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Port Jefferson Village Center

By Heidi Sutton

The Port Jefferson Conservancy hosted a reception for the Port Jefferson Village Center’s latest exhibit, GRUMMAN ON LONG ISLAND, A Photographic Tribute, on Jan. 10, an event that attracted over 250 visitors. Former Grumman employees, family, friends and the community came out to celebrate a reunion of sorts and to reminisce about the aerospace company that employed over 20,000 people on Long Island over the decades. 

A highlight of the reception was a six-member guest panel that included Grummanites Vinny DeStefano, vice president of manufacturing; Hank Janiesch, vice president (F-14 Program); Rodger Schafer, technical adviser; Joe “Ruggs” Ruggerio, director of electronic warfare; Harold Sheprow, a flight test manager and former mayor of Port Jefferson; Jim Reynolds Sr., an ILS engineer; and Cmdr. Jim Roth, a combat pilot and aviation test pilot who was an instructor for the first Grumman A-6 Intruder squadron.

They took turns speaking about their experience at Grumman and then fielded questions from a standing room only audience. Each guest speaker echoed the same sentiment; that they had loved working for Grumman, were very proud of their career and would do it all over again.

The exhibit, which was curated by Port Jefferson historian Chris Ryon and the Village of Belle Terre historian John Hiz, boasts over 100 photos, several scale models of planes and a special test pilot section.

Mayor Margot Garant kicked off the reception, saying, “I want to recognize the outstanding work, the collaborate effort, of Chris Ryon and John Hiz. They have collectively put in at least 300 man-hours putting this exhibit together.” 

“We had no idea what we were getting into a year ago when we decided to do a Grumman exhibit,’” said Ryon. “People have been coming into our office every day [to drop off photographs] and then we ended up going to the Grumman History Center and filling a 26-foot box truck [with more memorabilia]. It’s been great.”

“This [exhibit] is basically an idea of a  photo tribute to the Grumman Aerospace and Engineering Corporation between 1929 and 1994. That was the year they were acquired by Northrop,” said Hiz. “This evening we would like to reconnect through photographs, artifacts and mainly stories with individuals, families and friends who have contributed in making Grumman a household name on Long Island, a leader in aviation and space exploration and a very important part of our Long Island heritage.”

Visitors were treated to hors d’ouevres, wine and a special cake in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. 

The exhibit runs through February at the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101A East Main St., Port Jefferson. Admission is free. For further information, call 631-802-2160.

Photos by Heidi Sutton and Beverly C. Tyler

By Daniel Dunaief

It’s an opportunity for a reunion, a celebration of a major employer on Long Island, and a chance to recognize the role residents played in a landmark achievement from the 1960s all rolled into one exhibition.

Kicking off tonight with a discussion and reception, the Port Jefferson Village Center will present an exhibit titled Grumman on Long Island, A Photographic Tribute featuring photographs and memorabilia from Grumman. The company, which became part of Northrop Grumman in 1994, started in 1929 and was involved in everything from the design of F-14 fighter jets to the lunar excursion module that carried astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface of the moon 50 years ago this July.

Sponsored by Port Jefferson Harbor Education & Arts Conservancy, the exhibition will run through February. Port Jefferson Village Historian Chris Ryon will kick off the evening and John Hiz, who is the Belle Terre village historian, will serve as the master of ceremonies.

Special guests include former Grumman employees Vinny DeStefano, vice president of manufacturing; Hank Janiesch, vice president (F-14 Program); Rodger Schafer, technical adviser; Joe “Ruggs” Ruggerio, director of electronic warfare; Harold Sheprow, a flight test manager and former mayor of Port Jefferson; Jim Reynolds Sr., an ILS engineer; and Cmdr. Jim Roth, a combat pilot and aviation test pilot who was an instructor for the first Grumman A-6 Intruder squadron.

The exhibition boasts approximately 100 photos, which former Grumman employees provided to celebrate the company’s legacy. “People are coming in every day with boxes,” said Ryon in a recent interview.

In addition to the photos, the exhibition includes a test pilot helmet and several models that are 1/10th the scale of planes, including the X29, an F-14 and the Hawkeye.

“We are anticipating a huge turnout for this exhibit,” said Margot Garant, the mayor of Port Jefferson. “Grumman was an important economic engine for Long Island.” The aerospace company attracted many people to Long Island, Garant said, and she expects that many of them will visit the exhibit to share their experiences with former co-workers. The mayor said Ryon and Hiz have received a “massive response from people” who are proud of their role at the company.

Grumman designed and produced the lunar module that helped Capt. Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert return safely from the troubled Apollo 13 mission. “We have [pictures of] Apollo 13 astronauts speaking to Grumman employees,” Ryon said.

When he was bobbing up and down after returning to Earth, Lovell recognized that Grumman helped save their lives, Hiz said. “That was a defining moment in what it meant to fly a Grumman aircraft, which was reliable, rugged and dependable,” he added.

Grumman alumni also shared their appreciation for the way the company treated them, including the yearly picnic complete with carnival rides and providing turkeys to their families during Christmas and Thanksgiving. “What’s really hit me is the emotional response people have when they talk about Grumman,” said Ryon.

Reynolds, who worked at Grumman for 40 years and retired in 2005, said the exhibit highlights all the vehicles that were tested and the ones that landed on the moon, adding he appreciated how management cared for the people who worked at the company. 

He recalled how he put his youngest son John Thomas Reynolds into the cockpit of an F-14 and told him not to touch anything. Reynolds asked his technicians to run the gear and fold the wings in and out. His son was so excited that his “eyes were tremendous,” Reynolds recalls. “For a young boy, it was really quite an experience.” 

A resident of Selden for 52 years, Reynolds said he recently ran into Vinny DeStefano, a former Grumman manager and the two former co-workers “shook hands for about an hour.”

The exhibit will also feature a test pilot section, which contains stories from Amy Tuttle, the program director at the Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council, whose father Bruce was a test pilot. Tuttle had to ditch his plane in 1951 outside of Port Jefferson Harbor (see sidebar).

Through several decades when Grumman employed over 20,000 people on Long Island, the company and the area were inextricably intertwined. “There was probably not a day that went by during the period prior to 1994 that you weren’t faced with” a Grumman connection, said Hiz, whether on WALK radio advertisements or seeing trucks on the Long Island Expressway.

Hiz described Grumman as being at the apex of the nation’s defense for so many years. At its heyday, Grumman built 70 percent of all the aircraft that flew from aircraft carriers, Hiz said. Part of what made Grumman so effective was the way the company designed each vehicle like a Swiss watch. 

“They created these fantastic flying machines with their hands. Most of the machinery, they had to build from day one,” said Hiz, adding that the work ethic of the employees and the ability to promote from within added to its resourcefulness.

Reynolds took “great pride in what I did on the program,” he said. He started as a technician in 1965 and received numerous awards, including a 10-day trip to Hawaii that he took with his wife.

“Don’t underestimate how important Grumman was to these guys who worked there and women that worked there,” Tuttle added. “They were incredibly devoted to the company. It was a corporation which was pretty unusual even then.”

The Port Jefferson Village Center, 101A East Main St., Port Jefferson will present Grumman on Long Island, A Photographic Tribute on its second- and third-floor galleries through Feb. 28. An opening reception will be held tonight, Jan. 10, from 6 to 9 p.m. with entertainment by Jazzopedia, a Grumman video tribute and light fare. For more information, call 631-802-2160. 

Sidebar:

Test pilot Bruce Tuttle brought ‘The Right Stuff’ to Long Island

By Daniel Dunaief

Bruce Tuttle

“The Right Stuff,” a phrase made famous by the late Tom Wolfe book about fighter pilots and astronauts, also thrived on Long Island.

On Dec. 10, 1951, Navy test pilot Bruce Tuttle took an F9S to varying altitudes, where he was asked to turn off the engine and then turn it back on. At 5,000 feet, everything worked as it should. Doubling that to 10,000 caused no problems. It wasn’t until 30,000 feet that the plane refused to reignite, causing a flame out.

Needing to ditch the plane, Tuttle directed it toward the Long Island Sound, ejecting into the thin air at over 5.5 miles in the sky.

Tuttle reached the frigid water, where he waited for eight minutes for help to arrive. When it did, the initial report indicated that he looked slightly better than expected. Tuttle told the Navy the only physical consequence of his fall was a scratch to his nose but he had fractured several vertebrae. Rather than take himself out of the running for future flights, Tuttle dealt with the pain and slept on a board for a year.

“All of these pilots looked at that as not only their calling, but they felt very strongly that this was important as Americans,” said Amy Tuttle, Bruce Tuttle’s youngest child and the program director at the Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council. “They were all patriotic guys.”

The plane Bruce Tuttle flew is still at the bottom of the Long Island Sound. 

The new Grumman exhibit at the Port Jefferson Village Center features several details from the test pilot’s work at the company and on behalf of the country, including a sonar image of the plane, which over the years has moved with the current under the Sound and is about two miles out from Old Field Point and the mouth of Port Jefferson Harbor. “If you take the Port Jefferson/ Bridgeport Ferry, you’re going right past the spot where dad’s plane crashed,” said Amy, whose father died in 2014.

Like other test pilots, Bruce Tuttle received a request to gauge his interest in joining the space program. He turned down the opportunity to be an astronaut because he didn’t want to be “in anything he couldn’t control,” explained Amy.

A Saks-34th Street advertisement from Oct. 11, 1953, reads, ‘Now you can own a jacket just like Bruce Tuttle’s … Chief Test Pilot for Grumman Aircraft Corp.’ Image courtesy of Amy Tuttle

Her father did, however, contribute to the space effort. When a crippled Apollo 13 was hobbling back from its ill-fated mission to the moon, he worked feverishly with other executives at NASA, Grumman and elsewhere to help guide the astronauts home.

“He’d come home from Bethpage to Stony Brook at 11 p.m., get up at 4 a.m. and go back out to Bethpage,” Amy said. “I remember asking him, ‘Dad, are you going to be able to get them back?’ He said, ‘Well, we’re working on it.’” She appreciated how her father couldn’t, and wouldn’t, guarantee a positive outcome.

Her father “worked on the lunar excursion module. They were using everybody’s knowledge that had ever worked on it to try to find a solution,” she said.

Amy thinks Apollo 13 was especially nerve wracking for test pilots like her father, who had been in combat, because it was “so important for them to get these guys on this mission back in one piece. The mindset was: no guy left behind.”

Bruce Tuttle’s interest in flying started on May 20, 1927, when his mother took him to a hillside in Port Jefferson to see Charles Lindbergh’s plane as it attempted to cross the Atlantic. Tuttle saw Lindbergh fly along the North Shore, head back as he reached Port Jefferson because of fog, and then head east again when he reached a clearing in Setauket.

“That made a big impression on him,” Amy said of her father, who won the Distinguished Flying Cross medal and who worked for Grumman from 1946 until the mid-1980s.

While Tuttle isn’t sure whether her father inspired anyone to fly jets, she said he was in an advertisement for a flight jacket from Saks-34th, which cost $15.95 in 1953.

Amy said her father was skeptical of the overuse of the word “hero.”

“He would say, ‘I’m not a hero,’ and I’m thinking to myself, you crashed a jet so that it wouldn’t land on anybody else and kill them. That’s pretty heroic.”

      The Long Island Explorium, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson is pleased to partner with the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society to present an insightful and invaluable Cold Stun Sea Turtle Talk and Workshop on how to save sea turtles that wash up on our shores on Tuesday, Dec. 4 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. 
     As summer ends and the cooler fall weather finds its way to New York, the four different species of sea turtles that utilize our waters migrate south to warmer waters. Atlantic green, Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles that fail to move out of our waters before the first cold snap will become hypothermic, stop swimming and eating and may wash up on our shores. When we act quickly there is a chance we can save them.
     Co-hosted by thePort Jefferson Village Center and the Port Jefferson Library, this workshop will provide participants with knowledge and skills needed to prevent these sea turtles from succumbing to the effects of the cold winter.
     To RSVP for the workshop, email Hannah at education@amseas.org. For more information, call 631-331-3277.

This year's event will feature samplings from Danfords Wave Seafood & Steak

Save the date! The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Dan’s Papers, will host its 11th annual The Taste @ Port Jefferson at the Village Center, 101-A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson overlooking the Harborfront Park and harbor on Saturday, Oct. 20 from 6 to 10 p.m.

This year’s event will feature  samplings from Kilwins. 

In celebration, the chamber has reached out to the greater Port Jefferson restaurant community and will highlight over 20 restaurants and purveyors offering top-quality food tastings and desserts as well as samples of premium liquors, wines and beers. The event, for ages 21 and over, will feature musical entertainment by the popular band 1 Step Ahead. 

As of press time, participating businesses include Barito’s, Bliss Restaurant, C’est Cheese, Costco, Danfords Wave Seafood & Steak, Dos MexiCuban Cantina, Kilwins, Flying Pig Cafe, Haikara Sake, Twin Stills Moonshine, L.I. Pour House Bar & Grill, Locals Cafe, Manhattan Beer, MELTology Mount Sinai, PJ Brewing Co., Port Jefferson Frigate, PJ Lobster House, Slurp Ramen, Starbucks, The Steam Room, St. Charles Hospital, Tuscany Gourmet Market, Uncle Giuseppe’s and The Waterview at Port Jefferson Country Club.

Sponsors this year include St. Charles Hospital, Paraco Gas, Harbor Hot Tubs, Haikara, TGIF Rentals and Fenelon Landscapes. BNB Bank is this year’s VIP Lounge Sponsor Dan’s Papers is the media sponsor.

Tickets, which may be purchased online at www.tasteatportjeff.com, are $70 per person for general admission starting at 7 p.m. and $99 for VIP guests at 6 p.m., which includes early access by one hour, a special VIP lounge with a private seating area, speciality spirits, dishes, wine pours and more. For further details, call 631-473-1414.

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People arriving to this year’s Eastern Long Island Mini Maker’s Faire in Port Jefferson June 9 were greeted by robed Jedis from the Long Island Saber Guild flourishing with their lightsabers and a true-to-scale Hulkbuster costume as if straight from the screen of the recent “Avengers: Infinity War” movie. It was just the start to a day filled with the strange and the unique as makers from all across Long Island and beyond showed off their inventions and skills to interested guests.

The annual event, hosted by the nonprofit Long Island Explorium, is a celebration of doers, dabblers or anybody who uses their own sweat, blood and tears to create or build something, even if it’s a little off the wall. New to this year’s fair was the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra, which used hollowed out carrots, gourds, cucumbers to play songs, such as The Beatles’ hit “Hey Jude.”

Several robotics teams from high schools across the county showed off creations, from Lego Mindstorms robots that could stop and reverse if it sensed an obstruction in front of it, to a huge shirt cannon from Smithtown High School’s Mechanical Bulls robotics team that fired t-shirts from the Port Jefferson Village Center all the way into Harborfront Park.

New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) presented the explorium with a resolution commending its work in producing the event. At the same time three volunteers who worked with the explorium on the event received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for their work in the explorium’s museum. One of those young men, fourth-grader Greyson West, received the bronze reward for working between 26 and 49 hours at the museum.

“We earned the award by our age group and how many hours we participated in volunteering at the museum,” Greyson said. “It feels pretty good to receive it.”

An organizer of the event commended Greyson’s hard work.

“They work with the children, they worked with the community,” Carole Van-Duyn, the explorium’s museum program director said. “Our volunteers taught and engaged with the kids in several events and Greyson helped make it a great experience.”

 

Kenyer Natural Bakery will return to the event this year.

Save the date! The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Dan’s Papers, will host its 10th annual The Taste @ Port Jefferson at the Village Center, 101-A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson overlooking the Harborfront Park and harbor on Saturday, Oct. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m.

In celebrating this landmark anniversary, the chamber has reached out to the greater Port Jefferson restaurant community and will highlight over 30 restaurants and purveyors offering top-quality food tastings and desserts as well as samples of premium liquors, wines and beers. The event, for ages 21 and over, has been changed to a night venue, which creates new energy and features musical entertainment by the rock band New Life Crisis. In addition to the usual indoor setting, the event will spill outside under a 50- by 100-foot tent.

Try some delicious crepes from Crazy Crepe Café.

Participating food purveyors will include Amazing Olive, Bagel Express-Setauket, Bliss, Chick-fil-A at Port Jefferson, Crazy Crepe Café–Mount Sinai, Crazy Fish Bar & Gill, Curry Club, Danfords Wave Seafood Kitchen, Don Quijote, Dos Mexi Cuban Cantina, Kenyer Natural Bakery, Flying Pig Café, Land & Sea Seafood & Restaurant, Messina Market & Catering, Penntora Lao-Thai Catering, Port Jeff Lobster House, Slurp Ramen, Spiros Restaurant & Lounge, St. Charles Hospital, The Meadow Club and Tuscany of Miller Place.

Dessert samplings from A Cake in Time, East Main & Main, Kilwins of Port Jefferson and LaBonne Boulangerie Bakery will be offered along with beverage tastings from Starbucks, Port Jeff Brewing Company and Manhattan Beer.

Presenting sponsor this year will be New York Cancer & Blood Specialists, and chamber partner St. Charles Hospital will be highlighted as a silver sponsor. Other sponsors include BNB Bank, Farrell Storage and O’Brien Group, LLC, and the media sponsor is Dan’s Papers.

Tickets, which may be purchased online at www.tasteatportjeff.com, are $65 per person for general admission starting at 7 p.m. and $95 for VIP guests at 6 p.m., which includes early access by one hour, a special VIP lounge with tables and chairs, premium pours and desserts, VIP gift bag and special entertainment. For further details, call 631-473-1414.

Photos by Nicole Geddes

By Alex Petroski

Like a scene from a popular HBO show, Port Jefferson was overrun with dragons for as far as the eye could see Sept. 16. The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted its fourth Dragon Boat Race Festival at Harborfront Park and in Port Jefferson Harbor Saturday. The annual event features boat races, food, vendors, traditional Chinese ceremonies and customs, and musical performances.

This year 30 dragon boat teams competed in a recreational division, and four club teams squared off on the open seas in a more competitive one. Teams consisted of 20 rowers, one steersman and one drummer for the races around the inner harbor. The festival is the brainchild of Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber, who said she got her inspiration after she attended a dragon boat race festival in Cape May, New Jersey, a few years back.

“We’ve got it down from an organizational perspective,” Ransome said in a phone interview after the event. “Everything went very well and very smooth.”

Ransome said she thought this year yielded larger attendance numbers — she speculated several thousand — than previous years, and said she is happy the event is growing. She said about 140 people utilized a free shuttle service provided to take attendees from their cars to the park, which was about 40 percent more than during last year’s event.

In the recreational group, a team from the Long Island School of Chinese called Huaxia Dragon took home the gold with a time of 58.06 seconds, narrowly edging Seas the Day, a team of rowers from St. Charles Hospital, who finished in 58.10 to capture silver. A New York City-area rowing club called The Collective won gold in the club division with a time of 58.27 in the final heat. The New York City Police Department rowing club came in second, finishing just two-tenths of a second behind The Collective.

Ransome said upon request from teams that competed in 2016, this was the first year racers were separated into groups based on experience levels, and she thought it was a good decision.

Port Jefferson Dragons, a Port Jefferson Village team, prepared extensively for the 2017 race, according to Ransome, so the group was bumped up as the fourth team in the club division. As a modest underdog, Port Jefferson Dragons got on the podium with a third-place finish.

“That was very impressive,” she said. “They did extraordinarily well.”

The Confucius Institute at Stony Brook University, an educational partnership between the school and China’s Office of Chinese Language Council International, was once again a sponsor of the event. According to a staff member at the institute, its directors were pleased with the event.

“We basically support any cultural events in the area that promotes Chinese culture, so it makes sense,” the staff member said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) sent Assistant Director of Constituencies for Asian American Affairs Joanne Choi to the event as a representative on his behalf. Suffolk County Legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Village Mayor Margot Garant were among the other elected officials also in attendance.

A maximum occupancy restriction was placed on the village-owned pier for the event, which has been found to need repairs following the 2016 race. Ransome said the guidelines were strictly adhered to, and actually made the event easier for timekeepers and organizers.

Photo by Bob Savage

Hear ye! Hear ye! Casting of “street characters” for the 22nd annual Port Jefferson Charles Dickens Festival on Dec. 2 and 3 is currently underway. Adults, teens and children are needed for scripted scenes and improv as well as some singing and dancing. No experience necessary. Participants have the option of joining for a portion of the festival weekend or for the long haul for the rehearsals and scenes. An informational meetings will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Port Jefferson Village Center’s Skipjack Room, 101 E. Broadway, Port Jefferson. For more information, email Karen at GPJACtheater@gmail.com.

Chris Levi and Frank Lombardi, who organized the event, after their voyage. Photo by Kevin Redding

Despite some rough seas during a 22-mile trip from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Port Jefferson Aug. 31, military veterans paddled their kayaks onto the beach on Harborfront Park, with plenty to celebrate.

For the second year in a row, several local members of the armed forces and friends have taken part in The Veterans Kayak PTSD Awareness Challenge in an effort to raise money and awareness for veterans suffering from mental health issues and to help reduce the veteran suicide rate, is 22 suicides a day and more than 8,000 a year, according to data released by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in 2016.

Eight veteran-manned kayaks reach Port Jefferson from Bridgeport Connecticut Aug. 31. Photo by Kevin Redding

Many of these suicides are directly related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-induced stress and depression, according to the website for 22Kill, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about veterans’ issues.

But through the six-hour excursion, which began at the downtown Bridgeport Harbor at around 11 a.m. and ended at the Port Jeff shore at around 5 p.m., more than $60,000 was raised and will go toward the development of a new program to support the veterans in need.

As the eight kayaks came to shore, the veterans were greeted with cheers from a crowded pier.

“It was pretty rough out there today; it’s physical and mental because you can see Long Island from Connecticut, so it just never seems like Long Island is getting any closer,” said Army veteran Frank Lombardi with a laugh. “[But] we had the camaraderie out there to get us through it. It’s awesome, we’re kind of like our own little family.”

It was Lombardi who got the initiative in motion last year after he was horrified to learn the suicide rate statistics, he said. Together with fellow Army veteran Chris Levi, who lost both his legs in 2008 while serving in Iraq, he organized the veteran groups to take the trip across the Long Island Sound. He said he hope the fundraiser will only grow from here on out.

Lombardi, assistant to the CEO of Independent Group Home Living in Manorville, is developing the new program funded with the proceeds raised by the kayak journey, with the nonprofit Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk, which provides services to domestic violence and rape victims, many of whom suffer  from PTSD.

“The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gets 14,000 calls into the suicide hotline every week and they really can’t handle that volume so we really wanted to do something,” Lombardi said.

Levi, whose spirit prevailed after spending many years in hospitals undergoing surgery and a difficult rehabilitation process, said he loves spending time with his military brothers and sisters.

Chris Levy upon his arrival in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Being able to do these events are what bring us back together in groups and it’s something I always look forward to,” Levi said.

The veteran offered insight into just how difficult kayaking across the Long Island Sound is.

“If I were to quit, I wouldn’t be quitting myself, I’d be quitting the group,” he said. “If anybody gives up, we all give up. Also last year I never applied suntan lotion. This year I learned my lesson and applied copious amounts.”

Glenn Moody, a Marine Corps veteran and Port Jefferson resident who participated in the trek, said this was the first day he’d ever been on a kayak.

“It’s for a great cause and when you’ve got all these veterans out here doing the same thing, it’s enough to push you,” Moody said. “We’re trying to get together as a team and help veterans out. The suicide numbers are too high, and those of us who served don’t want to see our brothers and sisters keep dying. I didn’t even know any of these guys and we all became best friends on the water.”

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