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Army

School board President John Swenning honors Nicolas Robinson, Tyler Jensen, Jarrett and Jaeden Whitfield and Bernadette Reyes during graduation. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Anthony Petriello

Applause could be heard far and wide June 21 at Comsewogue High School’s graduation ceremony.

Nicholas Robinson waves to the crowd during graduation. Photo by Alex Petroski

The applause rained down from the packed bleachers on the varsity football field for all of the graduates, but for a select few there was a bit more meaning behind the cheers. Five graduates were honored for their brave decision to enter various branches of the U.S. armed forces rather than attending a traditional two- or four-year college. Twins Jarrett and Jaeden Whitfield, Bernadette Reyes, Tyler Jensen and Nicolas Robinson are the Warriors preparing to serve their country.

Comsewogue High School Principal Joseph Coniglione summed up his feelings watching the five students accept their diplomas and prepare to move on to their next steps in life.

“These students worked hard to get where they are,” he said. “They have made a commitment to this country and, without any doubt, made this community and this school very proud.”

Three out of the five students recognized will be enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, including the Whitfield twins. They are following what they called their dream, but also a dream their mother, Keira Whitfield, said she had always had but was not able to fulfill.

“They are living out my dream of joining the Air Force,” she said. “In doing so they will become independent, productive citizens of the United States and that’s all I ever wanted for them.”

Originally from Queens, and with a family background in both the Air Force and the Navy, the Whitfields are looking to brighten their futures.

“I hope to become a more disciplined person,” Jarrett said.

During graduation, the five students were called up to the stage to be honored and recognized individually. District administration knew the special ceremony was coming, but left it a surprise for the students.

Bernadette Reyes receives a certificate from school board President John Swenning during 2018 graduation. Photo by Alex Petroski

“I was very surprised to be honored,” Jaeden said. “It didn’t feel real. It felt like a dream … having my recruiter there helped me feel more comfortable.”

Tyler Jensen is the third student who enlisted in the Air Force. He is following his grandfather’s path to the Air Police, which is an arm of the Air Force Security Forces along with the Military Police and the Security Police. As a member of the Air Police, Jensen will be working to protect the assets of the Air Force, as well as securing Air Force installations and other facilities operated by the military branch.

Jensen attributed his desire to serve his country not just to honoring his grandfather but also out of a sense of civic duty.

“I am also joining because not enough people in my generation are enlisting and there is not enough help,” he said.

Comsewogue school board president John Swenning, who led the way honoring the students during graduation, also beamed with pride referencing the graduates-turned-armed forces members.

“On behalf of the Comsewogue board of education I would like to publically thank these young men and women who have decided to serve in a branch of the United States military,” he said in a statement. “It is their selfless commitment to protect our freedom and liberty that allows the rest of us the opportunity to chase our dreams.”

Robinson enlisted in the U.S. Marines. He said he has had a desire to join the Marines since 2005, when he was only 5 years old after his brother had enlisted.

“He is my role model,” Robinson said of his brother.

Whitfield twins Jarrett and Jaeden look at a certificate with classmate Tyler Jensen during 2018 graduation. Photo by Alex Petroski

Robinson said he often thinks about the day his brother graduated from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina.

“When I saw my brother graduate from Parris Island, it gave me chills,” he said.

He is proud to have enlisted in the Marines and isn’t worried about the life change he is about to encounter.

“It’s like any other job,” he said.

Reyes is headed to the U.S. Army, also following a family trend, as her father is an Army veteran. She said she was unsure of her path after high school, but after meeting with an Army recruiter at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, she made the decision to pursue a career in the military.

Reyes said she was ecstatic to have been honored at the graduation ceremony.

“It was a great feeling to be introduced in front of the students, parents, administration and the board of education,” she said.

Reyes plans to complete basic training and continue her education through the Army.

Veterans Dan Guida, Gary Suzik and Joseph Cognitore during a visit to Rocky Point High School to commemorate Veterans Day. Photo by Rich Acritelli

By Rich Acritelli

This week marks the 63rd anniversary of the first Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1954, as declared by President Eisenhower, an annual remembrance of national service.

“On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom,” Eisenhower said.

Many North Shore residents have served at home and abroad to protect the freedom of the United States. Just recently, proud veterans from VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point were interviewed by members of the Rocky Point High School History Honor Society about their years in uniform.

The first veteran to be interviewed was Gary Suzik, who is a resident of Rocky Point. The native of Michigan’s upper peninsula grew up playing football, hockey and downhill skiing and still has a touch of his Mid-western accent. He served in the U.S. Navy for four years and was stationed on the USS LaSalle, where he helped guide the landing craft. As it turned out, this was one of the last ships to be built locally at the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard. Suzik said he is immensely proud of his duty on a vessel that saw naval missions for more than 40 years in every corner of the world. The ship and crew even helped retrieve the Gemini capsule, a spacecraft carrying two astronauts, after it landed from an early space mission.

Suzik participated in operations in the Mediterranean Sea, where he visited ports in Italy and France. He was also deployed to Cuba and the Caribbean during the Dominican Civil War in 1965. It was common for this ship to carry about 400 sailors and 500 to 600 Marines who  utilized landing crafts to assault enemy forces in hot spots around the globe. Suzik mentioned how the ship had the honor of carrying Admiral John McCain Jr., who is the father of senator, noted Vietnam veteran and prisoner of war John McCain (R-Arizona). Veterans Day is a special moment for Suzik as he recalls not only his memories, but that of his father who fought during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and other family members who were also in the military.

Dan Guida grew up in Nassau County and currently lives in Wading River. His mother had nine brothers, of which seven served in the military during World War II. Since his youth, Guida said he learned the importance of national service from stories that were presented to him by his uncle. After high school, Guida was granted a temporary military deferment in order to attend St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens, but a short time later, he decided to leave school and was drafted into the Army. With some college behind him, Guida was accepted into the Army Officer Candidate School and became a second lieutenant. Today around the post, many of the VFW members cheerfully refer to him as “Lieutenant Dan,” a reference to the film “Forrest Gump.”

From 1967 to 1968, Guida served in Vietnam with the I Corps. As an officer, he was responsible to direct tanks, armored personnel carriers and the trucks that operated within the northern areas of South Vietnam, not too far from Da Nang and the demilitarized zone. Guida recalled the tanks didn’t function well within the terrain of Vietnam through the heavy rains that saturated the grounds and made it difficult for American armor to gain enough traction in the mud. He shared interesting insights into the buildup to the war with the students.

Later, Guida utilized the GI Bill to attend Nassau Community College and Hofstra University, where he majored in accounting. He held a job as an accountant for a good part of his life and he still happily holds financial responsibilities today for Post 6249. The Wading River resident said Veterans Day is a moment that our citizens should be thankful for the sacrifices that past, present and future veterans have made toward the security of this nation. Guida said he saw that gratitude as he entered the high school before the interview. He had a big smile on his face when a younger Rocky Point student personally thanked him for his service.

Rocky Point resident and local commander of VFW Post 6249, Joseph Cognitore was also asked about his time in the service by the students. While Guida saw the earlier part of the war, Cognitore, who was drafted into the Army, endured the latter phase of fighting in Vietnam. From 1969 to 1970, he was a platoon sergeant that served in the air cavalry that transported soldiers by helicopters into various areas of the country. 

Cognitore was tasked to conduct “search and destroy” missions against the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army who were situated in caves, tunnels, jungles and mountains. He also fought in Cambodia against an enemy that utilized the strength of the Ho Chi Minh trail to move troops and materials through the country to attack American and South Vietnamese forces.

Cognitore said it took a long time to put the war behind him. During the Gulf War in the early ’90s, he joined the VFW and rose to be its commander and to hold prominent leadership positions within the local, state and national levels of the organization. He said he is constantly reminded of his combat tours through injuries to his legs that have left him hobbling for years.

Cognitore views every day as Veterans Day. Each day he answers countless emails and telephone calls to help men and women that have served at home and abroad. Recently, Cognitore helped spearhead a golf outing that has raised over $200,000 to help the Wounded Warriors. One of the most important qualities the students were treated to during the interview was the camaraderie the veterans have toward each other, a dynamic likely strengthened by Post 6249’s daily mission of helping every veteran.

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

Long Islanders came together on Memorial Day to remember all the people throughout American history who gave their lives for their country. Events were held on May 30 across Suffolk County, with neighbors using wreaths, flags and rifle shots to pay tribute to the fallen heroes.

Butch Langhorn has served his nation for decades. Above, he is pictured in uniform during his Army days. Photo from Langhorn

By Rich Acritelli

Butch Langhorn has served his nation for decades. Above, he is pictured in uniform during his Army days. Photo from Langhorn
Butch Langhorn has served his nation for decades. Above, he is pictured in uniform during his Army days. Photo from Langhorn

To say that Long Island native Butch Langhorn has lived a full life would be an understatement. As a veteran and a community man, he has both seen a lot and given a lot back to the county that raised him.

From his youth, Langhorn was a gifted three-sport athlete, excelling in football, basketball and track for Riverhead High School. His impact was so great that he held the record for the triple jump for 10 years after his graduation.

In 1964, the young man enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Totten in Bayside, Queens. While he worked in the personnel office, his sporting abilities allowed him the chance to play basketball within the Special Services of the Army. Langhorn competed as a 5-foot-8-inch guard against many who had experience playing semiprofessional and Division I hoops. The servicemen competing had the rare opportunity of representing their military bases in games that ranged from Maine to New Jersey.

The next year, Langhorn was deployed to South Vietnam, where he saw the earliest action of the war in Southeast Asia. In an interview, he noted the beauty of the nation and the influence of French culture on the former capital of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. For a couple of months, Langhorn was a gunner on a helicopter that flew into the major combat areas of South Vietnam, engaged against the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. He was tasked with helping medical evacuation crews with the vital mission of returning wounded and dead U.S. soldiers to American bases.

As a young African-American soldier during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, Langhorn observed the treatment of blacks in South Vietnam. According to Langhorn, he had a relationship with a local woman of French descent who took him home to meet her family. When he met her mother, the woman told him to shower and take a nap before dinner. Again he came into her presence and she wrongly believed that he was a white soldier who had too much dirt on his skin. It was one example of a different racial experience for Langhorn — he quickly learned that most of the black soldiers who were fighting against the communists in South Vietnam were not understood by the very people they were trying to protect.

Butch Langhorn has served his nation for decades. Above, he is pictured with his family. Photo from Langhorn
Butch Langhorn has served his nation for decades. Above, he is pictured with his family. Photo from Langhorn

After more than a year overseas, Langhorn went home to finish his Army tour. By 1971, he quickly re-enlisted as an active guardsmen reservist, serving full-time for the New York 106th Air National Guard base in Westhampton Beach. For many years, he was the head of the recruiting station that brought in many fine airmen, noncommissioned officers and officers. Langhorn had a prideful hand in signing military members from different backgrounds to enhance the Air Force wing. Many of the men and women he recruited have been deployed to the Middle East to fight the war on terror, conducted massive air-sea rescues in the Atlantic Ocean, endured the rigors of the elite pararescue jumper training and deployments, and tackled the older mission of aiding space shuttle landings. Langhorn later oversaw the personnel department that was responsible for sorting out the paperwork needs of the military unit.

Langhorn may be retired after serving four decades in uniform, but he is still a dominant member of his community and has spent a lot of that time trying to help young people. He served on the Riverhead Central School District Board of Education for five years, working to keep athletics and other programs in the schools, and as a current assistant for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, he organizes educational programs that bring high school criminal justice students to visit the county jail. In his role, he also helps guide nonprofit groups that are focused on rehabilitating inmates. In addition, former Congressmen Michael Forbes and Tim Bishop both recognized Langhorn’s professionalism, and he served as an instrumental member of their staffs to handle veterans affairs.

Since his youth, this North Shore citizen has given back to his society and to his nation. TBR Newspapers salutes him during Black History Month.

Triple cancer survivor, veteran and volunteer firefighter seeks to give back to community

Albert Statton, above, stands in his gear as a Greenlawn firefighter. Photo from Statton

A Greenlawn volunteer firefighter, Army veteran and three-time cancer survivor has faced many battles in his life, but now he is fighting a different kind of battle.

Albert Statton, 64, created the Operation Enduring Care project at the Greenlawn Fire Department to collect food and clothing donations to help people who need immediate assistance and “offer them some type of comfort.” All of the donations collected will be given to The Salvation Army-managed homeless shelter at the Northport VA Affairs Medical Center.

Statton was drafted into the military in 1970 and served as a combat medic in Germany, Asia and across the United States. He finished his last tour of duty in the late 1990s but returned to his roots when he received treatment at the Northport VA after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. He found solace in dropping off items at the shelter on his way to chemotherapy.

“When being treated, it’s a physical and a mental battle,” Statton said in a phone interview. “I had highs and lows. I tried to make it a positive by bringing donations to shelter, so instead of going for me I was helping someone.”

He said the shelter for homeless veterans gets as many as 60 families a week that ask for assistance, especially during the holiday season.

Statton’s desire to help others is something he said he learned as a firefighter.

“You never say, ‘I was a firefighter.’ I am a firefighter and the things I have learned are ingrained in me forever.”

He said the volunteers at Greenlawn took his sick father to the hospital more than 20 times, so afterward he wanted to make a donation to the department to say thank you.

“I realized I didn’t have enough money to repay a debt like that,” Statton said. “I wanted to give back to the community the same way they did to my father.”

Statton served his community proudly until he was diagnosed with cancer.

He is impressed with the level of dedication all of the volunteers at Greenlawn bring to their work and how much they learned about the rescue system.

“So many people take the time to raise the bar on what’s available for the community,” Statton said.

He credits his cancer recovery to the members of the fire department for their inspiration and good wishes while he was sick, and their visits to his bedside at the hospital to pray with him.

One story in particular stands out in his mind: Statton, in the hospital, was once so battered by his treatment that he stopped breathing, and he found out later that at that same moment his comrades had begun a prayer group for him. He regained his ability to breathe minutes later.

“I had a very supportive network of brothers and sisters that encouraged me to persevere,” he said. “My respect and my love goes very deep for the fire department.”

Donations to support Statton’s effort to give back to local veterans can be dropped off at 23 Boulevard Ave. in Greenlawn. Statton said canned meats and vegetables are in high demand, as well as packaged undergarments and socks.

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Gen. George C. Marshall photo in the public domain

By Rich Acritelli

Gen. George C. Marshall photo in the public domain
Gen. George C. Marshall photo in the public domain

It was 74 years ago that the Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, spurring the nation’s entry into World War II. At the helm of the American military on that deadly day was Gen. George C. Marshall, and it was up to this outspoken man to take a military of 175,000 — which was ranked 17th out of all the industrialized powers — and turn the troops into a tremendous force of 10.4 million to defeat Germany and Japan.

From the moment he entered the Army in 1902, Marshall excelled at every task assigned to him. Unlike many of the West Point officers he commanded during World War II, he graduated from the Virginia Military Institute. His peers thought Marshall’s quiet and firm manner suited him for vital positions of military responsibility, and he held several different jobs in the Army, served in the Philippines and graduated first from the Army staff college in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

During the United States’ earliest moments in France in World War I, Marshall had a famous encounter with American Expeditionary Forces Commander Gen. John J. Pershing. When, upon finding the Army was not prepared for the burden of warfare on the Western Front, Pershing criticized his officers for not doing enough training, Marshall told Pershing that he did not understand the problems his soldiers faced daily and they were doing the best that could be expected of them. At first, Marshall believed he’d be sent home in disgrace; instead Pershing respected his honesty and clarity and eventually made him a main planner of American war operations against the Germans.

Years later, in the late 1930s, Marshall showed his leadership again when he sat in on a meeting with then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt and influential members of both his cabinet and the military. When Roosevelt outlined a plan of adding planes to the Army Air Forces but virtually no other resources to the Army, all of the leaders remained quiet or supported the president. Marshall, on the other hand, angered Roosevelt by vehemently disagreeing with him. But a year later, Marshall, who was a junior to many other officers, was promoted to Army chief of staff.

‘We must have the very best leadership we can possibly give these men and we’ve stopped at nothing to produce that leadership.’
— Gen. George C. Marshall, World War II Army Chief of Staff

Knowing war was a young man’s game, Marshall reassigned, fired or retired older officers who he knew were not able to fight a modern war. One of his most important choices was making one lieutenant colonel, Dwight D. Eisenhower, into an important member of his staff. While he never directly served with this officer, he was constantly informed that Eisenhower was one of the most well-rounded leaders in the military. He saw Eisenhower as a capable officer only interested in completing his duty. Marshall also elevated Gen. Omar N. Bradley to command the ground forces in Europe from D-Day to Germany’s surrender in 1945. It was Marshall’s manner not to dwell on the personal characteristics of his key leaders. This was the case with the erratic but brilliant combat fighter Gen. George S. Patton. Marshall stood by Patton throughout some of his troubles due to the strong belief that Patton would continually earn battlefield victories against the enemy.

From the time he became Army chief of staff, Marshall was determined to prepare his nation for the rigors of war. He drafted, trained, equipped and oversaw the total war efforts of the United States to defeat fascism, conducting all of those efforts in a professional manner, not seeking any credit for his massive contributions in the defense of his country. Marshall should be credited, however, with establishing a new army, command structure and strategy to conduct military operations against Germany and Japan. In a short period of time, he helped the United States attain a victory in an important war.

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

By Giselle Barkley

Independence — that’s what veteran Glen Moody is fighting for.

Glen Moody and Indy stand on the stage at the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser
Glen Moody and Indy stand on the stage at the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser

As veterans still struggle with adjusting to life beyond the war, post-traumatic stress disorder is a reality for men and women like Moody, with 22 PTSD-stricken veterans committing suicide daily. Although Moody said he wasn’t suicidal, the California-based Patriotic Service Dog Foundation and a one-year-old red fox Labrador named Independence — Indy for short — are helping make his life a little less stressful.

On Saturday, at Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Miller Place, the 35-year-old Afghanistan and Iraqi vet led the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser, which aims to raise PTSD awareness and raise money to help veterans afford and obtain a PTSD service dog. These service dogs help veterans snap out of flashbacks, anxiety attacks and address other PTSD-related issues. Moody, who was born and raised in Miller Place, mentioned the dogs will also keep an eye on their war heroes — they are trained to guard or protect their vet by sitting in front, beside or behind them.

According to Moody, around 300 people attended the event. He said they raised $20,000 Saturday night, which is double what he hoped to raise. Typically, veterans will get their service dog from the foundation after the dog is 18 months old. But in light of the overwhelming community support on Saturday, Indy will live with Moody until January. This allows Indy to adjust to Moody’s lifestyle in New York.

“Tom was proud to tell me that … no one’s killed themselves [after getting a Tackett dog],” Moody said about the veterans who’ve obtained dogs from Tom Tackett’s foundation — Tackett is a trainer and the president of Patriotic Service Dog Foundation.

The absence of suicide attempts is an accomplishment for the foundation, whose goal is to reduce the statistic from 22 veterans committing suicide down to zero. Tackett could not be reached prior to publication due to technological difficulties, but Moody said he met Tackett after a fellow marine advised Moody’s family to get one of Tackett’s service dogs. The suggestion lead Moody to California in August, where he met Indy.

Charlie Kapp, Joseph Sguera and Glen Moody pose for a photo with a steel sculpture made by Kapp. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser
Charlie Kapp, Joseph Sguera and Glen Moody pose for a photo with a steel sculpture made by Kapp. Photo from the Help Glen Bring Indy Home fundraiser

Moody served as a Fleet Marine Force corpsman with the U.S. Marines from 1999 to 2005. While Moody fought in the front lines, he was also the doctor on the field.

“If anything bad happens, they’ll cry on my shoulder, or if they get shot or blown up, they all come to me,” Moody said. “I’m the one that’s got to treat them first hand.”

The experience left Moody with anxiety attacks and issues with his personal life when he returned to Long Island. He said his PTSD was to a point where it affected his everyday life and those around him. According to Moody’s aunt LynnAnne Daly, Moody didn’t have anyone to turn to during his time of service. She added that there should be more support for causes and providing service dogs for veterans.

“We need to get government funding for this,” Daly said about providing service dogs to veterans. “These men and women are fighting for us.”

According to the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation, around 460,000 veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars suffer from PTSD or brain injuries after or during their time of service. The training period for dogs like Indy starts at eight weeks old until they are 18 months old. With the large portion of veterans suffering from PTSD, Daly added that the fundraiser and the cause “is not just about Glen. It’s about spreading awareness.”

Moody agreed and said he is trying to make a difference, starting with the foundation, the fundraiser and his four-legged companion.

“I’m not the only guy [suffering] — I know I’m not,” Moody said about his PTSD. “When I talk to veterans they say the same thing. We need more awareness and that’s what I’m doing.”

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Sept. 1, 1919 — Celebration, Parade & Memorial Service on Labor Day. The soldiers who posed for a picture on the Setauket Village Green included: Ernest West, second from right, front row; George West, second from right, fourth row; Harvey West is third from left, third row. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Yesterday, Nov. 11, was Veterans Day, a day to honor all the men and women who served our country. However, Veterans Day began to mark the anniversary of the end of World War I (The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 — the Armistice with Germany). President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

In 1954, Armistice Day was amended to honor all veteran and the name was changed to Veterans Day.

On Sept. 1, 1919, a celebration, parade and memorial services were conducted at the new East Setauket Memorial and then, at the conclusion of the parade, on the Setauket Village Green.

Muriel Hawkins of East Setauket, 18 years old at the parade, remembered how her uncle Ernest West, who was a ship’s carpenter in the Navy, made seven trips across the Atlantic and back during the war. Ernest was one of four brothers who served during the war. The other three, George, Harvey and Percy, were in the Army. All four were the sons of Setauket blacksmith Samuel West and all four returned.

Two who did not return were memorialized at a ceremony on the Village Green at the end of the parade as reported by the Port Jefferson Times.

“With the service men in uniform standing stiffly at attention and the civilians with bared heads, the entire assemblage united in singing ‘America’… The Rev. T.J. Elms then dedicated a rock to the memory of the Setauket boys who died in the war — Raymond Wishart and Harry Golden… Mrs. Wishart received a medal for her son and Mr. Golden for his boy.”

The massive boulder and south-facing bronze tablet were erected on the Setauket Village Green in their memory. The boulder was brought from Strong’s Neck and the plaque was designed by the well-known artist William DeLeftwich Dodge who painted the murals on New York history that are in the state capital in Albany.

Private Raymond Wishart, son of Postmaster and Mrs. Andrew Wishart, was born Sept. 10, 1893, and he died in France on Aug. 23, 1918. His remains were returned to this country and were buried in the Caroline Church of Brookhaven graveyard on a Sunday in July of 1921.

Harry Golden is remembered by his nephew Sam Golden.

“He was a Sergeant in charge of the mules,” Sam recalled. “His unit was attacked and he was killed. He was 28 years old when he died and he’s buried there in France.”

On the opposite side of the rock is a plaque that was placed there after World War II. It reads, “1941-1945 – In memory of Clifford J. Darling, Henry P. Eichacker, Francis S. Hawkins, David Douglas Hunter, Orlando B. Lyons, Anthony R. Matusky, Edward A. Pfeiffer, (and) William E. Weston of the United States Armed Forces who gave their lives in World War II.”

To be continued.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.

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Members of the American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432 stand at attenion in front of their headquarters on Port Jefferson’s East Main Street in the mid-20th century. The post is now based on Hallock Avenue in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village historical archive

Port Jefferson area residents have a history of serving their country, from the Civil War to more recent conflicts. The community also has a history of honoring veterans and military personnel.

The crew of the N-5 poses aboard the submarine. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village historical archive
The crew of the N-5 poses aboard the submarine. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village historical archive

Veterans Day has been celebrated since Nov. 11, 1919, when it was known as Armistice Day and marked the anniversary of the end of fighting in World War I.

It was expanded to honor all American war veterans in 1954, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Although the fighting in World War I was overseas, there was an impact close to home. Port Jefferson saw action through sailors aboard the U.S. Navy’s coastal defense submarine N-5, also known as the SS-57. According to the village’s historical archive, that submarine conducted engine trials nearby and later patrolled the Long Island Sound, keeping watch for German U-boats.

Other Navy ships from the Atlantic Fleet passed through during that time as well, including the battleships USS New York and USS Louisiana, both of which maneuvered on the Long Island Sound and anchored just outside Port Jefferson.

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower makes Veterans Day an official holiday. Photo in the public domain

By Rich Acritelli

Veterans Day is a time to remember all of our past, present and future members of the Armed Forces, but it was only about 60 years ago that President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially created the holiday we know today. Much happened on Nov. 11 even before it became a date of remembrance — there were significant losses and gains for our militaries during this month throughout history.

In the fall of 1776, Gen. George Washington was reeling from one loss after another that sent his army retreating from Long Island, Manhattan and across New Jersey toward Pennsylvania. It was a dark moment in the Revolutionary War for Washington to lose ground to the British, though he ultimately led the colonies to victory.

President George H.W. Bush rides in an armored jeep with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. in Saudi Arabia, Nov. 22, 1990. Photo in the public domain
President George H.W. Bush rides in an armored jeep with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. in Saudi Arabia, Nov. 22, 1990. Photo in the public domain

During the Civil War, in November 1863, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was summoned to Chattanooga, Tenn., to prevent a total collapse of Union forces against the Confederacy. As Grant headed into the beleaguered city, he saw northern forces terribly hurt from the nearby Battle of Chickamauga. President Abraham Lincoln sent 20,000 soldiers from the Army of the Potomac to aid the defensive and later offensive efforts of Grant to defeat the South in that region, and while the Confederates had been on the verge of gaining a huge victory, Grant opened up the “Cracker Line” to Chattanooga, with additional men, supplies and horses to deter the enemy. Grant’s calm and cool presence helped secure a much-needed victory for a thankful Lincoln, who saw the battle as one of the greatest tests of survival for the Union.

Eisenhower had his own recollections of this date through his experience leading the Allied Forces during World War II. As a new commanding general, he planned the mid-November 1942 allied landings of Operation Torch against the Germans and the Vichy French in North Africa. From Morocco to Algeria, untested American military troops drove to destroy the war machine of Germany. The chainsmoking Eisenhower eagerly waited in Gibraltar for news that his men had achieved all of their objectives against the enemy. Two years later, in the fall of 1944, Eisenhower looked eastward as his forces operated on a broad front against the Nazis in France. By that time, his armies were nearing the German frontier with the belief that their bitter enemy was about to surrender. Little did he know that Hitler was planning a final December offensive, which would later be called the Battle of the Bulge, to drive a wedge against the Allies on the Western Front.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush led the American efforts to destroy the strength of Saddam Hussein. That dictator had invaded Kuwait and was poised to attack Saudi Arabia, but the U.S. aimed to protect the Saudis through Desert Shield. Two weeks after Veterans Day, Bush was eating Thanksgiving dinner in the desert with the American military forces that eventually led the fighting into Iraq and Kuwait to defeat Hussein’s Republican Guard army.

Over the last 15 years, the United States has been in a constant state of warfare against aggressor and terrorist forces. From the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, American service members from across the country have tirelessly fought against an enemy bent on hurting our way of life. Currently, this mission has expanded over the skies of Northern Iraq and Syria to limit the growing expansion and influence of ISIS.

Americans should not neglect the “Forgotten War” veterans of the Korean conflict who bitterly fought against the communists during that Cold War battle, nor the Vietnam War veterans who honorably served for a decade in that Southeast Asian country.

May we always remember and honor our veterans from every American conflict, on Veterans Day and throughout the year.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College. He was a staff sergeant in the New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach.