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Rocky Point High School

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Pete LaSalla rushes through Eastport-South Manor’s defense before rocketing a shot that finds the netting in a loss to the Sharks April 9. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Rocky Point came from behind in the first half, but was victimized by a comeback late in an 8-7 home loss to
Eastport-South Manor April 9.

Up 7-3 heading into the fourth, the Sharks scored five unanswered goals and won the final faceoff with 1:34 left to seal the deal.

Zach Gill carries the ball across the field
despite longstick midfielders’ attempts to hold him back. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think we did a good job early on offensively, but as the game went on we had many unnecessary attempts to force goals when we should have killed off time,” said Rocky Point’s Pete LaSalla, who finished with four goals and an assist. “As a team we need to continue to grow and be able to close out games and not let teams come back.”

The senior sparked the Eagles’ response in the first quarter when he scored from the right side 30 yards out unassisted with about a minute left to cut the Sharks’ 2-0 lead in half. Classmate Zach Gill knotted things up less than two minutes into the second to make it a new game, and by the 2:39 mark LaSalla scored his second and third goals for a 4-2 lead. He wrapped up his points in the first half with a dish to Gill for a goal that put Rocky Point up 5-2 heading into the break.

“Through the first three quarters I️ thought we played great as a team, we really put everything together and were playing as a whole,” said sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Kotarski.

Up 6-3, Rocky Point went a man down after a late hit and fended off shot after shot with the first-year varsity starter making multiple stops between the pipes.

“We had great goaltending from Tyler Kotarski,” LaSalla said. “When we went a man down I was happy that our defense stepped up and didn’t let up a goal.”

Tyler Kotarski prepares to put the ball in play after making one of his 12 saves. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The goalie said he was just trying to do his job.

“I was just trying to save every ball that came at me,” Kotarski said. “We killed both of the penalties with only four guys on the field — it felt great to get that defensive stop. During times like that I️ try not to pay attention to the scoreboard and act as every shot could be a game-winning goal.”

LaSalla scored in the final minutes of the third. Also taking faceoffs all evening, he won possession twice in the final quarter, but the Sharks found a way to steal it back, each time scoring to close the gap until the game was knotted at 7-7.

“We just need to keep the momentum going through all four quarters and finish strong,” Kotarski said. “Lacrosse is one of those sports where you can score multiple goals in a short amount of time, and that’s exactly what Petey [LaSalla] did and that’s exactly what they did in return. It’s been a real honor playing on varsity and watching our team improve as a whole. We’ll bounce back from this.”

Rocky Point looked to redeem itself with a game at Mattituck April 11, but results were not available by press time. Rocky Point returns home to take on neighboring Mount Sinai April 13 at 4:30 p.m.

Rocky Point High School students walk out March 14 to join in the national protest against gun violence in schools. Photo from Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

“Books not bullets!” “We want change!”

A group of nearly 30 students shouted these words from behind the front gates of Rocky Point High School between 10 a.m. and 10:17 a.m. March 14, demanding stricter gun legislation to help put an end to school violence one month after the Parkland, Florida, shooting left 17 students and faculty members dead.

Rocky Point High School students walk out March 14 to join in the national protest against gun violence in schools. Photo from Kevin Redding

The Rocky Point high schoolers were among thousands across the country who took part in the school walkout demonstration during the time frame.

The district issued a letter to parents last week that any student who chooses to participate in the movement via exiting the high school will be “subject to administrative action.” Requests for what the repercussions might be were not immediately returned.

Students waved signs that read “Our voices deserve to be heard,” “I will not be a statistic” and “School is for learning, not target practice” as passing cars honked in support.

“We want legislators to take action against all assault weapons,” said senior Jade Pinkenburg, one of the organizers of the event. “We don’t want guns in our schools and want to feel safe within our schools. That’s what we’re doing this for.”

Rocky Point High School students walk out March 14 to join in the national protest against gun violence in schools. Photo from Kevin Redding

Senior Bernard Sanchez said students should be allowed to have more of a voice.

“You can’t sacrifice the First Amendment to try to protect the Second,” Sanchez said. “Court cases have proven time and time again that we don’t give away every choice we have when we enter a school.”

Jade Pinkenburg’s father Chris said that the students involved in the protest attempted to meet with Superintendent Michael Ring at the start of the week but “nothing happened.”

“No Rocky Point student will be permitted to leave the premises as part of any of these upcoming events or otherwise, without appropriate permission, whether on March 14 or at any time during school hours throughout the school year,” Ring wrote in last week’s letter.

Chris Pinkenburg stood by and said he supports the students despite the district’s disapproval.

“I think it’s a very good thing,” his father said. “Obviously the adults don’t have any solutions, so I hope this will bring about great change. It’s time.”

Brianna Florio, on right, was honored by the Sound Beach Civic Association and president Bea Ruberto, on left, for her community involvement. Photo from Sound Beach Civic Association

A Sound Beach Girl Scout recently solidified the organization’s highest honor by helping children who live in a temporary shelter feel a little more at home.

Brianna Florio, an 18-year-old Sound Beach resident and a member of Rocky Point Girl Scout Troop 2945, has been working since last year to better the lives of 16 children who reside at Halo House in Sound Beach, a shelter for families in crisis.

While staffers within the home — which gets its funding from the Department of Social Services — do all they can to help the four families currently living under one roof get their cases under control, find employment and locate more permanent housing, helping young children adjust to their new environment is a constant challenge.

Brianna Florio will be receiving her Gold Award next month after working with children at Halo House in Sound Beach to paint a mural to make the place feel more like home. Photo from Brianna Florio

So when it came time to pick a community outreach project in summer 2016 to fulfill the requirements for her Gold Award, the Rocky Point High School graduate, who learned of the shelter from one of her troop leaders, set her sights on making it more kid-friendly.

“I knew this would be a good fit for her,” said Donna McCauley, her troop leader who first became aware of the Halo House through St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach. “Brianna is very dedicated, has a very generous spirit and is always ready to help anyone in need. It also gave her a way to express herself creatively, which she’s very good at.”

Florio utilized her artistic talent and painted a large mural on the wall in the shelter’s dining room depicting animals having a tea party, installed a bench to be placed in the property’s yard and hosted a toy and book drive at her high school. Through that event, Florio brought multiple boxes of donated entertainment for children of different ages to the Halo House — items that are sorely needed, according to shelter manager Joe Pellegrino.

“[Brianna] definitely helped bring the kids a sense of community within the neighborhood of Sound Beach,” he said, adding the children in the shelter were eager to be involved in her mural project. “The younger ones would wait for her to come, and when she got here, they would say, ‘Can you paint a snake? Can you put a hat and bowtie on it?’ It betters the children’s state of minds when they’re at the shelter, because they get a sense that it’s a home and not just a place they’re forced to live in.”

Pellegrino said the mural has become a center of pride in the home and is even used as an educational tool to teach the children about the different animals depicted.

“It really warmed my heart to see the kids and their smiling faces and just how excited they were about it,” Florio said of the mural. “It was really nice to see it all finished, because I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it.”

She will officially receive her Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County council in December.

Although it was an independent project for the Girl Scout, Florio was able to acquire paints and various supplies through local donations, like from Costello’s Ace Hardware of Rocky Point. She also received support from her school district, where she was a member of the Be a Nicer Neighbor Club, a group that cooked for the homeless and performed songs at senior citizen homes during the holidays.

“Brianna is very dedicated, has a very generous spirit and is always ready to help anyone in need. It also gave her a way to express herself creatively, which she’s very good at.”

—Donna McCauley

“I think if anybody is deserving of a Gold Award, it’s Brianna,” Rocky Point High School Principal Susann Crossan said. “What sets her apart from everybody else is she has a constant concern for other people. She’s been involved in so many activities within the high school that involve giving back. She was an extremely well-rounded and kind student.”

Florio’s project was also no surprise to Nancy Kloska, the director of an aftercare program for children at Mount Sinai Elementary School, where Florio currently serves as a mentor helping students with homework, playing games with them and leading fun activities.

“She’s warm, approachable, responsible and the kids really love interacting with her — Brianna always has a large group around her,” Kloska said. “I think she just brings out the best in the kids and is such a positive role model. I can’t say enough good things about Brianna. I think she’s wonderful.”

Florio was bestowed a certificate of appreciation by elected officials and community members for her Gold Award efforts during a Sound Beach Civic Association meeting Nov. 13. Civic president Bea Ruberto later said in an interview that Florio is a shining example of upstanding youth in the community.

“We were so proud to honor Brianna at our meeting — she’s very community-minded and is always there to help and give back,” said Ruberto, pointing out that Florio has helped with the civic’s pet adoption efforts and contributed a drawing in honor of the civic’s 40th anniversary. “We often hear about all the kids who behave badly and do this or that, and we really make an attempt in the civic to showcase the good kids. She’s a very fine young lady.”

Florio is currently pursuing a career in computer science and game programming as a freshman at Stony Brook University.

Kaileigh Blessing and some friends construct the frames for the bat houses. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

She may not wear a cape or cowl, but 17-year-old Kaileigh Blessing is serving as a hero to the Village of Shoreham by bringing more environment-boosting bats to the area.

Blessing, a senior at Rocky Point High School and member of Venturing Crew 777, a co-ed youth development program of the Boy Scouts of America, has spent the last year designing, funding, building and installing seven bat houses throughout Shoreham.

Kaileigh Blessing presents her original idea for how to build the bat houses to The Shoreham Village Association as part of her Summit Award. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

The houses are to be installed in parklands along Woodville Road and private properties. It is a project constructed in Blessing’s pursuit of her Summit Award — the Venturing Crew’s highest program-level award. She became involved in the project in October 2016 when members of The Shoreham Village Association launched a subcommittee to expand the number of bat houses hanging in public as a way to coax more of the nocturnal animals into the area.

While they once carried a reputation as fearsome creatures, the public perception of bats has changed drastically in recent years as they have been proven to greatly benefit the ecosystem of their surroundings by eating thousands of small insects per hour — including the ever-increasing population of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Shoreham, like the rest of Long Island, has lost a majority of these more environmentally friendly bug eliminators due to an increased use of dangerous pesticides and the spread of white nose syndrome, a fungus that grows on and kills hibernating bats along the East Coast.

“Bat houses are needed everywhere,” said Laura Miller, a member of the association’s subcommittee and one of the recipients of Blessing’s bat houses. “The bat population in general has decreased drastically and it’s a real concern, agriculturally, especially for farmers. Bats are generally very beneficial and people don’t realize it because of the whole nature of what they think a bat is.”

Kaileigh Blessing and a few of her friends piece together the bat houses. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

During last year’s October meeting, members of the subcommittee held a raffle drawing for the houses to be built and installed for two village residents and, in figuring out who should be the one to take on the project, the idea to involve a local Boy Scout troop and expand the number of houses came up. Through Venturing Advisor Tom Seda, Blessing was proposed as a fitting candidate as she wasn’t too interested in the more traditional routes of building a park bench or installing a garden for her final project.

“I wanted to build something that was a bit more impactful environmentally, so I gratefully took up that
offer,” Blessing said. “I’m so glad I went with this and I’m looking forward to coming back and hopefully hear from the women of the association that the bats have returned.”

The Venturer, who first joined the youth-powered organization when she was 14, dove into the project with “gusto,” according to subcommittee members. She raised funds for construction materials by recycling scrap metal and bottles and pledging for donations at various businesses like Home Depot and Benjamin Moore, where she received paint, stains, lumber, drills and screws. With the help of her dad and a group of friends, Blessing spent hours on weekends building the large, single-chamber habitats — each one large enough to house 20 to 50 brown bats — which contains a ventilation area for warm air to filter out and grooves in its back panels to act as grips when the bats fly and grab onto the house.

Kaileigh Blessing and a few of her friends help glue together the bat houses for her Summit Award project. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

She also scouted locations for the houses in the village and sought out PMM Landscaping, a Middle Island-based group, to mount them on trees. She is currently designing a bat house information kiosk that she hopes will be installed at Major Hopkins Park in Shoreham.

“I really didn’t know anything about bats when I started this, but through research and everything, I just find it all really intriguing and interesting now,” she said.

Jean Jordan Sweet, chair of the subcommittee, commended Blessing for her tenacity throughout the strenuous project. Sweet said she met with the subcommittee several times throughout the year, made presentations, and had to wait on approvals from the village board of trustees and the Suffolk County Council of Boy Scouts every step of the way.

“She’s very impressive,” Sweet said. “She had to go through so much authorization and processes for this project, but she’s a real self-starter and took this very seriously.”

While her project, and Summit Award, still needs to be fully approved by the Scouts, which might take several months, the association will present a summary report and recognize Blessing’s efforts during an event Nov. 11.

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

By Rich Acritelli

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

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

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

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

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

— Rich Acritelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Rich Acritelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aimee Otero. Photo from SCPD

Rocky Point subsitute teach Aimee Otero has ben arrested for inappropriately touching a student at Rocky Point High School, according to Suffolk County Police.

Last month, Special Victims Section detectives began an investigation into the conduct of Otero after being contacted by administrators at Rocky Point Union Free School District. Detectives determined Otero, 25, inappropriately touched a 16-year-old male student in a Rocky Point classroom April 7.

Special Victims Section detectives arrested and charged Otero, of Coram, with third-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. Otero was issued a desk appearance ticket and will be arraigned on a later date.

Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring addressed the incident in an emailed statement through a district spokeswoman.

“The district has been notified by Suffolk County Police that a substitute teacher, who has worked for the district at the secondary level, has been arrested for inappropriate conduct with a Rocky Point High School student,” he said. “The arrest comes after the district was made aware of allegations brought forth by the student, and after the district conducted our own internal investigation during which we brought the matter to the attention of law enforcement.

“The district is always committed to the safety and well–being of our students and we take matters such as this very seriously. The individual responsible for these allegations, who passed all mandatory New York State background checks prior to employment, has worked as a substitute teacher in the district for varying lengths of time since November 2015. Based on these allegations and subsequent arrest, this person will no longer work for the district.

“I thank you for understanding that the district is not at liberty to share any further details as this is a criminal matter and the parties involved are entitled to privacy.”

Attorney information for Otero was not immediately available.

This story was updated May 5 at 1:50 p.m. to include Ring’s statement.

Community responds to call for help following car crash involving a volunteer fireman

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. is a volunteer fireman for the Sound Beach Fire Department. Photo by Stefanie Handshaw

By Kevin Redding

Friends, family and community members did their own quick responding for a beloved Sound Beach firefighter who suffered serious injuries in a recent car crash.

A GoFundMe page to support Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. was set up Dec. 23, one day after the 24-year-old volunteer was rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital following a collision with another vehicle on Route 25A and Harrison Ave. in MIller Place at 5 p.m.

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr.’s car following his crash on Route 25A Dec. 22. Photo from Sound Beach Fire Department

According to those close to him, McLoughlin Jr. was pulling into a lot to get a haircut when a driver ran a red light and broadsided his vehicle.

The online fundraiser hit its goal of $15,000 after just two days, and within 10, the fund exceeded the goal with $19,664. So far 350 people have donated, with individual contributions ranging from $5 to as much as $1,000.

The accident left McLoughlin Jr. with two broken vertebrae, and since he’ll be out of work for a minimum of three months, the money raised will go toward the surgery he needed to fuse part of his spine, future medical and rehabilitation costs and the eventual replacement of his totaled vehicle.

The Sound Beach native recently graduated from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut with a communications degree and has been juggling a second part-time job as a freelance cameraman for Fox 5 NY.

Sound Beach Fire Department Chief Thomas Sternberg spearheaded the campaign on behalf of the district, with the hope of giving back to someone he considers “a very dedicated man to the department and the community.”

“I was amazed at how many people stepped up to help him out … we’re very appreciative of anyone who has donated,” he said. “Jimmy has always been there when you need him. He’s always willing to train, always willing to help anybody.”

Sound Beach Captain Darran Handshaw, who compiled the GoFundMe page, said the speedy outpouring and money raised is a testament to McLoughlin Jr.’s character.

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. holding his Firefighter of the Year award with Sound Beach Fire Department Chief Thomas Sternberg. Photo from Sound Beach Fire Department

“He’s done so much for the community and he’s just an all around great guy,” Handshaw said. “He’s always a reliable firefighter, always on the first engine and somebody that I count on when I get into a fire.”

McLoughlin Jr. has a lifelong commitment to the fire department — in fact, it’s in his blood.

His father, James McLoughlin Sr., currently serves as fire commissioner for Sound Beach and was once the chief.

“When he was born, I was a fire chief,” his father said. “He was part of the department from the time he took his first breath, and there’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t stop there for one reason for another. As long as he’s in town, he’s there.”

McLoughlin said it’s heartwarming to see all the support his son has in the community.

“He’s one of the go-to people when somebody needs help,” he said. “Ever since he was a child, Jimmy was very community-oriented.”

McLoughlin Jr. joined the junior fire company when he was 13 years old and served in it for five years while simultaneously climbing the ranks toward Eagle Scout. He graduated from Rocky Point High School in 2011 and on his 18th birthday, he joined the fire department and maintained his responsibilities there whenever he came home from college for summer and winter breaks.

“He got his fire academy training squeezed in while going to college; he just lives and breaths the fire service,” McLoughlin Sr. said. “Even people who went to school locally weren’t able to maintain their fire responsibilities and quotas, and he was able to do it while going to school out of state.”

As driver on one of the fire engines, McLoughlin Jr.’s responsibilities are to maintain the truck, make sure it’s in working order and train every individual that comes into the department. To this day, his father said, anyone who needs to learn how to drive or pump one of the engines, “they go to Jimmy to learn how to do it.”

Jimmy McLoughlin Jr. is a freelance cameraman for Fox 5 NY. Photo from Jimmy McLoughlin Jr.’s Facebook page

In 2014, McLoughlin Jr. was recognized for all his contributions and ability to balance his fire services and academics when he was chosen by the department as Firefighter of the Year, the fire department’s highest honor. He also received his engine company’s award the same year, which is given out by the fire department for demonstrating a certain level of skill performance and recognizes one’s ability to work within a team.

According to the GoFundMe page, he’s “performed so many heroic acts of kindness for the community.”

In 2015, he fought a large house fire inside a fellow firefighter’s family home. McLoughlin Jr. manned the hoseline, went inside the house and stopped the fire that had spread through the basement and most of the main floor.

Afterward, he filmed and produced a video with the family who lost almost everything in the fire in which they shared their experience with the community to teach key fire safety lessons. The video has since been seen all over the world and has been an integral part of Sound Beach’s fire prevention efforts.

According to his father, McLoughlin Jr. is out of surgery and resting at home. He has been able to walk and move around, but because of the procedure, he has to wear a collar support for the next six to eight weeks. He’s still in a lot of pain.

McLoughlin Jr. might have a long road to full rehabilitation ahead, but his usual spirit remains intact.

“He’s determined,” McLoughlin Sr. said. “He’s got a positive outlook … it’s not ‘am I gonna be on my feet?’ it’s ‘when I’m back on my feet.’”

Americans lost on Pearl Harbor are honored during a previous remembrance in Port Jeff. File photo

By Rich Acritelli

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve.”

Japanese Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, the architect of the attacks on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago, supposedly uttered these words as he assessed the immediate aftermath of Dec. 7, 1941. Up until Japan attacked, most Americans still subscribed to the popular sentiment of remaining out of the conflict, inspired by the words of Charles Lindbergh — “America first.” The America First Committee openly resented any notion that the United States should prepare for war. Even the first peacetime draft conducted in 1940 that expanded the military forces received stiff anti-war congressional opposition. While German tanks easily invaded France and later pushed through the Soviet Union, officers like Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar N. Bradley and George S. Patton still saw the cavalry play a major role within the mobility of the Army. All of this changed when Japanese fighter planes swarmed into Hawaii and attacked the air, naval and Army bases that manned the “jewel” of our forces in the Pacific Ocean.

When word of the attack spread to Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Cordell Hull was in the midst of negotiating with his Japanese counterpart. After a couple of choice words for the diplomat, the nation was rapidly placed on track for war. Within seconds, Americans were on lines blocks long to enter the service. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation with his “Day of Infamy” speech that was adopted as a rallying cry by American citizens to defeat the Axis powers. Unlike the political gridlock seen today, Roosevelt’s words were accepted without reservation, and supporters and opponents of the president’s New Deal listened to the beloved leader. The “sleeping giant” of productivity, strength and endurance was awakened to defeat a global enemy. Prominent baseball players like Yogi Berra, Bob Feller, Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg and Yankee Manager Ralph Houk hung up their uniforms during the prime of their careers to support the war effort. By the end of 1942, the size of the U.S. armed forces had doubled from the previous year. The enthusiasm could be traced to a commitment to avenge Pearl Harbor and defeat Hitler and the Nazis.

Americans today do not realize how close the Allies came to losing the war. Although the U.S. government was fully committed to fighting and helping its allies, America had a steep learning curve in teaching its young men the ways of modern warfare. The Japanese crippled America’s naval forces and Hitler looked unstoppable in Europe, but Roosevelt promised armed forces would be fighting the enemy in the Pacific and in North Africa before the close of 1942.  Americans were drafted so quickly into the military that there were not enough uniforms, weapons, tanks or trucks for them to utilize for their training. Longtime Wading River resident Michael O’Shea, who passed away in 2009, was a navigator in a B-17 Flying Fortress and experienced the earliest aspects of the war efforts.

The New York City kid watched Yankee games and attended Stuyvesant High School. Like other young men, O’Shea was horrified by the attack on Pearl Harbor and wanted to forgo his senior year to enter the military. His parents were adamant that he finish high school before enlisting. As a young recruit into the Army Air Force, O’Shea for a brief time was stationed in Atlantic City, N.J. He was not issued a uniform, did not have many knowledgeable instructors, and the lack of heat in the military housing made people sick. The local resident flew 24 combat missions and had the rare experience of being shot down twice over Europe. He was later imprisoned in Stalag Luft III, the same camp depicted in the film “The Great Escape.”  In the spring of 1945, Patton’s Third Army liberated O’Shea. He was present to see the noted armored general speak to all of the freed Americans. O’Shea was a good friend to Rocky Point High School, where he was a proud representative of the “Greatest Generation” and spoke about his crusade against totalitarian powers.

It was 75 years ago that America was propelled into a war it did not choose, but the people worked together and completely sacrificed for the safety and security of a thankful nation. Citizens like O’Shea, without hesitation, risked their lives for the well-being of the country. On this Pearl Harbor anniversary, may we never forget those men and women who were lost and wounded in the defense of this nation and continue to do so today at home and abroad.

Joseph Lalota of the Rocky Point History Honor Society contributed to this story.

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

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