Authors Posts by Rich Acritelli

Rich Acritelli

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Rob Sproston in his Marine uniform. Photo from Rob Sproston

“If you’re willing to put yourself and your dreams on the line, at the very least you’ll discover an inner strength you may have not known existed.” — Kurt Warner, Super Bowl quarterback and Hall of Famer

These words from this noted athlete who lived through a life of adversity, also identify the strength, character, humanity and resiliency of Baiting Hollow resident Robert “Rob” Sproston. 

On March 31, 2020, Riverhead police officer Sproston was responding to a domestic incident of a young woman who was assaulted by her boyfriend with a knife. Her car was then stolen by the man.  

On his way to the Baiting Hollow Country Club, Sproston was picking up lunch for the officers working on Main Street within the heart of Riverhead. As he was heading north on Osborn Avenue, not too far from Youngs Avenue, he heard the call of this developing incident, where the stolen car was heading westward toward his direction.

As the officer was trying to figure out the situation from the information that was being reported on his radio and preparing to be in pursuit of the subject, his life would forever be changed. Driving at a high speed with his sirens blasting and lights flashing, Sproston was trying to do his job in handling this delicate situation.  

Rocky Point High School graduates, Matt Staker, Rob Sproston and Anthony Montalbano. Photo from Rob Sproston

As he headed up Osborn Avenue, another driver made a left onto Youngs Avenue, and he tried to move his police vehicle around the car.  

Making the left, the driver drove directly into Sproston’s car, and the officer crashed into a chain-link fence. A pole shot through his windshield, hitting him through his face. Horribly injured in his car, the officer was near death before the first responders made it to the scene. 

The life that Sproston led before the crash helped him prepare for this life-altering moment. As a young man, this “all-American kid” was always armed with a big smile and a can-do attitude. He was an active member of the Rocky Point Fire Department, played several years of varsity lacrosse on the Rocky Point High School team, and is a proud alumnus of the Class of 2010.  

During his youthful years, Sproston enjoyed riding his quad with his friends within the powerlines behind the McDonald’s in Rocky Point. And he understood the practice of hard work through the intricacies of installing residential roofs with his father Billy.

In 2014, Rob Sproston began his career path by entering the Suffolk County Police Academy at the Grant Campus of Suffolk Community College in Brentwood. After graduation, he was hired as a part-time police officer for the Town of Riverhead.  

Right away, he learned about the makeup of the community and believed that it was a good experience toward his professional growth within the field of law enforcement. While Sproston was not yet a full-time officer, he was thankful to gain this experience to work with the police, and to learn about the various challenges of this difficult job.

In 2016, with the prospect of being a full-time officer, he always wanted to serve this country and entered the United States Marine Corps.  

As a 22-year-old, he was an older recruit who understood the importance of getting through the difficulties of military training for each day. Always a positive figure, he worked well with the other recruits to make it through their daily routines at Parris Island, South Carolina. 

Sproston always believed that if you did not “embrace the suck,” that it would be difficult to make it through the hardships of training and the discipline of the Marines.  

After he completed this training, Sproston was sent to Camp Geiger, North Carolina, where he learned how to become proficient within infantry training, weapons and tactics. Currently, he is with the Marine Corps Forces Reserve in Garden City, where he serves in an infantry sniper platoon, spends time in the field and enjoys the camaraderie of being in the military.  

While he is proud of his time in the Marines, Sproston is glad to be serving closer to home, to be near his job, friends and family.

Before joining the service, he took the police exam to gain a permanent full-time position within a Suffolk County law enforcement department. He was eventually placed on a lottery and picked by the Riverhead Police Department in 2017.  

Always willing to serve his nation and community, he was extremely pleased to be in uniform through the police and military. As a regular officer, Sproston patrolled the busy traffic and commercial areas of Route 58. This assignment offered him the chance to gain important knowledge of the local citizens, and the types of crimes that are common within this part of Riverhead.  

And so on the day of the crash in March 2020, this police officer was near death, and right away the local fire department was dispatched to respond and provide aid. Service runs deep through the Sproston family, as his father Billy was one of the local fire and emergency support that arrived on this call.  

At this point, his father did not know that his son was the officer in the wrecked vehicle as he approached this scene. Senior fire officials tried to keep his father away as they prepared to move him to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.  

Rob Sproston’s face was practically ripped apart from the crash and he lost two pints of blood. He was stabilized at Peconic Bay and was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he received major surgery and treatment toward the reconstruction of his face. For two weeks, he was in an induced coma. His father was at his side during this entire ordeal.

Rob Sproston in his Marine uniform. Photo from Rob Sproston

Speaking about these harrowing events, the son was completely reserved as he identified this near-death incident and his amazing recovery.  

This young man still has minor nose-and-mouth surgery ahead, but his iron spirit completely demonstrates his unyielding resolve to continue a normal life. 

Always an active citizen to help his community through the police and to defend our nation within the Marine Corps, Sproston has overcome several obstacles to return to duty. His professional and personal goal was achieved on July 1, 2021, when he was cleared by the police department to return to limited duty. He is looking forward to getting back into a sector car to be in the field.  

Outside of the police, Sproston has resumed his life by working out in the gym and being cleared by a Navy doctor to return back to his infantry platoon. He is looking forward to the challenge of attending sniper school and being around his fellow Marines — always flashing a big smile.

Longtime Rocky Point High School social studies teacher and coach, Christopher Nentwich, said it best about Sproston’s positive qualities: “He was an ‘old-school’ student who was loyal, dedicated, hardworking and with a great sense of humor. I recommended Rob to several members of the police department and believed that he would be an outstanding addition to serve and protect the community of Riverhead.”

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“The present situation is to be regarded as one of opportunity for us and not of disaster. There will only be cheerful faces at this conference table.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme allied commander 

Approaching the middle of December 1944, the allied powers in Europe pushed back the German forces practically to their own border. The allies landed at Normandy in France on June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day, and this successful invasion established the beginning of the end of Hitler’s rule in Western Europe.  

While the fighting was brutal on the beaches and later through the dangerous terrain of the hedge groves, under the leadership of Eisenhower and the armored drive of Gen. George Patton, the Germans took extremely high losses. 

There was absolute joy on Aug. 19 when allied forces rolled through the streets of Paris, where they were greeted with loud cheers of freedom. 

The once victorious German army was reeling after several battlefield losses, and by December 1944 the allies were about to enter this Axis nation. The others were Italy and Japan.

With the Soviet Union liberating their own territory and pushing into Eastern Europe, there was no respite within any part of the German frontlines, and during the night and day allied air crews strategically bombed German factories, resources, transportation, weapons and troop movements.  

“Total war” brought the realization that the German military had no chance to win this war and that the end was near.  

Eisenhower’s “broad front” campaign moved allied armies from the English Channel to the Swiss border. It was the confident belief among western forces that the German war machine would surrender within the face of defeat.  

Operation Autumn Mist was the last major military offensive that Hitler waged against the allies, to attempt to drive a wedge between the western armies, with the goal of regaining the Belgian port of Antwerp. If the Germans could strike a powerful blow against the allies, Hitler mistakenly believed that the West would possibly agree to a peace, and Germany would turn its full attention to fighting the Soviet Union.  

As the Germans were attacked from every direction, they organized 250,000 soldiers from 14 infantry divisions guarded by five panzer divisions. This surprise assault was a dangerous breakdown of allied intelligence. The Germans broke through the Ardennes Forest in southeast Belgium and hit allied positions that were in Belgium, France and Luxembourg. 

There were only 80,000 allied soldiers who were shocked by this assault, and thousands were taken as prisoners of war. The Germans penetrated their armies against the American forces that still wore summer uniforms and had little ammunition.  

Eisenhower was just promoted to his fifth star as General of the Army, and expected to travel to Versailles, France, to attend the wedding of his orderly Mickey McKeogh. 

It was an attack that struck at the nerve of the broad front that was mostly held by American forces which faced shortages in reinforcements and resources. Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe was demanded by his German counterpart that he surrender the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne, Belgium. It did not help McAuliffe that the weather conditions were extremely poor, and American airplanes were briefly unable to provide air support and the ability to drop food and ammunition. As Bastogne was considered to be located at strategic crossroads, Eisenhower ordered that this town must be held at all costs by the 101st Airborne Division. 

A famous victory

On Dec. 19, Eisenhower held a vital meeting with his key generals to contain and destroy this attack. His longtime friend Patton stated that he was able to disengage from his own battle, and push in force to assault the German armies to relieve the pressure that was placed on Bastogne.  

Eisenhower counted on the battlefield drive of Patton and sought the general’s Third Army to relieve Bastogne and to make the Germans pay for this surprise attack. Both senior officers were old friends and Eisenhower looked at the irony of receiving the new senior rank and observed, “George, every time I get promoted, I get attacked.” Patton responded to his boss, “Yes, and every time you get attacked, I bail you out.” 

During a time of brief defeat, this battle showed the true spirit of the American soldier and officer to overcome the burdens of bad weather and surprise of the German assault to achieve a great victory.

The Battle of the Bulge posed the serious problem of German spies who landed behind American lines and were dressed as American military police officers. The enemy changed and destroyed road signs, and were believed to be searching for Eisenhower, Patton and Gen. Omar Bradley. 

American soldiers started using challenging passwords that focused on former World Series games, movie stars and political leaders to determine if an unknown soldier was possibly a spy. The German troops acted with total disregard toward the prisoners of war that had fallen into their hands.  

Near the Belgian town of Malmedy, SS Lt. Col. Joachim Peiper was the head of the “Adolph Hitler” Division and ordered his soldiers to brutally kill 84 Americans within an open field.  

Word quickly spread about these atrocities, and this motivated Americans to hold their ground against the unrelenting pressure of the German army.

At Verdun in northeast France, Eisenhower ordered Patton to take additional time to gain enough men and materials, and to make his first strike against the enemy a powerful one. With his soldiers and through the snow, Patton led the American Army through one of the largest battles ever fought by this nation. Although Patton previously warned about the possibility of an attack of this nature, he was determined to destroy the German army that was now in the open.  

American forces began their pursuit to relieve the beleaguered garrison at Bastogne and to inflict casualties on Hitler’s last-ditch attempt to gain a victory in the west. The German high command envisioned a successful plan that would see their forces reach the French Meuse River, but they did not count on the 500,000 American soldiers that destroyed this plan.

Through a blizzard that created awful weather conditions, there were a reported 15,000 cold weather injuries and ailments that were created pneumonia, frostbite and trench foot. 

New York Yankee Ralph Houk, rose from the rank of private to major during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. This catcher was decorated with the Purple Heart, Silver Star and Bronze Star for valor in service.  

During this fight, Houk’s leadership prevented a major attack from over 200 enemy soldiers and five Tiger tanks. He was later ordered to take a jeep and a letter with vital intelligence to the beleaguered town of Bastogne. During his way through enemy lines, Houk was wounded in the leg. After this battle, he was almost killed when a German bullet traveled through his helmet. 

Houk was later manager of the Yankees which won the 1961 World Series with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and D-Day World War II veteran Yogi Berra. Houk’s Yankees won the World Series again in 1962. He always said he was fortunate to survive the Battle of the Bulge. 

The fighting lasted until Jan. 25, 1945, with the heavy cost of 19,000 Americans killed, 47,500 wounded and 23,000 captured or missing in action.  

British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery took credit for rescuing the American military during the height of the Battle of the Bulge. Monty. as he was known, was one of the most difficult leaders that Eisenhower had to manage as supreme commander of allied forces.  

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill fully realized that the United States provided the vast majority of soldiers and weaponry into the war in Northwestern Europe. About this failed German offensive, he said, “This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory.” 

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College. Sean Hamilton, president of the high school history honor society, contributed to this article.

The Rocky Point Boy’s Lacrosse Program collected over 300 bags of clothes, shoes, blankets and other donations to support our local communities. 

Families of players from kindergarten to alumni dropped off donations to spread holiday cheer and to give back to the community that they care about.

Player volunteers who helped during collection included: Colton Feinberg , Kyle Moore, Will Levonick, Jack Fredriksen, Justin Hachmann, Keith Hilts, Nate Aiello, Brogan Casper, Dj Xavier, Brennan Protosow, John-Ryan Torreblanca, John Tringone and Mason Pina.

The project was organized by the Rocky Point Lacrosse Booster Club parents’ group.

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A veteran saluting the Pearl Harbor memorial. Photo from Pixabay

On Dec. 6, 1941, Americans watched the extent of German military actions under Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, as it conquered much of Europe, North Africa and major parts of the Soviet Union. 

Within the Pacific and Asia, the imperial government of Japan competed against the United States for sole control of this region of the world. While tensions were high, most Americans went about their life, as if it was any other weekend.

Some 80 years ago, the unthinkable occurred against the American army and naval strength that sat idle on a quiet Sunday morning in Hawaii. As the residents and military of this state were still sleeping, Japanese aircraft carriers sat two hundred miles off the coast of these islands and began its unyielding assaults against Pearl Harbor. 

Back in Washington, the American government negotiated with representatives from the Japanese embassy that were delayed, as they were waiting for several parts of a declaration of war to be decoded and delivered to our leadership.  

As a younger man, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was the Japanese leader that planned this assault, traveled extensively across America, where he saw the economic potential of this superpower. He stressed the importance of declaring war as an honorable action before his planes bombed Pearl Harbor and firmly stressed that the only chance that Japan had to win this war was to destroy the American aircraft carriers at this base.   

But the delays in the transmission of a lengthy message from Tokyo prevented the Japanese representatives in Washington D.C. from formerly presenting a declaring war to Secretary of State Cordell Hull who was speaking with these figures at the start of this attack.  

Hull’s meeting was interrupted for him to be told about the deadly swarms of Japanese fighter planes that bombed and strafed American ships, planes and troops that were struggling to survive. Never did the U.S. government and military leaders ever estimate that the Japanese had this capability to push their own carriers some 5,000 miles undetected towards the coast of Hawaii.  

When the smoke cleared, there were over 2,400 members of the armed forces that were killed; 1,000 wounded, 20 ships and 300 planes that were destroyed. This enemy also disabled General Douglas MacArthur’s fighter planes and bombers that sat on the ground in the Philippines.  

Other American territories were targeted in the Pacific, and those military forces were also caught off-guard against this ferocious onslaught that was well planned by the Japanese military.

Before this attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, firmly believed that it was only a matter of time before this country was pushed into the conflicts in Europe and possibly the Pacific.  

Now America was at war, and it was totally unprepared for the modern warfare that was waged by the Germans and Japanese. During the 1930s, the Japanese military fought a brutal war against the Chinese and expanded into French Indo-China before Pearl Harbor. And for two years, the German forces were a hardened force that “Blitzkrieg” much of Europe through a tenacious war that easily defeated most of the Europeans, except the British and Soviets that barely held onto their own survival.

Immediately after the noted “Day of Infamy” speech of Roosevelt, the process quickly began to put this country on a war time footing. Americans were drafted into every branch of the armed forces, women quickly became known as “Rosie the Riveter” for their industrial positions, and “Victory Gardens” were planted from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. 

Eighty years ago, this week, Americans from all walks of life entered the service to defend the survival of this country.

By 1942, the Department of War established the future American military leaders that ran the war over-seas to gain victory.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the finest staff officers in the army and he quickly rose from the rank of colonel to lieutenant general. Eisenhower had no combat experience during World War I, but he continually impressed Marshall through his problem-solving ability to handle complicated situations through a commonsense approach. This general was a popular officer, that worked well with others, and he was sent by Marshall to England to discuss the earliest military operations with our British allies. 

A longtime friend to both Marshall and Eisenhower was General George S. Patton. He was a talented, but a controversial figure, that was highly decorated leading the first tanks during World War I. He led the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Benning and later the Indio/Mojave Desert Tank Training Center in California to train our forces to oppose Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Africa Korps in Tunisia.  

Marshall always stated that if he was in a major position of authority, that he would rely on the strength of Patton to push soldiers against a foreign enemy. In the Philippines, MacArthur was ordered out of Corregidor as the Bataan Campaign was defeated by the Japanese. Through the aid of a PT boat, MacArthur, his wife and son, and aides escaped across the Pacific Ocean to set up his new operations in Australia. Now thousands of miles away from Japan, MacArthur scraped together enough forces to begin training for the Guadalcanal invasion that was planned for early August 1942.

Roosevelt was determined to attack the expansionist drive of the Japanese and Germans. While Colonel Jimmy Doolittle in April 1942, led the first bombers to hit the Japanese mainland, this limited assault had done little to hurt the war effort of this enemy. The President demanded that his military leaders successfully wage war against both enemies in the European and Pacific Theaters of Operations. Within an extremely brief period, Marshall and his chief subordinates in Eisenhower and MacArthur quickly planned to halt the progress of the enemies that they would incessantly fight for the next three years.

But the United States still did not have enough trained soldiers, nor did the military have enough combat officers to oppose the strength of these powerful nations.  

From 1942-43, Roosevelt wanted action from his military, but the primary goal was to slow down the advances of the Japanese and the Germans, and land forces against the vulnerable areas of their empires. While both Marshall and Eisenhower sought the invasion of France, as the quickest way to win the war in Europe, England was totally opposed to this idea.  

British leaders that were in their third year of the war, believed that the United States was not yet battle tested, lacked men, materials and knowledge of the Germany army. If an attack failed in France, and if the Allies were pushed back into the English Channel, it would take too long to dislodge Hitler’s forces from Europe. The British stated that the best course of action was to assault the “Soft Under-Belly” of the German forces in the Mediterranean. While Marshall and Eisenhower were opposed to these plans, the British were correct that America was not yet prepared to wage war and that invading North Africa was a more realistic approach for an army that was being drafted into service. 

Eisenhower was named the overall commander of “Operation Torch” the invasion of North Africa.  While he was respected, Eisenhower was a novice in leading such a complicated plan, and his key subordinates were British. There was an early belief that Eisenhower was often swayed by the opinions of the British that had a tremendous amount of influence on this Supreme Commander.  

In the Pacific, the Japanese tried to choke off the American supply lines to Australia and New Zealand by building airfields in Guadalcanal. Few Americans ever heard of this small island that was located within the Solomon Islands. If the Japanese completed these airfields, they would constantly harass the numerous supplies that were needed to help rebuild MacArthur’s forces that expected to carry out the start of its “Island Hopping” campaign.  At this point in 1942, Japan had one of the largest empires ever taken over by a nation during a time of war and conquest.

Never in the history of this country did the United States ever prepare for war against forces that were thousands of miles away, and in an opposite global direction. Americans from places like Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson, Rocky Point and Sound Beach, trained in military bases, to be quickly deployed over-seas to fight the enemy. Always a source of positive feelings, Roosevelt was the architect of one of the most power armed forces that ever-waged war. 

Starting in August 1942, for several months, the United States fought the Japanese at Guadalcanal. The American forces had two difficult enemies, first was the Japanese soldier that was well dug in, that presented a stubborn resistance. Secondly, the American soldier had to battle the jungles of an unfamiliar territory that was ripe with malaria and dangerous creatures and insects. While it took almost five months to defeat the Japanese, they fully understood that the United States Marine Corps that spearhead the landings on South Pacific this island, would not be pushed back, and were only determined to gain victory.

During the early days of November 1942, Eisenhower was stationed at the Rock of Gibraltar, where he waited for the reports of the North African landings. Over 100,000 American and British soldiers landed on the beaches on Morocco, Oran, and Algeria. The problem for the Allies was that the French Vichy that collaborated with Hitler, militarily oversaw their colonial lands. 

While General Mark W. Clark attempted to negotiate an agreement for the French to not oppose these landings, there were no guarantees that resistance would be halted. On the evening of “Operation Torch” when American citizens learned about the start of the war in North Africa, Marshall was at a Washington Redskins football game with his wife, Katherine. The public announcer told the crowd about these landings, and she asked her husband, if this was the reason why he was quiet, due to his worrying about this opening start of the American war effort.  

In less than a year, the United States went from the terror of the disastrous Pearl Harbor losses to quickly utilizing the strength and spirit of our citizens to thwart the strength of these totalitarian powers.  

Although this 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor is at an incredibly divided political time in American history, no friend or foe alike, should ever doubt the resolve of our people to overcome every type of obstacle.  

Thank you to our members of the Greatest Generation, and to the current citizens of the armed forces that continue to make the United States proud of their efforts to protect this country.

Author Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College. Rocky Point High School students Sean Hamilton, Zachary Gentile, Caroline Settapani, Madelynn Zarzycki and Quentin Palifka helped with this article.

Rocky Point resident Michael McClure

By Rich Acritelli

[email protected]

On Veterans Day, there are always unique stories that originate from North Shore citizens who fulfilled their military duty to defend this nation. 

Rocky Point resident Michael McClure, a member of the U.S. Army for two decades, had some extremely memorable experiences in the service. 

Rocky Point resident Michael McClure

This mild-mannered resident, who retired from the Army in 1995, was a native of North Massapequa and attended Farmingdale High School. As a young man, he was a three-sport athlete, who enjoyed cross country, track and wrestling. McClure was a talented runner, who was in superb physical shape, and ran many races through the polo fields, hills and trails at Bethpage State Park.  

After graduating from high school in 1971, McClure attended college for one year and eventually traveled to Washington state. West of Seattle, he worked as a logger at Port Angeles, located on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. This Nassau County boy was about 3,000 miles away from Long Island, where he learned how to drop trees, load them onto trucks and cut these massive pieces of wood into sections.  

Army enlistment

Four years after leaving Farmingdale, McClure enlisted in the Army in April of 1975. He was trained by Vietnam, Korea, World War II and Cold War veterans with combat experience in Southeast Asia. At this point in the mid-1970s, the military was in poor shape after the Americans had pulled out of Vietnam with a diminished amount of funding toward the U.S. Armed Forces. But McClure was a young man who was always in good condition, and he was motivated to do well in the Army.

After he completed his initial training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, he was a combat engineer who was transferred to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where he learned how to move, store and detonate smaller nuclear weapons. Through the Medium Atomic Demolition Munition, also known as MADM, and the Special Atomic Demolition Munition, known as SADM, McClure learned how to use these weapons as obstacles and to slow down any potential Soviet military advances toward American territory and troops. 

An even-keeled individual, McClure easily describes his time as a combat engineer who received enhanced training to handle sensitive weapons and national security knowledge.

By 1986, with over a decade of service and experience under his belt, McClure entered the special operations forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. At the height of the Cold War under the aggressive direction and funding of President Ronald Reagan (R) to defeat the Soviet Union, McClure was a sergeant first class and a “Green Beret.” Always in sound physical shape, McClure flourished within the advanced techniques and operations of this highly respected fighting force. He served with the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, where the Green Berets prepared to oppose the Soviet menace. 

For nearly 15 years, McClure was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, with the engineers and later the Special Forces. For many years, McClure spoke fluent German and he enjoyed his time living abroad in this allied country. He was a well-rounded noncommissioned officer who was instructed how to decipher and use intelligence for potential operations with the Green Berets. 

Gulf War 

During the Gulf War in 1991, McClure was not deployed immediately to the Middle East, rather his Green Beret unit was ordered to undertake serious training at Fort Bragg which his leadership refused to cancel. While this was a quick ground war that took only three days to defeat the Iraqi army in Kuwait, McClure was soon deployed to the region. Although Saddam Hussein was seriously crippled by the onslaught of American and coalition forces, the Iraqis held enough weapons to oppose the Shiites in southern Iraq and the Kurdish opposition groups in the northern mountainous areas. 

Operating 10,000 feet above sea level, through Operation Provide Comfort, McClure was sent to help the Kurdish minority group survive the assaults being waged against them by Hussein. From the ground, McClure witnessed the northern no-fly zone that was established to prevent Iraqi aggressive aircraft from attacking the almost powerless Kurds.

McClure understood the Kurds suffered greatly at the hands of the Iraqi dictator, as they were attacked with biological and chemical weapons. The Kurds fought during the Gulf War and desperately wanted their homeland removed from the abusive power of Hussein. McClure saw the abandoned Kurdish towns which had been gassed and the poor regions of this part of Iraq, where people still traveled on dirt roads and goat trails. 

Yugoslavian conflict

After his time in Iraq, McClure was then stationed in eastern Italy, not too far from the civil war that raged between the Serbians, Bosnians and Croatians in the former Yugoslavia. This once-communist nation was torn apart by the fighting and the brutal ethnic cleansing that dictated in the mid-1990s an American military presence to aid the weaker Bosnian forces.  

With aerial missions being flown over the rugged Balkan Mountains, McClure and his Green Beret detachment were ordered to provide support for air rescues for pilots who were shot down or forced to parachute during this war. The 2001 film, “Behind Enemy Lines,” is a military combat film starring Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman that depicts parts of the terrible Yugoslavian conflict. McClure liked this film that had a good amount of action, but he doubted its historical accuracy.

Back in the USA 

After spending many years out of the United States, often on dangerous missions that ranged from handling nuclear weapons to working with the Kurdish rebels, McClure retired as a master sergeant from the Army in 1995.

Back in Rocky Point, McClure in civilian life for many years was a tractor-trailer driver. Currently, he delivers home heating oil for Swezey Fuel in Patchogue. Still an active man, he stays in good shape by competing in the annual Lt. Michael P. Murphy memorial run around Lake Ronkonkoma and Blydenburgh Park. McClure is an avid reader of military history, exercises almost every day and enjoys the chance to visit his family members in Colorado. 

May we never forget and always show appreciation toward veterans such as Michael McClure, who handled hazardous tasks and selflessly defended this proud nation.  

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

Colin Powell. Stock photo

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”

Those were the words of respected military and government figure, former Secretary of State Colin Powell (R), who passed away Oct. 18 as a result of COVID-19 complications amid a cancer battle. A leader who reached the peak of his military career, he grew up with humble roots. Born on April 5, 1937, in Harlem to Jamaican immigrants, Powell lived within the difficult surroundings of South Bronx. As a young man, he witnessed a great deal of crime, drugs and a lack of opportunity within this part of New York City. Later in life, Powell served as a key spokesperson for a national mentoring organization that helped children who lived within at-risk areas to reach their fullest potential.  

Graduating high school, Powell enrolled with City College of New York, where he was accepted into the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Right away, he was drawn to the military discipline, liked wearing a distinctive uniform and performed well within an early team setting. Powell attained the rank of cadet colonel and led the drill and ceremony team for his college’s military program. By 1958, he graduated college and began his long and distinctive career within the Army. 

Powell served with distinction on two tours of duty in Vietnam from 1962-63 and 1968-69. He saw the start of the escalation of the war in Southeast Asia, and was present for the Tet Offensive. He observed the protests that were organized against the American government’s support of the war. Wounded twice, he saved two other soldiers after a helicopter crash. 

He was highly decorated, including the Purple Heart, for his combat and leadership in South Vietnam.

This officer from the mean streets of South Bronx began his climb through a series of political jobs that were tied to the military. While he was a combat veteran, it was perceived by his superiors that he had the ability to guide the armed forces during times of peace and war. Powell was respected for his calm and confident approach which was easy to follow. He attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and gained his master’s degree at George Washington University. 

After being promoted to major, he won a White House Fellowship and was assigned to the Office of Management and Budget during the administration of President Richard Nixon (R). By 1979, Powell began his rise within senior leadership.

Powell’s education, training and experience prepared him well for senior military and government positions. This climb of promotions and responsibilities was evident when he advised former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger (R). By 1987, Powell became national security adviser for President Ronald Reagan (R). 

With Powell being a combat veteran, it was no surprise that he would eventually command the armed forces during times of peace and war. He was commander of Army Forces Command during the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall in 1989 and was now a four-star general. In October of that year, President George H. W. Bush (R) appointed Powell as the first African American officer to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense. 

Powell led the military during the invasion of Panama in December 1989 through January 1990 to depose its leader, Manuel Noriega. This strategically located country between North America and South America dealt drugs, and the United States feared for the stability of the Panama Canal. American soldiers quickly took over the country, deposed Noriega and demonstrated the willingness of the U.S. government to intervene within Latin American affairs. Powell also oversaw the beginning operations of the U.S. military intervention in Somalia. The hope was the U.S. could bring humanitarian aid, comfort, food and stability to this strategic but troubled East African nation that was in the midst of a civil war.

Persian Gulf War

Perhaps within his career, the strongest role that Powell oversaw was the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91. Under its president, Saddam Hussein, Iraq invaded its neighboring oil-rich nation, Kuwait, and quickly overran its forces, taking control of the small country on the Persian Gulf. Hussein had the fourth largest military in the world and there were the concerns that he would invade Saudi Arabia with its vast oil reserves. Under the direction of Bush, American soldiers were quickly sent to Saudi Arabia to protect the kingdom under the name of Operation Desert Shield. 

Usually standing next to Bush, Powell had a direct and easy approach toward identifying the military objectives of the United States and the growing coalition of foreign military forces. For several months, he worked with nations around the world, including those Arabic countries from the Middle East to thwart the tyranny of Hussein. Before the land war started, there were some 750,000 coalition forces, with the United States as the most dominant partner with 540,000 armed forces, many stationed in Saudi Arabia.  

At first, Bush hoped that air power would be enough to dislodge the Iraqi army, without committing a large amount of soldiers. The president feared excessive casualties through the strength of the Iraqi army and its known use of biological and chemical weapons. Powell understood the concerns of Bush, but he was tasked with creating a plan that would succeed in ending this conflict and restoring the previous leadership of Kuwait. Looking at the president, Powell with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf at his side outlined the plans.

Powell provided Schwarzkopf with abundant resources that comprised a superior military force created within the post-Cold War world. In the background, the former Soviet leaders must have openly wondered how they would have fared within a conventional war against the United States and the major nations of the West. 

At the head of this massive force was Powell and many other senior military figures who wanted to gain a victory in order to preserve peace in this region and to also end the negative stigma over the American loss of the Vietnam War. Many of these officers were older leaders who had served in Vietnam, and were pleased to oppose the Iraqi military. 

Always a firm figure, Powell was the architect of a military force that was transported thousands of miles away and equipped for desert warfare. After several long months of waiting, the coalition was poised to move into Kuwait and Southern Iraq. 

The Allied air war destroyed the Iraqi air force, tanks, troops and Scud missile sites which targeted Saudi Arabia and Israel. That Thanksgiving, Bush, a former aviator of World War II in the Pacific, and Powell traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet Schwarzkopf.  

After the holidays, time ran out for Hussein who refused to pull out of Kuwait. Operation Desert Storm began Jan. 17, 1991, through the roots of the plans that Powell and Schwarzkopf created to defeat the well-entrenched enemy. American armor and aircraft “blitzkrieged” Iraqi positions in Kuwait and Southern Iraq. Aggressively, they cut off and destroyed any chance of the Iraqis from being resupplied, and prevented an easy retreat away from the fighting. Inside of three days, the war was over. The Iraqi forces fled, were captured and killed during this short, but intense war.  

And so Powell guided these operations that successfully obliterated the presence of Iraq in Kuwait. This local hero from meager beginnings did not attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. However, he often saw many younger officers and soldiers from the inner cities who reminded him of his own background. The immense American strength during the Persian Gulf War shocked our friends and foes toward the swift resolve of this country to carry out large-scale fighting.

Secretary of state

Retiring from the military in 1993, Powell soon joined the Republican Party, and later served as the first African American secretary of state from 2001 to 2005 for President George W. Bush (R). 

Powell made the controversial case which tried to persuade Americans that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after 9/11. As in the military, Powell was respected by his foreign counterparts as a secretary of state directing American foreign policy overseas. He went against the Republicans in 2008 to endorse the election of the first Black president, Barack Obama (D).

A man who positively operated in the background, Powell could be considered to be this generation’s equivalent of Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks and Hank Aaron. Through his regular approach, Powell broke the color barrier through his military and political accomplishments. And within his many decades in uniform, he was one of the most trusted American military and government leaders representing the strength of this nation. Powell passed away at age 84, and is survived by his wife Alma and three children.

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

Rocky Point High School students Giana Imeidopf, Sean Hamilton and Zachary Gentile helped with this article.

The Rocky Point girls’ soccer team. Photo from Rich Acritelli

These were the words of the members of the Rocky Point High School girls’ soccer team, after they completed their schedule with an undefeated season. 

The Rocky Point girls’ soccer team. Photo from Rich Acritelli

This past Monday, they gained a hard fought 1-0 victory against the talented Wildcats of Shoreham-Wading River. Within every game, the “Lady Eagles” were a confident, but not a brash group of players, that never looked past any opponent. Currently, they are amongst the highest ranked teams within the state, and they look forward to the play-offs to continue their winning ways. Coach Peter Costa explained the dominant play of his girls as a “team that never quits in any game.”

It has been a unique year for the several seniors that comprise the nucleus of this team. Watching them interact with each other, they are an extremely close bunch that have formed an enduring bond on and off the field. This was demonstrated by senior right forward Gianna Amendola who scored the winning goal against Shoreham-Wading River. Amendola has been a scoring machine, as she leads the county with thirty-one goals, and she has set the single season record for the school. Against Shoreham, with three defenders on her, she scored the winning goal. Armed with a big smile and a can-do attitude, she is looking forward to playing next fall for a dominant four-year college. 

Next to Amendola is the “comic relief” for this team in defender Victoria Curreri. She was extremely proud of the “Great Wall of Defense” that this group has established in allowing only eight goals during the season and supporting the team with ten shutouts. All the defender’s credit Junior MaryKate Abernethy’s remarkable play in the net, to only allow eight goals within 16 games. Next fall, Curreri will be playing lacrosse at Iona College in New Rochelle.

Always with a huge smile, forward Alex Kelly has been a major presence on the offense. This talented four-year varsity soccer player and track and field jumper and sprinter will be attending Princeton University next fall. She has been a dominant offensive figure in creating the greatest number of assists and ranking second in points in Suffolk County.  This young lady that is always known for her positive demeanor, is also a tenacious player that makes her presence felt on the field.  Kelly has thoroughly enjoyed her time playing since her childhood with many of these girls who are about to graduate.  

Another important member of this team is Megan Loeser. The center mid-fielder is an extremely talented player that has been an important cog towards the success of this team. Awarded All-League and Division honors, this three-year captain can always be seen hustling and pushing her teammates against the opposition. This “field general” identifies this team as the hardest working group that she has played with during her 14-year soccer career for school and travel leagues. Always an upbeat young lady, Loeser expects to continue playing soccer in college.

Next to Loeser, is her best friend and nearby neighbor in Lindsey Lucia. An aggressive defender, she has a strong understanding of this sport, especially during big games. Like many of the other girls, she began playing sports within the CYO leagues. Lucia wears a large trade-mark smile, where this genuine student-athlete has been a starting varsity three-year captain. This spirited team leader has established the Rocky Point mantra for competing against difficult teams like that of Shoreham, East Islip and Hauppauge, is to handle each game like it’s the play-offs. Lucia will be attending C.W. Post next fall, where she will be playing lacrosse in Brookville. 

The Rocky Point girls’ soccer team. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Mia Negus recalls her younger moments of being taught this game with her teammates within the fields of Frank J. Caraseti Elementary School. She is a vital member of the vaunted defense that has made it extremely difficult for opposing schools to score against Rocky Point. Negus is excited to complete her high school on one of the most successful team’s in school history.

Senior Kaitlyn Reilly could be one of the most versatile student-athletes on this team. While she is a soft-spoken young lady, Reilly is a tough defensive player, that is proud of a group that always pulls for each other. This amazing student would like to play at a respected four-year school next fall, where she would like to major in elementary education. 

Looking up the field, Reilly often passes the ball to Lilly Resciniti, who is an extremely capable mid-fielder. Resciniti like that of Loeser, Kelly and Amendola, is a dominant member of this team, where she skillfully helps the offense and defense. She views the concentration of this team as a key factor within its “mind-set” to always practice and play 110% of the time.  An extraordinary student that is academically ranked tenth in her class, this mid-fielder is looking forward to attending medical school and studying neuroscience.  

Sophia Wood is extremely pleased to be a part of the “insane talent” that has surrounded this team.  Wood is a center mid-fielder that is looking forward to playing against the best players in Suffolk County during the play-offs. Like the other girls, she is thrilled to be part of a team that is extremely close, where they like to spend time together through their weekly pasta parties.  

Wood will be playing lacrosse next fall at St. Leo University. All of the girls would like to thank their fellow senior back-up goalie Julia Darby that has played with them for the last four years. Her support has been instrumental in helping the team prepare during practices and before games against some of the best teams in the county.

Many years down the road, as these ladies pursue their own path’s in life, they will always recall this regular season, where they were undefeated before the play-offs. With a sincere affection towards each other, the comradery of this group will continue to push them through the rigors of the play-offs. 

Costa believed that the “success this year has been our team bond. The players care for each other, they cheer for each other and spend time off the field together. Every practice is fun, and it is filled with energy.”

Long time Athletic Director Charles Delargy stated that an “undefeated season is a great accomplishment. To do it in power ranking where a team has to play against 16 different opponents is even more amazing.”  

And underclass players Michalina Wojnowski and Emily Velasquez understand the sheer presence of these strong players and they have expressed their gratitude in being part of a positive team that always strives for excellence. 

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

Photo by Rich Acritelli

“The purpose of the Warrior Open is to celebrate those who have served our country, and to remind our fellow citizens how fortunate we are to have men and women volunteer in the face of danger.” — President George W. Bush (2011)

The former president supported a golf outing to honor the wounded warriors on the 10-year anniversary of September 11. For two decades, American soldiers from every part of this nation had served in Iraq and Afghanistan to defend the country in the face of terrorism. 

Since 2008, Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 has run an annual golf outing similar to that of Bush’s to show appreciation and support to our local veterans who have served under Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

This outing was established by Michael Mauro of Baiting Hollow through the simple idea of helping veterans who have fallen on hard medical and financial times as a result of their fighting time overseas.  

Photo by Rich Acritelli

As a former technical sergeant who was a heavy truck operator at the 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach and a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps, Mauro initiated the local push to provide comfort to our local veterans. He was deployed to Iraq, left his newborn son and young family behind, and was wounded in that conflict.  

This golf outing emerged during the height of the costly War on Terror fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was estimated there were over 52,000 soldiers severely wounded, as many as 500,000 living with post-traumatic stress disorder, and about 320,000 service members who have suffered from brain debilitating injuries. 

With post Cmdr. Joseph Cognitore at Mauro’s side and many of the veterans from different components of the armed forces and conflicts, VFW Post 6249 has created one of the strongest golf outings on Long Island. Over the last 14 years, more than $220,000 has been raised by the participating golfers, businesses, veterans, law enforcement, union organizations and post members. 

Cognitore has taken over the responsibilities of this outing for the last two years, and has expanded on this tradition to use golf as a tool to help our veterans. And the devotion to continue these efforts toward helping hurt veterans is still a necessity, as the national chapter of the Wounded Warrior Project recorded that over 184,000 veterans, family members and caregivers are registered for financial support. 

While the fighting and deployments have ended in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are vital needs of veterans who are still handling physical and psychological ailments. This North Shore community is no different than any other part of the United States, as there are many local veterans impacted by combat. Cognitore and VFW Post 6249 are eager to help them with financial assistance.

These outings have been held at Long Island National Golf Club in Riverhead, the old Calverton Links, Cherry Creek Golf Links in Riverhead, Willow Creek Golf & Country Club in Mount Sinai and Baiting Hollow Golf Club. There has been a tremendous amount of loyalty toward this function with golfers who have attended this function since 2008.  

Next year, it is expected that VFW Post 6249 will carry out this tradition by having this event at Great Rock Golf Club in Wading River. To make this annual event possible, Cognitore counts on the support of Mike Wern, Gary Suzik, Pat Biglin, Bill Fitz, Tom and Ray Semkow, Gil Jenkins, and many of the women from the military ladies’ auxiliary.  

Photo by Rich Acritelli

This outing would not be possible without the participation of the golfers along with the businesses and organizations which have always been very generous. Financial donations have been received from B.A.C. Systems and Brian May, Landmark Industries and Mark Baisch, Stanley Steemer and Keith Burtis, the team from Drexel Hamilton and Mike Parisi from Parkside Fuel in Mount Sinai. 

Next to these participants are the former Major League Baseball players: Yankee Frank Tepedino, Met Art Shamsky, Pittsburgh Pirate Fred Cambria and longtime scout Larry Izzo. These professional baseball men have been a constant staple within this golf outing that has seen them hit long drives, strong puts and the telling of unique baseball stories from many years ago.

Cognitore has donated proceeds to local military scholarships, building homes for veterans, and has the constant goal of helping wounded service members. This is a special golf outing. 

VFW Post 6249 continues to shine as a major veterans organization that works to make this community into a better place. Through its most recent efforts to build the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Statue in Rocky Point, the Diamond in the Pines 9/11 Memorial in Coram and the Rocky Point High School Veterans Wall of Honor, this golf outing is another example of support to provide comfort to our local citizens.  

And much of these efforts are carried out by Vietnam War and Cold War veterans who have a new mission of compassion to ensure that the men and women who fought for this country are properly recognized and are never forgotten.  

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College. Members of the Rocky Point High School History Honors Society contributed to this story.

Photo from the Reh family

Rocky Point native Troy Reh, who is a member of the “Chaos” that recently won the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) Championship, said it was a “great experience.”

“It’s always awesome to play with my brother on the high school and college level of competition,” he said. “Not everyone has this opportunity, and this was extremely special for our family.”

Lacrosse runs deep within this local family that has seen generations of Reh’s dominate high school, college and professional competition. Since the fifth grade, Troy, and his twin brother Justin, have strengthened their family name in lacrosse by displaying a unique expertise in lacrosse. The love of this game began under the guidance of their father and uncles, and through the early coaching that they received in the junior Rocky Point Police Athletic Teams league.  

Photo from the Reh family

For many years, Troy was smaller in physical stature, and he did not fully grow until his first year in college. Justin recalled that he had a limited understanding of the game as a kid who would usually follow the ball on the field. He eventually demonstrated stick handling skills and coordination at an early age by catching lefty and throwing righty. 

The brothers paid their dues in playing time, as Justin did not make the varsity until his sophomore year and Troy started as a senior. Being on the varsity at an earlier age, Justin had moments of excellence and challenges. During his sophomore year, he played well against tough teams like Shoreham Wading River and Comsewogue, and he scored 50 points. 

As Justin began to make a name for himself through his school and travel lacrosse teams, in the last moments of a practice during his junior season within the old “pit” field, he broke his foot. It was a difficult injury, as Justin looked forward to playing Mount Sinai, where his father is the athletic director, and he wanted to play against the difficult competition of this local team. 

With treating a “Jones Fracture” for several months, Justin was unable to have any type of mobility, and was away from a game that he loved. Every day, this injured player still worked on his skills through the aid of a “pitch-back.” He sat in a chair and used both hands to throw the ball over a hundred times righty and lefty.  

The Class of 2014 were an extremely close group of student-athletes that all began playing lacrosse at the same time. They watched the 2008 Rocky Point Eagles win the state championship and since they were in middle school, the Reh’s, along with their friends Pat Dallon, Brendan McGovern, Chris Johnson, Jake Clark and Chris McGreevy, all were confident that they would have a similar success in lacrosse once they became seniors.  

And this estimation was fulfilled in 2014, after an early loss to Babylon, the team was reminded by the Reh boys that they always had to play hard, and Babylon was a “wake up call” that motivated this team to win the county title.

Scott Reh was an assistant coach during his son’s senior year and identified their leadership qualities as “being great teammates, that always put the needs of their team first.”

In the play-offs against Miller Place, Justin broke his ribs, but kept playing to guide the team towards victory. Against Lynbrook, Rocky Point did not play its finest game and while they were still battered from Miller Place, they lost the Long Island Championship 10-9. 

Former Rocky Point goalie Patrick Dallon vividly recalled that the Reh brothers always “made you feel more confident about the outcome of a game, and as a goalie, that’s all you could ask for. They had a way of taking a lot of pressure off other players because of what they were capable of doing on the field.  I miss being on the same team as them, these were some of the best memories that I have.”  

Another buddy, who played with the Reh’s for many years was Brendan McGovern. He played many games with these brothers and observed that they had the “ability to always be one step ahead of everyone else, and they understood exactly where to be on the field.”

The Reh boys followed up their family’s tradition of being dominant players under the guidance of Coach Michael P. Bowler. Justin saw Bowler as one of the “greatest people that he had ever known” and that this long-time coach always stressed the need for his players to be “respectful, carry yourself in a positive manner and to be productive citizens.”   

Photo from the Reh family

Helene Bowler recalled the immense affection of her late husband towards Justin, Troy, their father Scott, and his two brothers, that were all dominant athletes. She remembered the “unique opportunity and privilege” that her late husband had in coaching Troy and Justin, and having his former player in Scott, be next to him as an assistant coach during this successful season.  

“Justin was hurt during the play-offs, that he performed at a high level to help this team win and that Troy was an excellent motivator to get the boys moving in the right direction,” she said. “And most importantly, they always carried themselves in a good manner, were excellent team first players, and they have developed into outstanding young men.”

After graduating from Rocky Point High School in 2014, the brothers were recruited and signed by the University of Albany. This was an ideal fit, as they gained a quality education, competed on a Division I team, and were close enough for their parents and family members to attend Albany lacrosse games.  

Starting at Albany, Justin had poor luck, as he was sick with mono, and he re-aggravated his foot injury.  Troy saw limited time in fall and spring lacrosse, but he realized that Albany had been a good fit for him and Justin. 

Like that of Bowler’s tutelage, who was a father figure to his teams over the last several decades, the same type of support was presented to these boys at Albany. It was observed that their college coach Scott Marr team ran his team like a family, as they were expected to put in their work on the field, but they had a great deal of fun on this team.  

As a sophomore, Troy cracked the starting line-up as a long stick mid-fielder and was a team leader until his final senior season. Justin had a tremendous season as a junior, where he was one of the highest scorers in the nation. 

He gained over 50% of his shots on net as goals, where he garnered all division and conference award for his stellar play and was also honored as an academic All-American. 

While they made the play-offs during their junior season, the Reh boys had a similar final year like that at Rocky Point. They were surrounded by great players that worked well together and had set their goals to being one of the finest teams in the entire nation. 

Albany made it to the semi-finals and lost in the Final Four to the eventual National Champions in Yale at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts. Both Troy and Justin describe this game as if it was yesterday, and they are immensely proud of their teammates in making it only steps away from gaining a championship.  

Whereas they came up a bit short, during the playing tenure of the Reh’s, this university won three American East titles and always played well against rivals like that of Hartford, Vermont and Stony Brook University. Through their sheer determination to excel, the Reh’s helped Albany reach its highest lacrosse achievements that this college ever earned.

For a once smaller player in physical stature, Troy grew into an outstanding athlete that was three time all conference player, recognized as a 3rd team All-American, and was an Academic All-American.  Staying consistent with their ability to perform at different athletic levels of play, both boys would again be united, as they were both drafted by the New York Lizards.  

Again, they played with some of the finest talent in the nation and had games against opponents in Dallas, Baltimore, Atlanta, Boston and Denver. Justin believed that it was an honor to learn from his former professional teammate in Rob Pannell who was a wealth of lacrosse information and expertise.  This athlete was one of the most respected players in nation on the college level at Cornell and for the Lizards.  

Like that of high school and college, Troy marveled at the chance that him and Justin had to play for the Lizards and play on the same fields that they visited as kids.  

As a four-year veteran of playing professional lacrosse, Troy has the unique insight in helping the creator Paul Rabil of the Premier Lacrosse League expand this sport.  

According to Troy, the PLL has eight teams, where players drive or fly to various cities to attend meetings, practices, and games. With a championship under his belt, Troy has also been a key figure in helping the founder of this league grow this sport across America. Troy has become an early pioneer to expand this league through his ability to run camps, organizing sales and emails to garner wide-scale interest. When they are not playing professionally or working their own jobs, the Reh boys can be seen within the fields of Rocky Point High School giving lessons, breaking down this sport and always flashing a big smile as they mentor our local players.

Since they picked up a stick in the fifth grade, these local North Shore athletes have surely made a name for themselves within lacrosse. Through drive, determination, and making it through adversity, the Reh boys are not only true ambassadors to this game, but they are genuine role models to our youth.  

While they have gained a tremendous amount of success over the years, these young men always were driven to succeed and put in all of the work through a team first mentality. Rocky Point Lacrosse Coach Tom Walsh said “our current players look up to their success and visualize the possibilities of what is out there to achieve within the sport of lacrosse through hard work and dedication.”

The 9/11 memorial in Hauppauge. File photo by Rita J. Egan

“One of the worst days in American history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.” — Former President George W. Bush

These were the patriotic thoughts of this president who reflected on the heroic services that were demonstrated by Americans during and after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. 

While it has been 20 years since our nation was attacked by the sting of terrorism, Americans have not forgotten this tragic moment. On the North Shore — about 80 miles from Manhattan at its easterly point — there are many memorials that honor the local residents who were killed, the dedication of the rescue workers and the War on Terror veterans who defended this nation at home and abroad for the last two decades.

There has been a tremendous amount of support from the local municipalities, state and local governments, along with school districts to never forget 9/11. People do not have to look far to notice the different types of memorials, landmarks and resting places that represent those harrowing moments and the sacrifices that were made to help others and defend this country. 

Calverton National Cemetery

Driving northwest on Route 25A, it is possible to quickly see the reminders of sacrifice within the Calverton National Cemetery. This sacred ground is one of the largest military burial grounds in America and driving through its roads, there are flags that have been placed for veterans of all conflicts — especially the most recent during the War on Terror. 

One of the most visited sites there is that of Patchogue resident Lt. Michael P. Murphy who was killed in 2005 in Afghanistan, where under intense enemy fire he tried to call in support to rescue his outnumbered four-man SEAL team. 

As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, local residents can also see his name gracing the front of Patchogue-Medford High School, the post office in Patchogue, the Navy SEAL Museum that is near completion in West Sayville, and a memorial created for him on the east side of Lake Ronkonkoma, where he was a lifeguard.

Shoreham-Wading River—Rocky Point—Sound Beach—Mount Sinai

West of Calverton, at the main entrance of Shoreham-Wading River High School, you will notice a baseball field located between the road and the Kerry P. Hein Army Reserve Center. 

One of this field’s former players, Kevin Williams, was killed on 9/11, where he was a bond salesman for Sandler O’Neill, in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. This 24-year-old young man was a talented athlete who was recognized with MVP honors on the baseball, golf and basketball teams for the high school. 

A foundation has been created in the name of Williams, an avid New York Yankees fan, that has helped provide financial support to baseball and softball players unable to afford attending sports camps. 

Not far from Shoreham, driving westward, motorists will notice the strength, size and beauty of the Rocky Point Fire Department 9/11 memorial. This structure is located on Route 25A, on the west side of the firehouse.

Immediately, people will notice the impressive steel piece that is standing tall in the middle of a fountain, surrounded by a walkway with bricks that have special written messages. In the background, there are names of the people killed during these attacks and plaques that have been created to recognize the services of the rescue workers and all of those people lost.  

Heading west into Rocky Point’s downtown business district, VFW Post 6249 has a 9/11 tribute with steel from lower Manhattan. Less than a half mile away, on Broadway and Route 25A, the Joseph P. Dwyer statue proudly stands high overlooking the activity of the busy corner.  

This veteran’s square remembers the service of PFC Dwyer, who enlisted into the Army directly after this nation was attacked and fought in Iraq. He struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and this statue supports all veterans who have dealt with these hard psychological and physical conditions. 

A short distance away, the Sound Beach Fire Department also created a special structure on its grounds through a neighborhood feeling of remembrance toward all of those people lost.

Heading west toward Mount Sinai, it is easy to observe a wonderful sense of pride through the Heritage Park by its display of American flags. On the Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Memorial Day, residents see these national and state colors, and this always presents a great deal of patriotism for the people utilizing this park.

Coram—Port Jefferson—St. James 

More south on County Road 83 and North Ocean Avenue, visitors of all ages enjoy the Diamond in the Pines Park in Coram. There, people have the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial Learning Site. This site honors all of the citizens lost from the townships of Brookhaven and Riverhead, the rescue workers and War on Terror veterans.  

For 10 years, the site has helped reflect on this assault on America through the major bronze plaques with historical information, black granite pictures, benches, and statues of a bronze eagle and a rescue dog that helped search for survivors of the attack at the World Trade Center.

Leaving this park and going north into the village of Port Jefferson, people enjoy the beauty of its harbor, its stores, and they see traffic enter via ferry from Connecticut. Through the activity of this bustling area, there is a large bronze eagle that is placed on a high granite platform.  

Perched high, citizens from two different states brought together by the ferry are able to walk by this memorial that helps recognize the lost people of Long Island and the New England state. Driving near the water through Setauket, Stony Brook and into St. James, there is a major 7-ton memorial that highlights a “bowtie section” of steel from the World Trade Center.  

Due to the type of steel on display, there are few memorials that capture the spirit of the St. James Fire Department 9/11 site.

Nesconset—Hauppauge—Smithtown

Traveling south down Lake Avenue toward Gibbs Pond Road and Lake Ronkonkoma, the 9/11 Responders Remembered Memorial Park in Nesconset is located at 316 Smithtown Blvd. This is a vastly different place of remembrance, as it is continually updated with the names of fallen rescue workers who have died since the attacks 20 years ago. 

Taking Townline Road west into Hauppauge toward Veterans Highway and Route 347, you will end up at the Suffolk County government buildings. 

Directly across from Blydenburgh Park in Smithtown, is a major 9/11 memorial created by the county. This memorial has 179 pieces of glass etched with the 178 names of the Suffolk County residents killed on September 11, with one extra panel to honor the volunteers who built the memorial.

As commuters head west to reach the Northern State Parkway, they drive by a major structure that was created to recognize all of those citizens from Huntington to Montauk killed on 9/11 by terrorism. It is just one of many such monuments created by our local townships, fire departments, parks and schools.  

Even after 20 years, our society has not forgotten about the beautiful day that turned out to be one of the most tragic moments in our history.  

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