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Long Island State Veterans Home

 

Close to 100 veterans were on hand for a Veterans Day tribute at the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University Nov. 8.

Highlights of the tribute included a performance from New Lane Elementary School students who sang a number of patriotic songs for the veterans and performed the Armed Forces Medley dedicated to the five individual armed services.

Fred Sganga, executive director for the LISVH, spoke on the importance of veterans’ sacrifices.

“Today we honor more than 56 million Americans who proudly wore the uniform on behalf of a grateful nation,” he said. “We all know the burdens of young men and women that they bear in America’s fight against terrorism and tyranny.”

Thomas DiNapoli, New York State comptroller and keynote speaker for the ceremony, said the holiday is a reminder of the strength that comes when people join together in a just cause.

“Every day should be a day to thank our veterans,” he said. “So much of what we now take for granted in our nation was guaranteed by each of you. And the sacrifices of countless men and women who helped preserve democracy and freedom in America and around the globe.”

Since opening in October 1991, the LISVH has provided care to more than 10,000 veterans.

 

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Local officials and veterans gathered at Port Jefferson Memorial Park for an unveiling ceremony of three new monuments to honor those who served in the nation’s most recent conflicts Nov. 10. 

The ceremony and unveiling completes renovations for three of four memorial sites located in Port Jefferson, Setauket and Stony Brook identified last year for upgrades. The new memorials honor those who served during the Cold War, Lebanon peacekeeping, the Grenada and Panama invasions, the two Gulf wars, the Afghanistan War and the War on Terror.

The work was spearheaded by a war memorial fund committee formed last fall through a partnership between Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars members, and the Long Island State Veterans Home. 

“Today is the unveiling of three new monuments that have been long overdue here — the previous three monuments only went up to the Vietnam War,” said Bill Wolf Sr., commander of the Port Jefferson Station American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432. “We are dedicating three new monuments from the Cold War to our present-day wars we are fighting today.”

Hahn thanked the veterans present for the sacrifices they’ve made. 

“I want to thank the veterans here today for their services — this great nation is only free because of all the things they have done,” she said. “We’ve been working for a year and half to update these memorials … so when veterans come home, they can have the conflicts they participated in reflected here.” 

Dedication of the updated memorial in Port Jefferson was accompanied by the replacement of the site’s damaged existing stonework. Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) secured funding from her district parks budget to make these updates and other related work in advance of the installation of the new monuments. The Town of Brookhaven owns and maintains the memorial site in Port Jefferson across the road from Village Hall.

Phase 1 of the project has already been completed by expanding the memorials in Stony Brook Village and on Setauket Village Green. The final phase will comprise an update at Setauket Veterans Memorial Park near Se-Port Deli.

The approximate $35,000 cost for the memorials project is being paid largely through donations. Contributions are still being accepted for the phase 2 costs. As of Nov. 10, the project members have raised $29,000 since 2018.

Members of the committee will look to complete phase 3 of their project in time for next year’s Memorial Day. Wolf said the committee should have the funds by then to get the work done. 

Checks can be made payable and mailed to Veterans Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 986, Port Jefferson Station, NY, 11776, or can be hand delivered to the attention of Ed Kiernan at American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432, 1450 Hallock Ave., Port Jefferson Station.

More information is available at the website americanlegionwilsonritchpost432.org.

 

From left, Fred S. Sganga and Harry J. Janson present a check from the net proceeds of the 18th annual Golf Classic to Jonathan Spier, deputy executive director at the Long Island State Veterans Home. Photo from LISVH

The Long Island State Veterans Home (LISVH) at Stony Brook University held its 18th annual Golf Classic at the Willow Creek Golf & Country Club in Mount Sinai on Sept. 19. Over 184 golfers enjoyed a picture perfect day and raised over $174,000 to benefit the veterans residing at the veterans home.

Fred S. Sganga, executive director of the LISVH, acknowledged the extraordinary leadership of Harry J. Janson, the chairman of the 18th Annual Golf Classic.  “Harry has served as our golf chairman for the past 11 years and has helped raise over $1.4 million for the veterans living at the home. Each year, Harry finds a way to take our golf outing to a new level, he said.”  

Janson, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is president of Janson Supermarkets, LLC and owner of ShopRite of Hauppauge and Patchogue. A resident of Setauket, Janson is involved in many charitable organizations and serves as a dedicated advocate for veterans and their families. 

“Harry Janson is ‘A veteran’s veterans’ and truly believes in the mission and vision of the Long Island State Veterans Home,” said Sganga.

“At the Long Island State Veterans Home, we take great pride in caring for America’s heroes from the greatest generation to the latest generation, and the $174,000 raised from our Golf Classic will go a long way to help our Home,” said Bob Smith, chairman of the LISVH Veterans Advisory Board. 

Added Sganga, “The proceeds raised from this event will be used to support the quality of life programs our veterans deserve.”

Next year’s Golf Classic will take place on Sept. 17 at the Willow Creek Golf & Country Club. For more information, call 631-444-8615.

By Donna Deedy

Few D-Day veterans are alive today, but you can find three of them at Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, where an award ceremony was held June 6 in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day and Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious operation in military history.

One hundred World War II veterans were presented with the Governor’s Proclamation for the occasion, while Phillip DiMarco and Frank DePergola were decorated with the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross and Charles Cino was decorated with the New York State Medal for Merit. All three men participated in the Normandy invasion.

Ninety-seven-year-old DiMarco was among the first wave of soldiers to storm the beach. “I’m just grateful to have survived,” he said.

Two-thirds of his fellow troopers perished in the first 30 minutes of battle, according to information provided by the state. DiMarco’s group suffered from wounds, hunger, exhaustion and trench foot and survived on green apples and stagnant water doped with halazone tablets, a chlorine-based water purifier. 

“Our World War II heroes and heroines who came of age during the Great Depression, gave new meaning to the words, duty, service, sacrifice, courage and honor,” said Fred Sganga, executive director of the veterans home. “They answered the call to save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled, instruments of conquest in the hands of fascist maniacs.”

War veterans often are understandably reluctant to talk about their horrific war experiences — it’s clearly too painful to relive. At their advanced ages, speaking also requires tremendous effort. Their stories live on through oral history and past memorials. But these men have stories to share from which history can be garnered. After 75 years, their summaries of what happened are often succinct and to the point. 

“There was this man who didn’t like Jews, and we got him,” 96-year-old DePergola said. DePergola was part of D-Day plus 10, meaning his troop arrived 10 days after the initial invasion. He was one of only four people to survive the war out of a platoon of 20, his daughter Jean Pulizzi said.

In his campaign in Germany and Poland, DePergola encountered what they thought were abandoned buildings, only to discover upon entering about 30 captives: Jews, Catholics and Muslims. It was essentially a concentration camp. The stench inside, he said, was intense and unforgettable. The people, he said, were emaciated and wore black and white striped uniforms.

“They were glad to see us,” DePergola said.

While on assignment from headquarters to retrieve maps, DePergola encountered two German soldiers in the woods in Metz, France. He took them captive with a German Luger pistol he had taken off another German officer earlier, since he forgot his issued rifle at headquarters, and returned to base with the captive soldiers. For this, he was awarded a Bronze Star, a military badge of heroism.

For Thursday’s ceremony, DePergola insisted on wearing his favorite cap, which bears the Purple Heart badge, an emblem that recognizes war injuries. DePergola was shot in the knee during battle, but back then, he said, you remained on active duty.  

Cino was 18 years old when he stormed the Normandy beaches. He was responsible for transporting under the cover of darkness thousands of troops in a landing ship tank, or LST, an amphibious boat capable of landing on shore carrying tanks, cargo and troops. Cino, when he heard it was the 75th anniversary of D-Day nodded, shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. He could utter only one full sentence, “I was there.” Then he closed his eyes. 

Both DePergola and DiMarco, in addition to their experience at Normandy, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive of World War II during the harsh winter in 1945.

The D-Day ceremony included color guards and live musicians, who sang patriotic tunes and played the bugle. About half of the veterans in attendance were in wheelchairs, and despite their limitations, tapped their toes to the music. Many were able to salute the flag. Some veterans wiped tears from their eyes, particularly when the room sang the lyrics to “God Bless America.” 

During World War II, 900,000 New Yorkers went to the battlefield; 43,000 did not come home. 

The nation’s largest population of World War II vets live at Long Island State Veterans Home

 

All photos by Donna Deedy

Al Anderson, a Vietnam vet, tries out the new virtual reality device at the Long Island State Veterans Home. Photo by Kyle Barr

It was something straight out of science fiction.

On May 2, the residents and patients at Long Island State Veterans Home on the Stony Brook University campus put on stubby virtual reality goggles and headphones. After just a few seconds, they were transported to another place entirely.

A veteran experiences what it would be like to fly a fighter jet through a new virtual reality device being used at Long Island State Veterans Home. Photo by Kyle Barr

Vietnam veteran Al Anderson moved his head from side to side, up and down. He was no longer on Long Island but in Mozambique, Africa. To the left was a baby hippo and to the right grass plains of golden brown. One of the home’s recreational therapists spun Anderson around in his wheelchair, and then the VR changed, and he was suddenly in a suburban backyard where hummingbirds were feeding from a trough hanging above his head.

“It puts you right there, and if I had this available to me when I started to have some problems with [post-traumatic stress disorder], it would put me out of where I am to another place,” Anderson said. “If I woke up in the middle of the night, and I had this available to me, I could put it on and probably fall right back asleep without having a problem.”

Residents and patients of the veterans home were able to try one of the new 10 MyndVR devices now part of the home’s recreational therapy tools. MyndVR is a company based out of Dallas, Texas, that tries to provide VR technology to the elderly in retirement communities and home health care services. Directors at the home hope this will become a part of regular therapy.

“It’s not just a video game, it’s actually very therapeutic,” said Michelle Cheslak, the director of therapeutic recreation. “It stimulates their cognitive ability to recall a memory. Maybe it unlocks a memory of Paris, maybe a honeymoon that they’re now reliving. Think about it. They’re probably not going to be able to go to Paris ever again, now they can travel wherever they want, right from their seat.”

“It stimulates their cognitive ability to recall a memory. Maybe it unlocks a memory of Paris, maybe a honeymoon that they’re now reliving.”

— Michelle Cheslak

The VR headset allows those who wear it to experience full sensual awareness as the headset tracks head movement and changes audio direction based on where the person is facing.

Deputy Executive Director of the Long Island State Veterans Home Jonathan Spier said that the veterans home is the first in the country to use VR for therapy.

“My goal is to really try to use this with my veterans who suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD,” Spier said. “Some [residents] are just too physically disabled to go out into the community, so this is some technology to let that veteran go anywhere in the world.”

The money for the VR headsets was provided through a grant from the non-profit Bowlers to Veterans Link, an organization made up of bowlers and bowling alley owners who raise money for veteran causes.

“For the people who do the work, and try and heal the veterans, [local veteran centers] are the most appreciative of the value from that,” said John Laspina, the chair of the BVL board of directors and president of Maple Family Centers.

Some of the different VR experiences include NASCAR racing, a tour through Paris, taking off in a fighter jet and swimming with dolphins among several others. Though the devices are not physically intensive, Spier said people with epilepsy or other seizure disorders will not be able to use the devices.

“Some [residents] are just too physically disabled to go out into the community, so this is some technology to let that veteran go anywhere in the world.”

— Jonathan Spier

“It’s like I’m there, either taking off and landing,” said Vietnam veteran and adult day health care patient James Saladino about the fighter jet experience.

Veteran Ronald Kelson served in England from 1954 to 1956. He never got to visit Paris, but with virtual reality, he was able to get a small tour.

“I saw all of London, but I didn’t get to see all of Europe,” Kelson said. “You feel like you’re part of it.”

Executive Director Fred Sganga said he wants technology like this to help remove the stigma that nursing homes are depressing, monotonous places.

“We’re thrilled to be cutting edge,” Sganga said. “A nursing home should not be a boring place. I have an obligation to provide my residents with an outstanding quality of life. We like to say our residents have better social lives than we do.”

Cheslak said that as younger veterans arrive at the veterans home, there is a growing desire and need for more technologically-based therapy.

“We’re getting more younger veterans coming in who are computer savvy,” Cheslak said. “They have iPhones and iPads, and they’re looking for that new technology, for that action. People in their 60s and 70s want to go scuba diving again, they want a thrill.”

From left, Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Ken Kashansky, Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Fred S. Sganga, Tom DiNapoli (D) and Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) look on as U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and resident of Unit 3C Joe Rohan cuts the ribbon. Photo by Doreen Guma
Ribbon cutting ceremony officially opens first renovated residential unit

The Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook recently celebrated a milestone in Operation Rejuvenation, a project that will help renovate the interior of the existing facility, with the opening of its first renovated residential unit, 3C. The event was celebrated with a ribbon cutting on Aug. 25.

The project was made possible by a $12.5 million VA Construction Grant, one of the oldest partnerships between the federal government and the states. Each year, through the support of Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the federal government allocates approximately $85 million to fund the State Veterans Home Construction Grant Program. Through this initiative, individual states compete for funding that must be used to either construct or renovate designated state veterans facilities that provide skilled nursing or domiciliary care.

The federal government appropriates 65 percent of the construction costs provided that each state makes a commitment of 35 percent in state matching funds, for which New York State Senator John Flanagan has been instrumental in helping the LISVH secure.

The newly renovated nursing units include a modernized and open dining space, an accessible nourishment station, a complete nursing station redesign and fully renovated living spaces for residents. This project included the installation of energy-efficient LED lighting, LED televisions and new personal furnishings that our nation’s heroes will be proud to call home.

“The Long Island State Veterans Home has always made a commitment to be the premiere provider for long-term care services to our nation’s heroes,” said Fred S. Sganga, executive director of the Long Island State Veterans Home. “Operation Rejuvenation will assure that our frail, elderly veterans are living in the finest facility in the country. We are really excited about this project because it represents the recommitment of Stony Brook University to Long Island’s veterans and their families.”

“Our veterans were willing to put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect our freedom and way of life,” said Zeldin. “We owe it to them to make sure the facilities that care for our veterans are in the best condition possible to meet their needs. The work being done at the Long Island State Veterans Home will help accomplish that goal, and I commend the leadership and staff for undertaking this project.”

“Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to those who have protected our way of life and cherished freedoms,” said Flanagan. “One way we can say ‘thank you’ to them is by making sure these brave men and women have a comfortable living environment. The Long Island State Veterans Home has been a great resource for our veterans and their families and this project will help ensure that it continues to be a place that our heroes are proud to call home,” he said.

 

Elected officials, religious leaders, volunteers and residents gathered at the Long Island State Veterans Home on the campus of Stony Brook University May 26 to give thanks to a roomful of United States military veterans. The annual ceremony, which includes a color guard, firing detail and wreath laying, honors the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country — whose brothers and sisters in arms reside at the home on campus.

The Long Island State Veterans Home is dedicated to serving the more than 250,000 veterans who live on Long Island. Opened 26 years ago, the facility’s relationship with Stony Brook University’s medical department has been a winning combination for the care of veterans — providing skilled nursing services that many veterans wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

Veterans who fought in Vietnam, Korea and even World War II sat together in the home’s Multipurpose Room, some of them tearful as singer Lee Ann Brill performed moving renditions of “Amazing Grace” and Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Marine Corps veteran Edward Kiernan read “In Flanders Fields,” a famous war memorial poem written during World War I. Korean War veteran Richard Seybold was honorary bearer of the wreath.

“Every minute, of every hour, of every day, Americans enjoy the blessings of a peace-loving nation — blessings protected by the selfless service of men and women in uniform,” Fred Sganga, executive director of the veterans home, said to the crowd. “The America we know would not be the same were it not for the men and women we honor on Memorial Day … a single day during which we honor the spirit of all those who died in service to our nation, but whom we continue to remember and honor in our hearts.”

Stressing the holiday means much more than a three-day weekend, Sganga recognized the collective shift in thinking when it comes to Memorial Day.

“In recent years,” he said, “a new awareness of the sacrifices our military members are making is emerging, becoming an ingrained part of our American experience.”

U.S. State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who delivered the keynote address, read excerpts from President Ronald Reagan’s (R) 1984 address commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-Day. LaValle prefaced by saying, “Whether you served in the second World War, Korean War, Vietnam War or Gulf War, these words apply to you.”

“President Reagan said, ‘Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here … you were young the day you took these cliffs, some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? … It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love. All of you loved liberty, all of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew people of your countries were behind you.’”

LaValle ended his address by thanking the veterans in attendance for their service.

“On behalf of the Senate and majority leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), we really appreciate what you do and we try each and every day to make sure this veterans home is everything that you would want it to be,” LaValle said. “We all say thank you.”

To learn more about the Long Island State Veterans Home, visit www.listateveteranshome.org.

John Cincar uses the eye-tracking iPad device in Stony Brook. Photo from Long Island State Veterans Home

Two eyes and an iPad is all Vietnam veteran John Cincar needs to completely transform his day-to-day life.

Cincar, a resident at Stony Brook’s Long Island State Veterans Home, lost his ability to move his arms and hands, but only needs his eyes to operate a $12,000 iPad the home helped him secure this week as part of its mission to enhance residents’ independence. With help from the device and the home, Cincar said he could open the door to a world he had not been able to access on his own for years. By looking at control keys or cells displayed on the iPad screen, Cincar said he can generate speech, activate functions such as turning on a light or television, and even surf the internet.

“It’s very easy for me to use,” he said. “It does everything. I can get in touch with the world again.”

The eye-tracking device, which the veterans home referred to as an “eye gazer,” was a by-product of a donation from Bowlers to Veterans Link Chairman John LaSpina, a Long Island native and owner of various bowling alleys across the Island. The BVL is a not-for-profit organization that works to support American veterans, raises about $1 million per year through bowlers and bowling centers nationwide, and has a working relationship with the Long Island State Veterans Home, LaSpina said.

John Cincar, center, accepts the eye-tracking iPad device in Stony Brook thanks to a donation from The Bowlers to Veterans Link. Photo from Long Island State Veterans Home
John Cincar, center, accepts the eye-tracking iPad device in Stony Brook thanks to a donation from The Bowlers to Veterans Link. Photo from Long Island State Veterans Home

“An opportunity like this just seemed so incredibly great that we couldn’t say no to it,” he said. “We’re talking about a facility totally dedicated to veterans. The place is immaculately clean. They do wonderful things.”

The BVL donation to the Long Island State Veterans Home was made possible from the proceeds of the “PBA50 Johnny Petraglia BVL Open,” which was held at the Farmingdale Lanes from Saturday, May 7 through Tuesday, May 10.

With the Vietnam era now more than four decades old, the Long Island State Veterans Home has been seeing more veterans who served in that war coming through its doors. And with each war comes a different kind of ailment that staff must combat.

“Many of these guys, their brains are fully intact, but their bodies are shot. They’re trapped,” said Jonathan Spier, deputy executive director for the Long Island State Veterans Home.

Just five years ago, Spier said, the home had only two Vietnam veterans living there. That number skyrocketed to more than 50 by 2016, he said, with former combat men suffering from specific injuries like exposure to Agent Orange and other muscle-related difficulties.

Fred Sganga, executive director of the veterans home, said the addition of the eye-tracking device only furthered his group’s mission to enhance the quality of life of more than 6,000 Long Island veterans.

“The goal is to maximize every veteran’s independence,” he said. “We want to be strategically ready for the next generation of veterans coming here, and this technology is transformational for someone who is a paraplegic.”

When asked how he planned on harnessing the power of the iPad to his benefit, Cincar said he hopes to study new languages, like Romanian — the language of the land he was born in.

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

The fight to expand veterans health services made a pit stop in Stony Brook before hitting Washington, D.C.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) took to the Long Island State Veterans Home last Thursday and stood before a room filled with veterans standing to benefit from a piece of legislation he said would expand disabled veterans’ access to adult day health care. He garnered widespread support from the local level before taking the fight to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which scheduled a hearing on his bill for April 20.

“It must always be a top priority of Congress to ensure that all veterans receive the proper treatment and care they deserve after fighting for our country,” Zeldin said. “My bill, which has strong bipartisan support in Congress, with over 45 co-sponsors including the entire Long Island Congressional Delegation, is just one more way that we can expand care for veterans.”

H.R. 2460 was written to enhance care for service members who are 70 percent or more disabled from a service-connected injury, which Zeldin said often required hands-on assistance in order to complete everyday tasks. In Stony Brook, the Long Island State Veterans Home is only one of three facilities nationwide to offer a program called adult day health care, which delivers an alternative to nursing home care for disabled veterans and their families. But the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not cover such an expense at state veterans homes, putting a greater burden on service members’ wallets.

If passed, Zeldin said, the legislation would help expand this program, which could be offered at any of the 153 state veterans homes across the country.

Fred Sganga, director of the Long Island State Veterans Home, said the legislation would fix a harrowing disparity that disabled vets face on a daily basis.

“Since the original legislation to provide no-cost skilled nursing care to our veterans who are 70 percent or more service connected disabled was passed into law in 2006, those veterans who could possibly be served by an alternative like medical model adult day health care have been shortchanged of this wonderful opportunity,” he said. “Congressman Zeldin had the resolve to recognize this issue and bring an appropriate fix not only for the Long Island State Veterans Home, but for the other 152 state veterans homes across the country.”

Noreen Saladino, whose husband James receives adult day health care to help combat the effects of being exposed to Agent Orange while serving during the Vietnam War, said the program has given her a new life.

“My personal life changed when James entered adult day health care,” she said. “It keeps him safe and comfortable.

Dr. Kenneth Kushansky, dean at the School of Medicine and senior vice president of Health Sciences at Stony Brook University, said the congressman’s bill advocated for a critical piece of veterans health care exercised at both Stony Brook Hospital and the 350-bed Long Island State Veterans Home.

“Stony Brook Medicine wants to acknowledge Congressman Zeldin for submitting this legislation on behalf of veterans and their families,” he said. “Providing funding for a long-term care alternative, like medical model adult day health care, will give our veterans and their families much deserved choice. Stony Brook Medicine serves as a model for the rest of the nation as it relates to long-term care for our nation’s heroes, and we are proud to be a part of this initiative.”

Devin Mollberg steps into mixed martial arts arena

Devin Mollberg, left, trains at Red Dragon Jiu-Jitsu in Centereach. Photo from Mollberg

Some people watch mixed martial arts fights on television and think “that’s brutal,” or “that’s barbaric,” or “that’s too violent.” Some don’t know what it is at all.

But North Shore native Devin Mollberg described the anything-goes, hand-to-hand combat style differently.

“It’s really exhilarating…It’s just an adrenaline rush,” said Mollberg, a 28-year-old Ward Melville High School graduate and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, about his favorite pastime. Mollberg grew up in Stony Brook, where he returned home from Afghanistan following his second tour of duty in late 2014. His first tour deployed him to Japan and South Korea. During his enlistment, he was stationed in Twentynine Palms, California.

“It’s kind of a tough transition,” Mollberg said in an interview last week about adjusting back to home life after four years in the military. “It’s kind of like, you leave home and then when you come back four years later everything’s a lot different. So it’s kind of tough getting back into the routine of things.”

Mollberg, like countless other veterans, said he realized the importance of finding ways to regain a feeling of normalcy upon returning home. Mixed martial arts has provided him with that.

“I started doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu when I was a teenager,” Mollberg said. “I’d always trained jiu-jitsu and boxing even throughout my entire enlistment. I would train at schools in California.”

Mollberg has been involved in two jiu-jitsu tournaments in his life, one in Okinawa, Japan, and one in 2015 in St. James. He said he decided to use his boxing, jiu-jitsu and military training blend to pursue a mixed martial arts career. Generally speaking, the most successful MMA fighters tend to use a seamless blend of multiple disciplines to create their own style.

He gave MMA a full endorsement as a way for veterans to channel some of their emotions upon returning home.

“It’s definitely a great thing for veterans to get into,” Mollberg said. “It helps you stay calm.”

“Devin’s a goal-setter and a go-getter,” Nick Galatro, a friend of Mollberg’s for about a decade, said in an interview. “When he puts his mind to something he won’t stop until he gets it and he’s probably the most humble guy I know. You will never hear how great he is from his mouth,” Galatro said.

“It’s just an important skill set that I think is something that you should have,” Mollberg said about what initially drew him to fighting. “It’s definitely a passion of mine. I love fighting.” Some of his other passionate interests include rooting for the New York Jets and Knicks. He follows the Jets with the same intensity as a cage fighter.

Though he hasn’t yet been in an MMA “cage fight,” his training and preparation are currently geared toward making that debut in 2016. Mollberg trained for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament in 2015 at Red Dragon Jiu-Jitsu in Centereach. He is in the process of selecting a suitable gym for his foray into MMA.

Long Island natives have experienced some success in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, mixed martial arts’ most popular governing organization.

Chris Weidman, who fights out of Baldwin, spent time as the UFC middleweight division champion. Chris Wade of Islip won his 11th professional bout in a UFC match Sunday.