officers’ Training Corps., and helped found the 555th Parachute Infantry Association, Inc. and traveled nationally speaking about the unit.

“We owe a great deal of gratitude to Mr. Beavers that those who served in a secret war, jumping into fires in near impossible conditions while fighting racism at every turn,” said Smithtown Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R). “Everyone here tell his story, tell their story to everyone you meet, and let it be known that courage has no color

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin speaks about the expansion of the VetsSuccess on Campus program to Suffolk and Nassau community colleges at a press conference in Selden April 4. Photo from Lee Zeldin

Students who have served and their families are receiving some transitional support.

U.S. Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Peter King (R-Seaford) announced the expansion of the VetsSuccess on Campus program to Suffolk and Nassau County community colleges. The initiative, through the Department of Veterans Affairs, helps veterans, service members and their qualified dependents succeed in school using a coordinated delivery of on-campus benefits assistance, including referral services and peer-to-peer counseling. The program is intended to lead students to graduation and prepare them to enter the workforce in viable careers.

Services may be accessed by:

  • Service members and veterans eligible for any of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs educational programs, including Post 9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill
  • Service members and veterans attended training through the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program
  • Eligible dependents of veterans who are in receipt of VA education benefits, including spouses attending school through the Post 9/11 GI Bill and eligible children

“Our nation’s servicemen and women put their lives on the line to protect us, and when they return home, they have earned nothing less than our unwavering support when transitioning back into civilian life,” Zeldin said during an announcement of the program’s expansion at Suffolk County Community College April 4. “The expansion of the VetsSuccess on Campus program means local veterans here at Suffolk and Nassau will have access to an even wider rage of tools at their disposal to help them transition into their new lives after military service.”

Suffolk County is home to the largest number of veterans in the state. SCCC serves more than 700 military-connected students annually across three campuses, and NCCC serves more than 300.

Students like retired Air Force Master Sgt. Olivia McMahon benefit from the program, and she said she’s thrilled to hear that what she was once provided remote access to will now feature a more personal connection to resources and benefits.

“As a single working parent and veteran, I cannot stress enough the importance of this program,” the SCCC student said. “It allows us to reach our educational goals and further educate our community.”

VetsSuccess on-ampus counselors provide:

  • Adjustment counseling to resolve problems interfering with completion of educational programs and entrance into employment
  • Vocational testing
  • educational and career counseling
  • Expedited VR&E services
  • Support and assistance to all veterans with VA benefits regardless of entitlement, benefit usage or enrollment status

Christopher Holder, the VetsSuccess on-campus program counselor, was at the April 4 press conference to talk to veterans about his position in the program and share firsthand experience with re-acclimating to society.

“As a veteran, as a disabled veteran, I have made the transition these students are making now,” he said. “I hope that my experience on both sides, as a veteran and as an administrator, will help these veterans make theirs.”

During the event, Zeldin and King presented SCCC Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Christopher Adams, with an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the expansion of the program and to honor the veterans it serves.

“Suffolk County Community College has a long history of assisting student veterans and maximizing their benefits and achieving their educational goals,” Adams said. “They deserve it and we are honored to be able to recognize their service to our country in this way.”

VetsSuccess on Campus began as a pilot program in 2009 at the University of South Florida in Tampa and has expanded to such an extent that SCCC and Nassau are now two of 99 colleges in the nation with the program.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, standing, visits with James and Noreen Saladino after the couple shared how adult day health care has helped them face service-related health issues in 2016. File photo by Phil Corso

By Alex Petroski

Disabled veterans received some good news March 28.

President Donald Trump (R) signed the Adult Day Health Care Act into law this week, a bipartisan bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) that will expand access to health care for disabled veterans who need extra assistance and special attention in their daily lives, according to a press release from Zeldin’s office.

“This is important legislation that provides a valuable and necessary service to our nation’s veterans,” Zeldin said in a statement. “By expanding access to [the] Adult Day Health Care [Act], we can ensure that all veterans receive the best and most efficient outpatient services that provide each veteran with the assistance and special attention they need, while still allowing them to maintain their independence.”

The bill defines the program as a reimbursable treatment option through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Previously, the program was only accessible for disabled veterans at three state veterans homes in the country, leaving the expense of health care oftentimes directly shouldered by the veteran and his or her family, according to the press release. One of the three homes was Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook.

The Adult Day Health Care Act provides comprehensive medical and personal care combined with engaging social activities for the physically or cognitively impaired, as well as an array of therapies and counseling.

With the passage of the bill, now those who are 70 percent or more disabled as a result of their service are able to access the in-home day care at no cost at any of the 153 state veterans homes in the U.S.

“I am grateful to Congressman Zeldin for having the foresight to introduce this bill on behalf of all severely service-connected veterans who reside in state veterans homes across the country,” Vietnam veteran and patient of the Stony Brook facility Al Anderson said in a statement. “The bottom line is that this legislation will allow me to return home to my family while still having the ability to receive essential services through the Adult Day Health Care program. I can keep my chronic conditions in check and still enjoy the comforts of my own home.”

Fred Sganga, director of the Long Island State Veterans Home, also thanked Zeldin for his efforts in advancing the legislation.

“This legislation helps to restore a veteran’s freedom to remain an active member of their community even after succumbing to the perils of military service,” he said. “Congressman Zeldin never forgets the sacrifice of brave women and men who donned the uniform to protect the freedoms we all enjoy today.”

The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

“Our nation’s veterans and their dedicated families have sacrificed enough,” Zeldin said. “This bill will give veterans the care they have earned while providing families with the support and relief they need to help their veteran loved ones to lead a fulfilling life, while keeping families together and strong.”

When Charles Murphy returned home to Northport in 1971 after serving 14 months in the Vietnam War, he wasn’t greeted with open arms or hand shakes. In fact, it was just the opposite.

“There was no band, no rallies, no thank you’s,” said Murphy, 68, an Army veteran. “You went back into the population and tried to cope with who you were. And you were a different person then. As a group, we Vietnam vets got the short end of the stick.”

Thomas Semkow, 71, who was in Vietnam between 1968 and 1969, said he remembers being looked down on when he came home.

“People weren’t very nice to us,” the Wading River resident said. “We were the outcasts of society.”

But Aug. 1 — more than 50 years since members of the U.S. Armed Forces first set foot on the battlegrounds in Vietnam — Murphy, Semkow and dozens of other Vietnam veterans within Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 and beyond finally got the recognition they’ve always deserved.

“People weren’t very nice to us. We were the outcasts of society.”

—Thomas Semkow

It happened during the intermission of  Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and the VFW’s annual Rocky Point free concert series.

Each of them stood together in front of a grand stage outside St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church as Anker and Military Liaison Steven Castleton presented Vietnam veteran lapel pins on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense and a special proclamation signed by President Barack Obama in 2012. Family members of veterans were also honored.

The veterans smiled with gratitude and hundreds of residents applauded as they received the accolades. Part of the proclamation read, “Let us strive to live up to their example by showing our Vietnam veterans, their families, and all who have served the fullest respect and support of a grateful nation.”

“I salute you all, thank you for your service … and welcome home,” said Joe Cognitore, the VFW post commander.

Cognitore, who served in an Army reconnaissance unit in Vietnam between 1969 and 1971, said the VFW has been putting on summer concerts for the community for more than 10 years and was excited at the prospect of giving back to those who warrant the attention.

“They were never welcomed home, and so I’m anxious to see them all come up tonight,” Cognitore said earlier in the evening. “Us Vietnam veterans look out for the guys and girls that are out serving now — we’re dedicating our lives to help them. Men and women who serve today are just unbelievable and we don’t want anything to happen to them like it happened to us.”

“Us Vietnam veterans look out for the guys and girls that are out serving now — we’re dedicating our lives to help them.”

—Joe Cognitore

Daniel Guida, of Shoreham, was an Army lieutenant in 1967 and 1968. He said it felt really good to be recognized not just with medals, but love and support from the community.

“Recently, when I had my Vietnam veteran hat on walking into K-Mart, six or seven people thanked me and wanted to shake my hand before I even got in the store,” Guida said. “That’s a foreign concept to me and it really brings a certain reality to what you did and shows that people do appreciate it.”

Members from the Long Island Young Marines stood holding flags during the concert’s opening pledge of allegiance and “God Bless America” performance before Cognitore addressed all the veterans in the crowd, from those who served in World War II to those currently enlisted.

The pin and proclamation ceremony ended with residents and veterans holding hands in a large group circle, swaying and raising them in the air to the chorus of the Southbound band’s cover of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

“We’re all forever brothers,” Murphy said of his fellow Vietnam veterans. “No matter where we go. Forever brothers. We’re the only ones who know what we dealt with.”

The Cognitore family, including United States Army Reserve veteran Joseph Cognitore Jr., pictured in uniform; and Chris Schulman, pictured surprising his sister Lisa during Rocky Point's 2017 graduation ceremony, share their Rocky Point roots and military service in common. Photo on left from Cognitore; file photo on right by Bill Landon

By Rich Acritelli

As our nation commemorates the anniversary of our fight for independence July 4th, there are many examples of military service that would make our Founding Fathers proud. The sacrifices that are made by our local citizens to protect this country should not be overlooked or forgotten.

At Rocky Point High School’s 2017 graduation ceremony, senior Lisa Schuchman was surprised to be reunited with her brother, Chris, who has been serving overseas in the United States Air Force. It had been three years since Chris traveled home from his duty station in Germany to see his loved ones in Sound Beach. As his former teacher and baseball coach, Chris is a sincere young man who represents all that is right with America. For the people gathered on the special occasion, myself included, it was an honor to witness the special moment for Chris, Lisa and their family. The big smile that beamed across Chris’s face for the crowded gym to see was characteristic of his genuine demeanor that I remember.

He was a kid who always hustled, never made excuses and was an outstanding teammate on and off the baseball field. Walking around the hallways of Rocky Point, Chris demonstrated a respect that was second to none and a smile that was contagious among his friends. It seemed like yesterday that his buddies Danny Capell, Jonathan Popko and Steven Soltysik could count on the outstanding attributes of “Schucky” to be an outstanding friend and teammate. When Chris told me that he was going to enlist in the Air Force, as his teacher, coach and a veteran, it was easy to understand that like with baseball, he would flourish in the military. He was a student who always understood the differences between right and wrong and a kid who was motivated to serve his nation.

Two months after he graduated, Chris completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. For Chris, this was one of his proudest accomplishments, as it solidified the discipline and structure that he learned in order to fulfill his future duties. When he completes his active duty obligation in 2019, it is his goal to return to civilian life to become a police officer and continue to serve in the Air Force Reserves.

“It is my fondest memories of the local kid who always shook my hand as a student, looked me in the eye and now answers ‘yes sir’ to many of the questions asked of him.”

— Rich Acritelli

Over the last three years, Chris has spent most of this time in Germany at the huge military base at Ramstein and at Kaiserslautern where he currently serves. He has handled the internal security for the air installations and worked with German police authorities to ensure that American military personnel are properly following the laws within the country.

From November 2014 to May 2015, Chris was deployed to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. He remained on base to ensure the safety of the American and NATO forces who count on the vital post for resources, reinforcements and logistical support. During his deployment, Chris recalled the presence of the enemy through the constant mortar attacks the Taliban waged against the mostly western forces that have been in Afghanistan since October 2001. Although he endured the frigid weather and snow, Chris vividly described the beauty of the mountains that were always nearby. His long-term deployment in Germany has allowed him the chance to travel to Ireland, France, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Norway and the Netherlands. He has said he thoroughly enjoyed the ability to travel, learn about the different cultures, understand the German language and, with his big smile, he met a lovely German young lady who is studying to become a nurse.

Speaking with Chris, it is evident he fully understands the attention to detail required of his security forces job through the measured responses he provided about his time in Germany and Afghanistan. It is my fondest memories of the local kid who always shook my hand as a student, looked me in the eye and now answers “yes sir” to many of the questions asked of him. While his parents are very proud of every one of their children, you can tell the immense satisfaction that his father holds when he describes the experiences his son has gained through his service to America.

Joseph Cognitore Jr. graduated from Rocky Point High School in 1991. He is the son of Post 6249 Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Joseph Cognitore, who was the last Grand Marshall of the Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Before going to college, Cognitore Jr. enlisted in the United States Army Reserves and was stationed at the military center in Shoreham, where he was trained as a medical supply specialist. In high school, Cognitore was a talented soccer and baseball player, who later went on to Suffolk County Community College, where he both played sports and studied criminal justice. After completing his first two years of school, he transferred to SUNY Brockport where he entered the Army ROTC program to become an officer. While he was determined to gain his commission, he continued studying criminal justice and minored in military history. In 1995, Cognitore graduated and was immediately promoted to the rank of second lieutenant. He was later trained in the difficult job of being an ordinance officer at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.

A short time later he was deployed to South Korea where he was stationed near North Korea on the Demilitarized Zone. Cognitore worked in a missile maintenance company that helped ensure the air defense of American and South Korean forces against the constant threat of attack from North Korea.

“Like his father, who is a Vietnam veteran and a recipient of the Bronze Star, Cognitore has an incredibly bright future within the military.”

— Rich Acritelli

As a young second lieutenant, he served as a platoon leader who learned a great deal about the importance of taking care of his men in a combat area. Cognitore said he enjoyed traveling around South Korea and later volunteered for the explosives ordinance disposal unit. After serving for a year on the Korean Peninsula, he was promoted to a first lieutenant and he trained at ordinance training facilities in Alabama, Florida and Maryland. He was later ordered to Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan to handle the sensitive ordinance materials at the base.

During the 9/11 attacks, fighter jets from Selfridge were scrambled too late to intercept Flight 93 over the skies of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. While he was serving in the upper Midwest, he said the attacks were devastating for him to watch. He grew up an hour from lower Manhattan, and right before the acts of terrorism, Cognitore visited the World Trade Center towers.

In 2007, he left his family in Michigan to be deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan. His primary mission was to help train the Afghan Civil Order Police, to help ensure that the Taliban would not influence areas that were liberated from their previous control. It was another unique experience for the local officer who worked with NATO countries from England, Germany, the Czech Republic, Canada and Turkish military forces. For a brief time, Cognitore served at a Forward Operating Base established by the German army that was frequently attacked by the Taliban. Cognitore said he was thankful for his wife, Carrie, for her love and ability to take care of their home and children, Claire and Joseph Cognitore IV, while he was deployed.

In 2012, with his father at his side, Cognitore was promoted as a lieutenant colonel, and he accepted a new position as an executive officer of a transportation company at his base. With every job, duty station and elevated rank, he has continually distinguished himself as a capable officer that could handle all of his military tasks. Like his father, who is a Vietnam veteran and a recipient of the Bronze Star, Cognitore has an incredibly bright future within the military. He has already graduated from the Command and General Staff training program and will be attending the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

As we take time to honor the historic actions of our Founding Fathers, may we thank our current patriots who still continue to strengthen the American way of life for current and future generations of this great nation.

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

Social

9,203FansLike
1,089FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe