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Veterans Day

Dennis Sullivan blows a bugle at the 2011 Veterans Day Ceremony at the Centereach VFW post. File photo by Brittany Wait

Veterans Day events across Long Island have inspired children to sing, bands to play, politicians to speak and servicemen to march in parades.

Many Long Islanders came out to exhibit unwavering support for veterans on this national holiday. But with so many veterans facing hardships, such as food insecurities, joblessness, homelessness and health issues — some service-related — more needs to be done each and every day.

There are many ways our readers can help the men and women of the armed forces long after Veterans Day is over. Long Island organizations are always looking for help, year-round, whether it’s donating time, money, clothing or gently used items.

Here are a few groups, where you might lend a hand: 

• Long Island Cares Inc. — The Harry Chapin Food Bank: This Hauppauge-based center has been helping veterans, military personnel and their families since 2010. According to the nonprofit, more than 1,200 veterans per month typically receive support from its regional food bank through many of their programs. Long Island Cares will provide 500 veterans with holiday meals this year. The food bank is able to do this in part thanks to an $11,000 donation expected from Steven Castleton, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army. Long Island Cares also offers the Veterans Mobile Outreach Unit, the VetsWork program and Military Appreciation Tuesdays where all Long Islanders can help by donating food items or money.

• United Veterans Beacon House: Headquartered in Bay Shore, this organization provides housing throughout Long Island for veterans. According to its website, on any given day more than 255 men, women and children throughout the tristate area have received services ranging from help with homelessness to treating PTSD, addiction and more. The organization can always use coats, gently used clothing and furniture.

• Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University: Located on SBU’s west campus, interested people can help out by assisting the home’s residents during their recreation programs and trips, or simply by sitting and talking with the men and women.

• Northport VA Medical Center: The VA presents opportunities where community members can volunteer or donate their time or money. A cash donation can be used by the VA to buy items for patients including hygiene products and refreshment supplies. The hospital also collects items such as magazines, coffee, and new or gently used clothing.

Some veterans are doing well, but sometimes they could use a little company. Many people at the senior centers and retirement homes would welcome a visit, so they can share a story, or have someone even record it for future generations.

Long Island has the highest concentration of vets in New York state. These men and women are our neighbors. Make some time to find a vet in your community.

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Rocky Point hosts a Veterans Day Event Nov. 11. Photo by Kyle Barr
Rocky Point hosts a Veterans Day Event Nov. 11. Photo by Kyle Barr

Following nearly a month of going to different schools in the area prior to Veterans Day, the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 held its annual ceremony Nov. 11 honoring those who’ve served, both those that are here and those no longer with us. They were joined by Rocky Point Boy Scout Troop 244.

“Veterans Day means much more than a federal holiday,” said post Commander Joe Cognitore. “It’s to make sure the men and women receive what they need.”

NASA Photo

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will offer a special half-hour presentation on the planet Mercury as it makes its transit across the sun at 11 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, in the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium.

General admission (with no additional fee) will admit visitors to this program. As a salute and a thank-you, the Vanderbilt will give free admission to the museum and planetarium that day to all veterans and active-duty military personnel, and their families. This offer is good for Saturday through Monday, Nov. 9 to 11.

Amateur astronomer and space enthusiast Rob Unger, one of the planetarium’s command-console operators, will give a talk followed by safe viewing of the Mercury event – weather permitting – with solar telescopes in the Vanderbilt Observatory. 

Dave Bush, director of the Reichert Planetarium, said, “Planetarium staff will set up special solar-filtered telescopes so that all visitors can safely live view the transit of Mercury across the sun, starting at 11:30 a.m. right after the show, and continuing until 1 p.m. Be sure not to miss this event. Mercury will not cross the face of the sun again until the year 2032! Please arrive early to secure your seat for the presentation.”  

For more information, please call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

From left, Jim Condron, The Paramount co-owner; Suffolk County Legislator Susan A. Berland; Dominick Catoggio, The Paramount co-owner; Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone; and Stephen Ubertini, The Paramount co-owner

Grateful for the service of Suffolk County’s dedicated United States military veterans and all active service members, The Paramount—in conjunction with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Legislator Susan A. Berland, the Suffolk County Legislature and the greater Huntington community—are showing their appreciation. Throughout the month of May, The Paramount will be waiving ticket fees at the box office for those who have served as a thank you for the sacrifices they have made for the country’s freedom.

“With nearly 50,000 veterans living right here in Suffolk County, it’s fair to say service to the country is in the DNA of our residents,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Dedicating May as Military Appreciation Month throughout the county is only a small part of the thanks we owe our veterans for our freedom and I commend The Paramount for being an integral part in honoring our heroes this month.”

The Paramount’s no-fee tickets are available to all veterans and all active service members on Long Island. Tickets must be purchased in person by presenting a Veterans Identification Card (VIC) or Proof of Service Letter at The Paramount’s box office located at 370 New York Ave in Huntington, New York. Tickets are available for purchase from noon until 6 p.m. everyday, with extended hours until 9 p.m. on show days. Waived ticket fees are applicable to any performance at The Paramount during the month of May for veterans.

“With the unanimous support of my colleagues in the legislature, we designated May as Military Appreciation Month in Suffolk County. I applaud The Paramount for its recognition of Military Appreciation Month and commitment to bringing entertainment to our local heroes,” said Legislator Susan A. Berland, chairwoman of the Legislature’s Veterans Committee. “I want to thank The Paramount for acknowledging our military personnel and making the generous offer to waive their fees during the month of May. The Paramount is an amazing venue to see a concert, comedy show or sporting event. It has universal appeal and is an asset to the Town of Huntington and Suffolk County.”

The Paramount’s scheduled entertainment throughout May includes performances by Johnny Marr, Whitesnake, Billy Currington, Frank Turner, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Live Starring: Rachel Bloom, Judas Priest, And That’s Why We Drink, The Pump and Dump, Stryper, Rodrigo y Gabriela, The New York Bee Gees:Bee Gees Tribute, Jim Breuer, Art Alexakis, The Beach Boys, and Mike DelGuidice.

For more information about The Paramount, please visit www.paramountny.com.

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We as a country have experienced a tumultuous and polarizing last few weeks and months. The lead up to the first Tuesday in November and the midterm elections set the American electorate ablaze with strong opinions that saw former elected officials receive rudimentary pipe bombs via the mail.

With that as a backdrop, Veterans Day took place this past weekend, with beautiful, solemn remembrances unfolding at war memorials and firehouses, coupled with more raucous and celebratory parades happening across the North Shore and beyond. The events should have served as reminders that despite our differences, our shared values and appreciation for the sacrifices made by so many that allowed this country to flourish are what will be truly lasting in even the tensest of times.

While we were glad to see photos come through our inboxes and across our social media platforms of these events, we were saddened by an incident that occurred at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai relayed to us by Fred Drewes, a founding member of the Heritage Trust, the nonprofit which stewards the park in partnership with the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County.

Drewes has dedicated much of his own time to beautifying the park and perpetuating a triannual program called the Parade of Flags, which features the flying of  about 100 flags representing American states and other important entities like the military branches lining an area of the park dubbed the Avenue of America. The park features other patriotic imagery including the Court of America, a sitting area with benches, plaques with quotes from presidents and other famous citizens and a rock garden in the shape of the continental United States.

The rock garden contains symbolic rocks, plants and flowers that are native to the corresponding region in which they lay. Blocks featuring the names of all previous 44 U.S. presidents and the years they held office border the garden. President Donald Trump’s block will be added at the conclusion of his tenure, according to Drewes.

Drewes reported to us that during recent weeks someone tore out former President Barack Obama’s block and discarded it in a nearby shrub. We’re not asking anyone to agree with all — or even any — of the former president’s political ideologies or practices, except for one.

“The forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us,” Obama said in 2011 while speaking in Tucson, Arizona, after a gunman shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona).

On Veterans Day especially, but going forward, we’d like to see Americans make a better effort to live by that axiom.

Local children took time out of their school day Nov. 9 to show veterans that they will never forget.

Some 50 students from New Lane Memorial Elementary School in Selden performed a patriotic musical celebration at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University.

Fifth-graders from the school thanked the 300 veteran residents for their contributions and sacrifices while serving in the armed forces after the performance by shaking hands.

Also in attendance were state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who was the keynote speaker; Fred Sganga, LISVH executive director; several veteran service organization members; and the New York Army National Guard.

Greenlawn American Legion Post 1244 honors all veterans, their spouses and family members for the time and sacrifices they have made to serve our country Nov. 11.

Dennis Madden, commander of American Legion Post 1224, acted as the master of ceremonies for the dozens of veterans, enlisted and community members who came together to pay solemn remembrance of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I. The brief ceremony included a performance of the National Anthem along with several wreaths laid at veterans memorial at Greenlawn Memorial Park,  at the intersection of Broadway and Pulaski Road.

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Setauket residents, above, honored veterans at a parade Sept. 1, 1919, along Shore Road in East Setauket. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

By Beverly C. Tyler 

It was Nov. 11, 1918, and World War I had come to an end for the Americans fighting in Europe.

Two who did not return to Setauket were memorialized at a ceremony on the Village Green at the end of a parade Sept. 1, 1919, as reported by the Port Jefferson Times.

Soldiers Ralph Lyon and Bill Byron at the local memorial. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

“With the service men in uniform standing stiffly at attention and the civilians with bared heads, the entire assemblage united in singing ‘America’ and the Rev. T.J. Elms opened the meeting with a prayer. Judge Watson then introduced the speakers of the day, the first being Admiral Niblack. Admiral Niblack made many friends when he was here with the fleet last summer, many of whom were in the crowd.

“The Rev. T.J. Elms then dedicated a rock to the memory of the Setauket boys who died in the war — Raymond Wishart and Harry Golden. The Community Chorus, led by Mr. & Mrs. W.H. Stewart Jr., sang a patriotic song and an army officer addressed the gathering.

“Those boys of Setauket who had been denied the privilege of giving their lives in the great cause were then presented with suitably inscribed medals. Mrs. Wishart received a medal for her son and Mr. Golden for his boy. The ceremonies concluded with a benediction by Father Roex and the singing of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’”

A plaque, originally placed in a monument on the grounds of the East Setauket Veterans Memorial is now in the entrance foyer of the Setauket Elementary School. The memorial metal plaque reads: “Erected in honor of those of Setauket and East Setauket who served in the World War.”

Those named are: Irving R Addis, Thomas F. Bowen, Edwin Brown, Fred K.M. Brown, Jacob Brown, James Brown, Joel W. Brown, Wilson Brown, John H. Bristol, Lewellyn Bristol, Edwin M. Bryant, Charles Buchanan, Leroy J. Buchanan, Charles Buehrman, William J. Byron, Eversley Childs Jr., William H.H. Childs, John Darling, Louis L. Darling, Roger P. Dodge, Mary Elderkin, Julius Freedman, Louis Freedman, Nathan Gerstein, Howard Gibb, Harry Golden, Leon Goldberg, Max Goldberg, Edward T. Grahm, Alfred A. Hawkins, Floyd B. Hawkins, Daniel H. Hawkins, George R. Hawkins, Irving Hart, William B. Hart, Leo M. Heath, Hattie D. Jayne, Lester H. Jayne, Theodore Junk, Cornelius Kiendl, Theodore Kiendl, Oliver D. Lyon, Ralph S. Lyon, Archibald McLaren, Percy W. Macauley, George R. Mohlman, David A. O’Leary, John A. Payne M.D., Walter W. Peters, Edward H. Pfeiffer, William F. Pfeiffer, Samuel Pinnes, Russell G. Rogers, C. Lawrence Rossiter Jr., Frank F. Schields, Silas Seaman, Albert Sells, Charles W. Sells, Joseph Sells, William S. Sells, Willis H. Skidmore, Marco C. Smith Jr., Frank L. Stenken, Caroline H. Strong, Thomas S. Strong, Harold Terrell, Raymond L. Terrell, Annie R. Tinker, Edward L. Tinker, Handford M. Twitchell, Pierrepont E. Twitchell, Leon J. Tyler, John Walker, Harvey H. West, George H. West, Ernest West, Percy H. West, David L. Wishart, Raymond Wishart, Stanley G. Wood.

Setauket residents, above, honored veterans at a parade Sept. 1, 1919, along Shore Road in East Setauket. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

There is no existing plaque or memorial for the men from Stony Brook who served in World War I. However, a card file of nearly 4,500 World War I veterans was made by the Suffolk County Records Committee and listed these names for Stony Brook:

James Wesley Beldon, Ernest Merwin Bennett, John Oscar Bennett, Stephen Bochinski, Archibald Manning Brown, Nelson David Combs, Frederick Ebenezer Darling, Russell Eugene Darling, George Vincent Davis, Lee Fitshugh Davis, William Sidney Davis, Alexander Findlay, Ross Comrade Findlay, Joseph Gumbus, Frederick Brewster Hawkins, Homer Stanley Hawkins, Charles Lundgren, Frederick A. Mielke, Herman Oakley Newton, Herbert Nichols, Charles Clifford Peterman, Arthur LeRoy Platt, Benjamin Merton Powell, Stanley Russell Rogers, Frank Anton Schaefer, George Washington Schaefer, Paul Eugene Schaefer, William Henry Harrison Shipman, Jay Lawrence Smith, Robert Merwin Smith, Joseph Stufkosky, Robert Hawkins Topping, George Aloysius Wilson, Wilmot Smith Wood, Richard Lawrence Woodhull, Charles Halsey Young.

Remembering … this year

The U.S. World War One Centennial Commission — along with the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, the Society of the Honor Guard: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars — is inviting American citizens and organizations to toll bells in their communities as a WWI remembrance. The event, Bells of Peace: A World War I Remembrance, will take place Sunday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m. local time.

The centennial commission has created a page on its website: www.ww1cc.org/bells.

The National World War I Museum and Memorial, in Kansas City, Missouri, opened in 2006 to national acclaim. Since then, more than two million people have visited the museum including Frank Buckles, America’s last surviving WWI veteran, who visited the museum and memorial over Memorial Day weekend in 2008. During World War II, he was captured and spent three-and-a-half years in Japanese prison camps at Santo Tomas and Los Baños in the Philippines. Buckles died Feb. 27, 2011, in Charles Town, West Virginia, at the age of 110.

In 2014, the museum and memorial received a second designation from Congress, effectively recognizing it as a national memorial. The museum is “dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community.”

The museum began as the Liberty Memorial, dedicated Nov. 11, 1926, by President Calvin Coolidge who said the memorial “has not been raised to commemorate war and victory, but rather the results of war and victory which are embodied in peace and liberty. … Today I return in order that I may place the official sanction of the national government upon one of the most elaborate and impressive memorials that adorn our country. The magnitude of this memorial, and the broad base of popular support on which it rests, can scarcely fail to excite national wonder and admiration.”

The Liberty Memorial began as a dynamic addition to Kansas City’s cultural offerings, but by 1994, it had to be closed due to safety concerns. Then state, federal and individual donors raised $102 million for the memorial, and an extensive museum restoration and expansion. In 2004, the building was designated by Congress as the nation’s official World War I Museum, and construction started on a new 80,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art museum with the Edward Jones Research Center underneath the memorial. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark Sept. 20, 2006.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

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Celebrations to honor soldiers weren’t the only results after World War I. Some empires had fallen while others suffered financially and a few were united. Photo from the Three Village Historical Society

By Charles Morgan

“Der Krieg ist vorbei.” “La guerre est finie.” “The damned thing is ended.” “Let’s git the hell home.”

So it was 100 years ago on Nov. 11, 1918, at 11 a.m. that World War I, the most destructive war in the world at the time, was over. The Germans, French, Austrian-Hungarians, Italians, Turks, British and Americans, among others, had stopped shooting at one another; the Russians had ceased the previous year.

At this single juncture, several empires had fallen: the Hohenzollern of Germany, the Romanov of Russia by internal Communist revolution, the Habsburg of Austria and the Ottoman of Turkey. Even the victors suffered. The British Empire was all but broke; France was gutted; and the United States was becoming aloof as it entered the Roaring Twenties with most people not knowing what the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 was all about. However, there were four more, known as the suburban treaties: St. Germain with Austria, Neuilly with Bulgaria, Trianon with Hungary and Sèvres with Ottoman Turkey. This last one had to be renegotiated at Lausanne in Switzerland in 1923.

Germany had to give up Alsace-Lorraine which it had taken from France in 1870. The Germans were limited to an army no larger than 100,000 men and a navy with manpower not exceeding 15,000, possessing only a limited fleet and absolutely no submarines. There was to be no air force.

Two countries were literally invented. Parts of the Habsburg Empire with Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia became Czecho-Slovakia. In the Balkans, the Paris peacemakers instituted the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later mercifully shortened to Yugoslavia.

The famous T.E. Lawrence of Arabia had helped unify the various desert tribes in the Arab Revolt against the Turkish armies. King Faisal I of Iraq assumed he would be king of it all, but saw his plan nullified by the secret 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, which enabled France to take over Syria and Lebanon among other countries, while Britain established protectorates over Palestine and Transjordan. These were called mandates. Eventually, in 1932, a large piece of desert land would be called the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The viscous black fluid that soiled the camels’ hooves was to be the future of “the Middle East.”

Disarmament was the outcry, and it engendered a series of treaties the first of which was the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-22. The United States, Britain, Japan, France, Italy and others hammered out a treaty severely limiting construction of warships. It referred mainly to battleships, leaving little consideration of cruisers and aircraft carriers. In effect, this was the first arms-control conference in history. A small coterie of American and Japanese admirals held that aircraft carriers would be the strategic naval weapon of the future — a point disastrously proven Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor.

Then came Benito Mussolini. In 1922, he and his followers, called Fascisti, gathered in Rome, allowing King Victor Emmanuel III to remain on the throne, but with Mussolini as Il Duce. His navy was to dominate the Mediterranean, with its state-of-the-art battleships such as the Vittorio Veneto; the Condottieri-class cruisers with flowing names like Eugenio di Savoia; and speedy Soldati-class destroyers. Yet when the Italians clashed with the British Royal Navy as early as 1936 in the Spanish Civil War and later battles, they revealed a lack of leadership as did the land forces.

The fighting had not stopped. The 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which took Russia out of the war also ushered in communism. The Spartacists violently took over Bavaria, calling it the People’s State of Bavaria. Demobilized German soldiers made short work of this nascent Communist effort. At the same time, now-Communist Russia under Lenin sent the Red Army into Poland under Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1920, the Russians pushed back the Poles all the way to the gates of Warsaw. But then came the “Miracle on the Vistula,” when Polish Marshal Józef Pilsudski sent the Reds reeling back to Russia. The Poles, therefore, became the first ever to defeat the Red Army in the field of battle. In 1919 Hungarian revolutionary Béla Kun fomented the Communist revolution in Budapest which was put down by the forces of Regent Miklós Horthy. By 1926, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, who had abolished the caliphate, was making changes designed to convert the country into a secular republic, including taking fezzes and turbans off the men, and introducing the Latin alphabet.

On that November day in 1918 an Austrian corporal, recovering from wounds in a field hospital and sporting a sizable imperial handlebar mustache — later trimmed to a Chaplinesque toothbrush — as well as the Iron Cross 1st Class, was mulling over in the darkest recesses of his mind, a way to avenge Germany’s defeat brought about by the “November Criminals.” His name was Adolf Hitler.

Charles Morgan is a freelance writer from Stony Brook, and gives a personal view of the aftermath of World War I.

United States Army Staff Sgt. Allen Pennington and Warrior Ranch Foundation Vice President Tony Simonetti spend time with Pennington’s horse Red. Photo from Warrior Ranch Foundation

When Marine Corps veteran StaceyAnn Castro first stepped into the round pen with a horse at Warrior Ranch Foundation, her guard was up.

Castro, who served in Operation Enduring Freedom from 2002 to 2004, and admittedly struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, was face to face with a 1,400-pound Friesian horse named BlackJack during a July demonstration by the Mount Sinai and Islip-based nonprofit, which pairs military and first-responder veterans with rescue horses in need of rehabilitation and training.

Marine Corps veteran StaceyAnn Castro bonds with
Vet therapy: Mount Sinai’s Warrior Ranch helps heal
her horse BlackJack. Photo from Warrior Ranch
Foundation

The tough-as-nails veteran was attempting to engage BlackJack in basic ground exercises, but the horse was not budging. Its guard was up too.

“I soon realized it was because I was terrified of him,” Castro later said. “When you’re with these horses they feel everything you’re feeling, even the emotions you think you’re hiding from everybody else. You can’t hide them from a horse.”

Castro relaxed, and as she calmed down, so did BlackJack. The horse began to lick and chew — a reflex associated with the animal’s release of stress.

“By the end of the session, I wound up with a friend,” she said of BlackJack. “With the horses, you have someone you’re actually bonding with in your own private, silent language. It’s beautiful.”

Officially incorporated in June 2016, the Warrior Ranch Foundation has helped reduce the stress levels and PTSD symptoms of more than a dozen veterans still recuperating from a wide range of conflicts — from the Korean War to Vietnam War to the war in Afghanistan — by teaching them how to groom, feed and train troubled horses. And much like the veterans, the nine residential horses, mostly retired race and show animals that have been trained their whole lives to compete and perform in high-stakes settings, are learning to adapt to a new, more relaxed world.

Cathie Doherty spends time with horse Cody.
Photo from Warrior Ranch Foundation

“There’s a strong parallel between them and it’s amazing to see their emotional breakthroughs,” said Eileen Shanahan, the nonprofit’s founder and president. “While the race horses are trained to run, run, run, and as a result have emotional issues, the veterans are trained to go out there and do the best they can to protect and defend us. When they come back, they have to shut that off and that’s not so easy. We provide a safe haven for these humans and animals.”

Shanahan’s organization is the result of her lifelong love of country and horses. The Queens native, who shoots and produces television programs and commercials for a living, comes from a large military family with a father who served in the Marines, an uncle and brother in the Navy, nephews in the Army, as well as several first responders.

Although she mostly rode buses and subways growing up, Shanahan always admired horses from afar, seeing them as beautiful creatures.

When she got married and moved to East Quogue in the 1980s, she took up horseback riding and, 15 years ago, began adopting rescue horses and studying natural horsemanship — a variety of rapport-based horse training techniques.

United States Army Staff Sgt. Allen
Pennington with horse Red. Photo
from Warrior Ranch Foundation

For nearly a decade, she dreamt of providing this outlet for local veterans and finally launched it with the help of longtime friends and equestrians specialists. While the group currently works out of two private barns, the future plan is to turn Warrior Ranch into a national organization.

“We want to eventually help hundreds of veterans and horses because it really works,” Shanahan said, explaining that interactions like Castro’s is very common at the ranch. “A lot of times when they come here, the veterans have their arms crossed, but by the end of the day, they have ear-to-ear grins. A lot of them break down and cry and it’s so powerful to watch.”

Tony Simonetti, Warrior Ranch’s vice president and top horse trainer, has made a career of rehabilitating emotionally distraught horses and re-interacting them with their human counterparts, resolving more than 500 extremely difficult horse cases for people across the country. When asked his most memorable veteran-horse interaction within the organization, he talked about Army Staff Sergeant Allen Pennington, Warrior Ranch’s first soldier to go through the program, and Red, a 4-year-old, retired race thoroughbred.

“[Allen’s] this big, rough and tough guy, and when the horse connected with him, I just saw all the stress he was holding inside bubble right up through his chest and then he just couldn’t keep himself composed,” Simonetti said. “He broke down and turned around and hugged that horse like it was his battle buddy. And I told him, ‘don’t feel bad about that. That’s what you’re here for.’”

During a testimonial on the Warrior Ranch website, Navy veteran Cathie Doherty, who was diagnosed with PTSD and put on medication for a number of years, said she was grateful to have attended a women veteran’s retreat at the nonprofit.

United States Army Staff Sgt. Allen
Pennington with horse Red. Photo
from Warrior Ranch Foundation

“It was really an amazing experience,” Doherty said. “I think it touched me much deeper than I imagined it would. I appreciated working with the horses and that I had to make a connection with them. I feel I was present in the moment. I didn’t care about my phone, I didn’t care what was going on around me. It was a beautiful experience for me.”

Castro said companionship with a horse might be more beneficial than a human’s.

“When you’re a veteran and you’re having a bad day, you don’t want to tell anybody, you don’t want to talk about it — you want to forget about it,” she said. “But I also don’t want to be alone and, so, when you’re there with the horse, and that horse knows what you’re going through and feeling, he feels it too. And because you love the horse and you don’t want the horse to feel that way, you’re going to try and make yourself feel better. It’s awe-inspiring.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who served four years in the Army, visited the ranch in Mount Sinai with his family Oct. 7 and saw firsthand the value of the nonprofit.

“It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to see the positive effects that you’re having on these horses, and from these horses the veterans are getting love that they possibly have never experienced
before,” Zeldin said. “In a way, you’re directly coping with the symptoms of PTSD while also productively escaping the worst of it. It’s a great concept and I’d love to see Warrior Ranch grow into something a whole lot bigger than it already is.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, fifth from left, meets with members of the Warrior Ranch Foundation. Photo from Warrior Ranch Foundation