Veterans

From left: Frank, Dominick and Nick LoSquadro in Germany, 1945. Photo from LoSquadro family

By Rich Acritelli

A longtime resident of Rocky Point and distinguished World War II veteran, Dominick T. LoSquadro died Aug. 2. He was 97. 

Through hardship and trial, this World War II veteran was the epitome of what is often considered the Greatest Generation. He was an active member of the VFW Post 6249 Rocky Point, and the veterans organization lost a dynamic and key member of its organization this month, one that always wanted to help other military service members and community residents.

From left to right: Nick, Frank and Dominick LoSquadro in Wiesbaden, Germany, toward the end of the war in 1945. Photo from LoSquadro family

LoSquadro’s story began as a poor Brooklyn kid — born July 28, 1922. He was the youngest of seven children with four brothers and two sisters. Growing up his family had no comforts at home. They survived due to the hard work of their father, who delivered blocks of ice, and their mother who managed a grocery store. Their home had no heat or hot water and when the would-be Rocky Point resident was a child, his brothers paid him a nickel to warm the toilet seat for their use. It was a common practice for this family to stay near the kitchen, where they felt some warmth from the cooking stove. Dominick did not take a hot shower until he was drafted into the Army as a young man during World War II.

The boys grew up with Italian-speaking parents, but together they only spoke a few words of the language, and their mom spoke little English. There were only a couple of Italian words that were utilized in order to communicate with each other. Years later, when LoSquadro was stationed in Germany, he understood and spoke German more than he could Italian. 

As a kid who grew up in the streets of Brooklyn, LoSquadro collected rags and sticks which he sold to a local junk vendor. He used the pennies and nickels he earned for movie tickets. He also worked with his father to deliver ice to various parts of the city. As a child his poor eyesight led to equally poor grades, and his teachers did not realize that he had a difficult time reading the board and they continually moved him to the back of the classroom. They believed that he was a challenged student that was unable to keep up with their instructions and, for many years, LoSquadro never fully realized his educational potential.

During his teenage years, family and friends remembered he always had a brilliant smile and a full head of hair, making him a favorite of local ladies. He was a talented ballroom dancer who immensely enjoyed listening to popular big band music in New York City. Before the war, LoSquadro enrolled into an automotive school where he earned a degree so he could be a mechanic. He flourished in this environment, and he would take his expertise in fixing, driving and directing heavy machinery in his military and civilian occupations.

For the late Rocky Point resident’s generation, it was a trying time to be a young adult after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. The United States quickly entered the war effort to fight the Japanese in the Pacific and the Germans in North Africa and Europe. Right away, the five “LoSquadro brothers” entered the military to do their part. Like that of his three older brothers, Dominick was drafted into the Army Dec. 29, 1942, where he applied his civilian trade as a mechanic in the service. His earliest military time began at Camp Upton Army base in Yaphank, where he entered his basic training with a serious fever that quickly became an ear infection. LoSquadro was stationed at several military bases in Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina, but as these units were shipped overseas, he was not sent with them due to his medical condition. The Army warned that if he was attacked with chemical or biological weapons that it could prove to be terribly fatal due to his ailments.

Despite being held back, it was his goal to be ordered overseas to be near his family members and friends that were already fighting against the Germans and Japanese. The Army eventually looked past his medical record and shipped him to Liverpool, England, where he was quickly sent to France. LoSquadro was vital in keeping the trucks, jeeps and tanks moving against the strength of the Germans, as they were pushed back to their own border. He also conducted backbreaking labor, as he helped reconfigure air strips after they were bombed and damaged by the German Luftwaffe.  

Like that of other American families, the LoSquadro boys were all in harm’s way trying to fight against the fascist regime. His brother, Frank, was with the second wave of the June 6, 1944, Normandy landings at Omaha Beach. That December, Frank was a medic that survived the Battle of the Bulge, where just about his entire unit was killed by the Germans. At one point, he acted as if he was dead for three days to avoid being shot or captured by the enemy. Later, the army wanted Frank to re-enlist, but he had witnessed terrible accounts during the war and he wanted to go home. LoSquadro’s brother rarely spoke about his traumatic experiences.

During the height of the war, the brothers were determined to meet up with each other. Dominick worked on the military trucks that operated at the air fields, where they loaded and delivered war supplies to the soldiers in the field. He was in closer contact with his brother Frank who was stationed near the railroad lines at the front. They both decided to search for their brother Nicholas, who served with the Office of Strategic Services (later renamed the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War). He helped collect and analyze intelligence from enemy double agents, the resistance, captured prisoners of war and more.

Both Dominick and Frank hitchhiked on the French roads as they were looking for Nicholas. They were pleasantly surprised, as it was Nicholas who discovered them as he drove down a road in his jeep. These two brothers, both grunts, saw a much different face of the military from Nicholas who was an officer, as he was not often in the field and he lived in homes that had servants to clean his clothing and cook meals. They were overjoyed to be briefly together during the course of the war, where they were alive, united and fighting for their nation.  

Dominick LoSquadro during his army days. Photo from LoSquadro family

At the very end of World War II, as the U.S. dealt with the growing power of the Soviet Union in Europe and the end of the fighting against the Japanese in Asia, the LoSquadros were formerly recognized for their service. About a week before the Japanese surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, their mother received a letter from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. It genuinely stated, “For my part, I should like to assure you of the deep appreciation of the nation which has accepted their service with gratitude and a strong sense of responsibility.” Stimson was one of the most powerful leaders in the nation to oppose Germany and Japan, and he evidently respected the role that the entire LoSquadro family played to help defeat the Axis powers.

As a seasoned veteran that spent over three years in the military, LoSquadro finally returned home to New York City where he was employed as a diaper and furniture delivery man. In the late 1940s, he brought these items to famous musicians like that of Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey and to the actress Kitty Carlisle. Later in life, LoSquadro had poor knees and it was attributed to running up the stairs of high-rise buildings where he made these deliveries. It was not until the mid-1950s that LoSquadro was motivated to earn a city job. Once he was examined for his eyes, it turned out that he was an able test taker and he performed well on exams, and he was later employed as a bus driver.

After the war, LoSquadro again flourished as a dancer, and he always received interest from the ladies that had liked his ballroom skills and looks. He spent many nights at the Roseland Dance Club in Manhattan, near the Ed Sullivan Theater. He was friends with all of the bouncers, perfected his craft of dancing and met his wife at this establishment. Once he was married, LoSquadro raised a family of five children, including one son and four daughters at homes in Corona and Elmhurst. While he worked long hours, he was known for his creativity as a handyman who could repair practically anything. He drove many hours of overtime to support his large family on one salary. The World War II vet was known for spending many hours studying for the Metropolitan Transit Authority exams which enabled him to be promoted as a foreman and later a general superintendent. As when in the Army, LoSquadro also faced resentment for being an Italian American as he began to get promoted within higher city positions at the MTA.

He would eventually become responsible for operating large bus garages in Queens Village and in Flushing near the present home of the New York Mets at Citi Field. For many years, he handled numerous responsibilities with the drivers, investigated bus accidents within his district, petitioned for additional funds and made sure that his garages followed MTA regulations. He was always known for utilizing common sense and fairness with a staff of over 500 workers. He would grow to be respected for helping to provide transportation services utilized by millions of people within the city.

During his spare time, local family and friends counted on LoSquadro to repair umbrellas, bicycles, doors, windows and anything that needed some TLC. His children widely believed that if it was broke, that “daddy could fix it.” As a young kid that endured poverty, LoSquadro utilized his ingenuity to recycle products and save money. Later in life, he always enjoyed having nice clothing and cars, but he never forgot the lessons that poverty teaches. It is said in his prime that he had an unbelievable amount of stamina, allowing him to work all day and tinker in his basement for hours where he became a self-taught carpenter.

In the early 1980s, Dominick began living with a longtime companion, where they renovated a bungalow in Rocky Point. For many years, he was a devoted member to Post 6249 Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars, helping to provide aid to vital military and civilian causes. Armed with a big smile and can-do attitude, he was one of the founding members of the post’s annual Wounded Warrior Golf Outing, which raised over $200,000 to help local veterans severely hurt from the War on Terror. LoSquadro knew all of the players, he handed out T-shirts to the golfers, counted raffle ticket money and spoke to all of the wounded armed forces members who were recognized by the organization. Even in his 90s, LoSquadro led an energetic life where he was overjoyed to participate in the many successful activities of Post 6249.

Several years ago, this decorated member of the Greatest Generation finally received his diploma from Rocky Point High School, with students, parents and staff giving him a rousing round of applause. At his wake, Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore and post members lined up at the funeral home to pay the ultimate respect to this noted veteran. With tears in his eyes, Cognitore expressed the final goodbyes to one of his best friends. Both of these men were inseparable, as they lobbied government leaders for local and national veteran’s affairs, attended the local summer concert series, marched and presented the colors at local schools during Veterans Day ceremonies and they often went to local restaurants and diners for lunch. 

As a member of this post that had worked closely with LoSquadro, it is my firmest belief that if you were friends with Dominick T. LoSquadro, his acquaintance surely made you into a finer person. Thank you to the unyielding efforts of this veteran to ensure the defense of the United States and his many wonderful contributions as a citizen, all who felt his presence during his time on Earth.

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

Northport VA Medical Center. File photo

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced the appointment of Dr. Antonio Sanchez as the new director of the Northport VA Medical Center. He is taking over for interim director Dr. Cathy Cruise. Sanchez will oversee delivery of health care to more than 31,000
veterans.  

“We are excited to bring Dr. Sanchez on board as the new director of the Northport VA Medical Center,” said Dr. Joan E. McInerney, director of Veterans Integrated Service Network. “His sound leadership qualities and proven experience will be valuable assets for the facility, the employees and volunteers, and most importantly, for the veterans we are honored to serve. We anticipate he will arrive at the medical center within the next 45 to 60 days to begin his appointment.”

Sanchez joined the VA more than 18 years ago and has held positions at the VA Caribbean Healthcare System in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Most recently, he has been serving as the acting medical center director in Puerto Rico, operating 230 hospital beds, 30 psychiatric beds, a 122-bed Community Living Center, among others for a total of 382 operating beds. He has overall responsibility for 3,700 full-time equivalent employees and a $600 million budget.

Sanchez is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and has a board certification as a fellow with the American College of Healthcare Executives. He received both his doctor of medicine degree and master’s in healthcare services administration from the University of Puerto Rico Medical Science Campus.  

The VA hospital has been without a full director since Scott Guermonprez left the position in July of last year after only one year at the helm.

The Northport VA has been plagued with staff shortages in recent years, including a federal investigation last year showing a chronic nursing shortage.

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Giving back and paying it forward. That is what Comsewogue High School teacher Andrew Harris wants his students to get out of the second annual Joe’s Day of Service. Students and staff participated in this year’s event on May 29 and throughout the day engaged in acts of kindness throughout the community.

Harris said the idea of a full day of community service projects came about last year, when students in his classes made pitches on how the student body could spend the day. 

Two students, Julia Ratkiewicz and Rachel Plunkett, proposed the idea of visiting Calverton National Cemetery, where members of the United States armed forces are laid to rest, to spend the day cleaning gravestones and straightening flags. 

Harris immediately took to the idea, and for the second straight year nearly 200 Comsewogue High School students journeyed to Calverton cemetery. 

Joe’s Day of Service was named after Superintendent Joe Rella, who Harris said showcased a belief that students and community members can improve their lives and the lives of others by working together. 

“I wanted the students to know that what they do can impact and benefit so many people,” he said. “Also, I think it’s important to get involved and step up to the plate.”

While the high school students were at Calverton, other Comsewogue kids throughout the district were doing their part. Middle schoolers participated in a beach clean-up at Cedar Beach, elementary school kids at Norwood Elementary School sang songs to senior citizens and others painted rocks as part of the Kindness Rocks Project, an initiative which calls on people to paint inspiring messages on rocks and leave them in places where they will be found by someone in need of an emotional boost.

Students and staff honored Dashan Briggs, a member of the National Air Guard 106th from Port Jefferson Station, who died last year in a helicopter crash in Iraq, along with several members of his unit. The high school chorus serenaded Briggs’ wife Rebecca Briggs and his children, Ava and Jayden, who will be attending district schools next year. Comsewogue student Ava Pearl presented the family with a portrait she painted of the late Briggs, which will be placed in the district schools. 

“We wanted them to feel part of our family,” Harris said. 

The students joined the Briggs family and others at the Calverton National Cemetery to visit Dashan’s gravesite. Once there, they gave the family flowers and painted socks with encouraging messages. Also, this year, students straightened and put flags on gravesites throughout the cemetery. Students took the time to escort family members of veterans as well, who were coming from around the New York metro area, to visit the graves of their fallen family member. 

“It is so nice to see how many kids were able to come out and help,” John Quartararo, a senior at Comsewogue High School, said. “For them to give up a day of school to come out and do this just shows how much a community that Comsewogue really is.”

For the high schooler, to be able to honor Dashan Briggs’ memory in front of his wife and children meant a lot to him personally. 

“I lost my father when I was younger, and just knowing that we are making an impact and showing that we are always there for them means a lot,” he said. “The motto for us has always been to help someone out — ‘once a warrior, always a warrior’ and I feel like that resonated on this whole day.” 

Along with the cemetery visit, teachers and students participated in a track walk to fundraise for a fellow student battling leukemia and whose family is having financial distress due to the treatment costs.

Harris praised the students for what they did on this day.

“I just want you guys to know that you have made a huge impact to the community and the Briggs family. You should be proud of yourselves,” he said.

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For close to a month, Tom Butera, a mason in Port Jefferson village, laid the bricks down for the new Armed Forces Tribute in front of the Port Jeff High School. Though he had been laying bricks for over 40 years, bending over, picking them up, planting them in the ground, to him, every brick represented a family and a sacrifice.

“These we’re the heaviest bricks I ever laid,” he said.

On May 30, veterans cut the ribbon on the new tribute surrounded by well more than 100 local residents. The center of the memorial is a large stone with a plaque on it surrounded by bricks donated by local residents with notes of names of family members who were involved in the armed services. By the end, the memorial looks remarkably like the sketch by high school student Jillian Lawler produced in January, when the brick drive was first announced.

While many donated $100 for each brick, others in the community came out to support the new memorial. Gabe Zoda, 17, a senior at the high school and a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 45, donated benches to the project, each emblazoned with the fleur-de-lis of the Boy Scouts. Zoda expects to move on to Hofstra University after graduation where he will study broadcast journalism.

The idea for the project spawned from local Vietnam veteran Jim Henke, who had originally approached the district several years ago about building the memorial. It would take years, but the district helped form an Armed Forces Tribute committee in 2017, with local veterans and residents as members, who helped get the project rolling at the beginning of this year.

“Most of these veterans I knew myself from the Vietnam era,” Henke said. “We played ball together, we had a good time in the 60s, and we lost so many of those lives that I thought this was just fitting.”

Though it took time for the project to take root, he said it was the efforts of the school administration and Superintendent Paul Casciano.

“I want to thank the entire Port Jefferson School District community that raised enough brick sales to support the project without any assistance from the school district,” Henke said.

Local residents stooped down to take pictures of bricks donated by friends and family, and the Port Jefferson art staff was on call if people looked to get a rubbing of their bricks.

“I would like to say thank you for the names of the men and women engraved on the walkway,” said high school Principal Christine Austen. “My hope is that this tribute stands as a reminder to all the youth that Port Jefferson veterans are heroes that will always be close to our hearts.”

Butera feels a deep connection to the new veterans tribute. It’s his father’s name, Technical Sergeant Tony Butera of the U.S. Army Air Corps, that is inscribed in one of the bricks. His father was shot down during WWII over Hamburg, Germany, flying in a B17 bomber. His plane landed on a field of sheep, what they called a “fleece-lined landing,” and he and his compatriots were held at gunpoint on their knees by several disgruntled farmers. He became a prisoner of war on Jan. 17, 1945, and he was held for 134 days in a POW camp before it was liberated by troops led by Gen. George Patton. It was with his father that Butera picked up and laid his first brick.

While he looks fondly back on the stories of his father, he sees the different side of war with the record of his son, Greg, a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan. There was a time where Butera had no communication with his son for three months, though now Greg is home, and has a wife and a daughter.

“When it got hard to work, I told myself ‘shut up — these people were in a much harder spot,’” Butera said. “It was such an honor to do it.”

Jim Henke’s name was changed May 31 to correct the spelling of his last name.

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The Port Jefferson School District Armed Forces tribute. Photo from PJSD

The Port Jefferson School District will unveil its new Armed Forces tribute at a dedication ceremony with students May 30, at 10 a.m., at the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School. 

The tribute, created to express gratitude to those former students and staff members who have served in the armed forces, will salute military personnel with welcoming remarks from student leaders and school and local government officials. The Port Jefferson Middle School band will perform and students from Edna Louise Spear Elementary School will share poetry written especially for the occasion. 

“More than two dozen school staff and community members came together to form this committee with enthusiasm and camaraderie to honor those who served,” said Superintendent Paul Casciano. “The culmination of months of planning, fundraising and fellowship has resulted in a tribute of which our school community will be very proud.”

For those who cannot attend the event, a public recognition will be held Saturday, June 22, at
9:30 a.m.

Democrat challenger Jim Gaughran upset incumbent Carl Marcellino by winning the race for New York state's 5th Senate District. Photo by Alex Petroski

New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) and the Senate Democratic majority passed a package of legislation that will expand veterans’ benefits and ease transition back to civilian life. These bills propose to provide veterans with a toll-free hotline on services and benefits, broaden property tax exemptions, make voting more accessible for military voters and implement additional employment benefits and academic credits. Passage of these bills comes in honor of the annual Fort Drum Day, which welcomes service members to the state Senate chamber. 

 “These bills affirm our commitment to providing military service members full resources and opportunities that they have earned,” Gaughran said. “It is our duty to support our active duty personnel during their time of service, and continue to support our veterans when they return home and transition back to civilian life.” 

The legislation advanced by the Senate Majority includes: 

● Active Duty Property Tax Exemptions: This bill, S.2930A, sponsored by the chair of the Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, Sen. John Brooks (D-Massapequa), will provide qualified active duty personnel a property tax exemption. 

● Expanding Licensed Veterans Employment: This bill, S.2113, sponsored by Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Jamaica), will permit veterans who are licensed to practice a profession in another jurisdiction to practice their profession in New York State while their application to practice their profession in New York State is being processed. 

● Veterans Help and Crisis Line: This bill, S.2283A, sponsored by Sen. Sanders, will provide a toll-free telephone number for use as a help and crisis line to assist veterans. 

● Increase of Real Property Tax Exemption for Dual Veteran Households: This bill, S.2570, introduced by Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), will increase the Alternative Veterans Real Property tax exemption when two qualifying veterans reside in the same household. 

● Veteran Academic Credit: This bill, S.2741A, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), will allow full-time undergraduate students enrolled at state-operated institutions to receive academic credit for their military service or training.       

● Expanding Veteran Credits on Civil Service Appointments: This bill, S.3647, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge), will amend Section 6 of Article 5 of the New York State constitution to eliminate the requirement that a veteran must have served in time of war, and allow for all individuals who have served in the armed forces to receive credits for civil service appointments and promotions.

● Military Voters in School District Elections: This bill, S.5184, sponsored by Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Port Chester), will provide military voters the opportunity to vote in school district elections by allowing them to return their absentee ballot by postal mail.

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.”

 

Lisa Cooper embraces her son Dante Lombardo at a recent reunion. Photo from Lisa Cooper

Mental health, particularly among service members, often seems to be a forgotten topic. One man and his Northport High School friends want to change that by riding bicycles this June from New York to California to raise awareness about mental health concerns among those who have served our nation’s military. 

Dante Lombardo in uniform. Photo from Lombardo

Dante Lombardo is a former U.S. Marine who was medically discharged due to his mental health. The East Northport resident,  who graduated from Northport High School in 2015, served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 2015 to 2019. He was trained as a digital wideband transmission equipment operator and as a field radio operator. 

Throughout Lombardo’s time in the Marine Reserves, he struggled with depression and anxiety, and like many others in a similar position, tried to “tough it out,” because that’s what he said the current military culture dictates. “Nearly anybody who has served can tell you that it is highly frowned upon to seek out mental health care,” he explained.

These issues came to a head in April of last year for Lombardo, when he attempted to take his own life. Thankfully, he was connected with a local behavioral health service, giving access to the counseling and the psychiatric care he needed. 

“Had it not been for these services, I do not believe I would have ever begun the path to wellness that I am on today,” said Lombardo.

Unfortunately, many service members suffer from similar mental health issues but do not seek out the help provided by the military, Lombardo said, in fear of being separated from duty due to their issues.

The statistics are staggering.

“We see 20 veterans each day take their own lives,” said Barbara Van Dahlen, a clinical psychologist who created in 2005 a national network of professionals who provide free services to U.S. troops, veterans, their loved ones and their community. “People think that because the war is over, so are the challenges, but that’s not the case.” 

‘People think that because the war is over, so are the challenges, but that’s not the case.’

— Barbara Van Dahlen

As for Lombardo, he may no longer wear his Marine uniform, but he and his bike team are committed to fighting for their fellow service members. 

Lombardo, Brian Fabian and Anthony Rubin, all Northport High School graduates,  just earned their college degrees. Lombardo graduated from Clinton College, Fabian from SUNY Plattsburgh last weekend and Rubin from SUNY Buffalo. Now, they’re raising money in a GoFundMe campaign to pay for expenses that occur throughout the trip. Proceeds remaining will be donated to Give an Hour, which earns exceptional ratings as a charity on Guidestar. 

Give an Hour was chosen, the bike team stated, because it is an organization that is not affiliated with the Department of Defense and can provide mental health services to those in need, without running the risk of negative consequences from the service members chain of command. Lombardo said that the charity could provide service members the opportunity to get help and start healing before their issues become a crisis that demands the official attention of their command, or one that brings harm to themselves or others, while simultaneously defending them from the stigma of needing mental health care while serving.

“The need is huge,” Van Dahlen said in a phone interview. She is honored and grateful for Lombardo’s efforts to raise awareness and funds for the non-profit. 

Van Dahlen emphasizes the need for collaborative approach to address the issues. “We really can take care of the understandable mental health needs of those who serve and their families,” Van Dahlen said. “If we work together and coordinate services — we in the government, nonprofit and private sectors — our country can hopefully step up to serve those who have given so much.”

Northport residents Dante Lombardo, Brian Fabian and Anthony Rubin are riding bicycles cross-country to raise awareness about military mental health issues. Photo from Coast to Coast for Mental Health, Dante Lombardo’s supporters.

It’s a concept that Lombardo and his bike team understand. “This fight is not one person’s burden to bear, but instead one we face together.”

During the team’s travels cross-country, they plan to volunteer in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, elderly care homes and other places that offer opportunities to give back. Their journey aims to seek out and hear the testimonies of veterans nationwide so their stories may be heard. 

The bike team has created a Facebook group page, Coast-to-Coast for Mental Health, which will be updated to post stories and experiences of the team, as well as testimonies of those who have suffered. This trip is a humanitarian interactive wellness journey as seen through three young Long Island men who are raising awareness for those who suffer with mental health issues all too often in silence. 

Lombardo encourages people to share the funding page, the Facebook page, as well as sharing their own stories. His message to the public, “We’ll be seeing you on the trail.”

The Times of Huntington will provide updates of the team’s journey in upcoming issues.

The GoFundMe page, Give an Hour website and an overview of the charity from Charity Navigator  can be found at: 

GoFundMe: www.gofundme.com/tmt6z-coast-to-coast-for-mental-health

Give an Hour: www.giveanhour.org

Charity Navigator: www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=17415

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Timothy Boyd, stationed at the COP De Alencar, formerly known as Camp Blackfish, Afghanistan seeks to adopt a dog named Mischa to remove her from the trauma of war. Photo from Paws of War

War is hell, but soldiers find solace in rescuing and adopting scared and abused animals from the battlefields overseas.

Timothy Boyd, stationed at the COP De Alencar, formerly known as Camp Blackfish, Afghanistan seeks to adopt a dog named Mischa to remove her from the trauma of war. Photo from Paws of War

Paws of War, a nonprofit organization based in Nesconset, is dedicated to aiding veterans and their pets through an array of programs. Funded entirely by donations, it’s become a unique charitable cause that has caught the attention of local lawmakers as well as people actively serving in the military.

Tim Boyd is a U.S. soldier assisting Special Forces in the fight against ISIS, stationed in war-torn Afghanistan. He’s heading back to his home in Dallas, Georgia to retire after serving three decades in the military. He’s reached out to Paws of War to help transport a young dog named Mischa that he and his unit befriended, after rescuing the animal from abuse.

Paws of War typically helps reunite four dogs with soldiers each year and Boyd and Mischa are one of this year’s recipients of their altruism. “Humans truly have it backwards. We think we are rescuing the animal,” Boy said via email from an undisclosed location. “That is so much not the case, not with our fur babies. They undoubtedly rescued us.”

Soldiers saw the young animal being dragged by her neck, so they rescued and cared for her. Once stateside and out of “this godforsaken place,” Boyd said the dog can lay on his furniture instead of tearing up her feet running and walking the terrain of Nangarhar, Afghanistan.

When soldiers choose to adopt a dog found while serving the military, the process is intensive. “There’s a lot of red tape involved,” according to Robert Misseri, co-founder of Paws of War. Transporting the dog alone can cost $6,000, his office staff explained. That fee does not include the cost to travel to Georgia, once the dog arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The flight, health certificates, customs fees and boarding along the way are all part of the expense.

Mischa is expected to arrive stateside before  Boyd. His wife, Tara, will welcome Mischa, who already has adopted Mischa’s sister Bella Lynn. “Bella is also a pup that rescued me and our family when I found her washed under some tree branches out in the middle of the woods,” Boyd said.

Once Boyd and his troops return, he said he will be free to send a group photo that he has taken of Mischa with the unit. “I appreciate any and all assistance that people can provide in helping make Mission Mischa a successful operation,” Boyd said. “She needs to come home with me. I can’t imagine it any other way.”

Paws of War also provides service and therapy dogs to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. People interested in knowing more about Paws of War programs or who might want to help with Mission Mischa can visit www.pawsofwar.org.

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