Miller Avenue School second graders in Alice Steinbrecher’s class with local veterans Photo courtesy SWRCSD

Miller Avenue School hosted an inaugural Miller Avenue Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 8. Principal Claudia Smith extended the invitation to all community veterans and received dozens of responses. Veterans were welcomed to the school with coffee and refreshments before walking alongside their cherished Miller Avenue students through the hallways. Patriotic music played, and red, white and blue flags were waved by students throughout the hallways to welcome and thank the veterans for their service to the country.

“This was truly a memorable and historic experience for our students and staff,” Smith said. “It was wonderful to thank these American heroes in person.”

VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point hosts its annual Veterans Day service on Saturday, Nov. 11. Photo courtesy Joe Cognitore

By Aidan Johnson

As Veterans Day once again arrived on Nov. 11, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 in Rocky Point took the time to pay their respects to all those who have served in the military.

“As a veteran, I stand before you with a profound sense of pride, humility and gratitude,” said Joe Cognitore, commander of Post 6249, in a speech to those in attendance. “I’ve been where many of you and our fellow service members have been, serving our great country with unwavering dedication, yet facing the many challenges that come with it.”

Cognitore made it a point to focus on the importance of Veterans Day not only from the perspective of being a veteran and VFW post member but also from “the collective duty we as U.S. citizens share in honoring our veterans and ensuring the truth and essence of this day is not forgotten.”

“Veterans Day isn’t really about acknowledging our service or expressing gratitude,” he continued. “It is about making Veterans Day a touchstone for understanding, education and appreciation for our Americans.”

“And I believe it’s our job as veterans to help ensure the true significance of this day isn’t lost in the noise of the [store] sales or everyday life,” he added.

Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) spoke at the event and expressed appreciation for the national holiday and the local veterans community.

“If you think about it, what these guys do, especially at this post, they are out in our communities every single day making a difference, as are many other posts,” he said in an interview. “All veterans continue to serve our communities and our country, so it’s only fitting that we recognize them and appreciate them and realize that they are out there on a daily basis.”

Cognitore mentioned upcoming events at the post, including the opening of the Suffolk County World War II and Military History Museum on Dec. 7 located at the former Rocky Point train station across the street from the VFW post, and a Christmas party on Dec. 9.

By Aramis Khosronejad

American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432 recognized Veterans Day on Saturday, Nov. 11, with a ceremony at the Port Jefferson Veterans Memorial Park in front of the harbor.

The ceremony consisted of a speech saluting and memorializing U.S. troops and veterans. Wilson Ritch Post 432 is dedicated to providing “support all around” to service members and veteran families, according to post Cmdr. Bob Masterson. The post was established in 1919 and has provided services for the Long Island veterans and the military community ever since.

Masterson was appointed commander this year, a position he said was a “great honor” for him. Masterson has been a member of Post 432 for 30 years. He was born in the Bronx and joined the military in 1961, serving as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Once he left the Army, he came out to the Long Island area and “did what I could to support the post.”

This Veterans Day service has lasted for five decades, according to Masterson. The ceremony aims to “tell the general public what us veterans have been through,” he said.

The commander also stated how the post aims to “try to enlist as many veterans that are still out there, to get them involved in the American Legion and give them the support they need.” “Whether it’s physical or emotional support or employment support, all they need to do is go to a local post and sign up and build the American Legion and its cause,” he continued.

The Veterans Memorial in Port Jeff represents an ideal place to hold the Veterans Day ceremony because of the “history and tradition” the harbor has, Masterson said.

He went on to explain the services that the Legion provides for Veterans. “We support Stony Brook Veterans Home,” he explained. “For those inside the home, we prepare events for them and have parties for them — support all around.”

Masterson concluded his commemoration by saying, “Give my blessing for all that [veterans] have done for us. It keeps us moving forward.”

Mills Pond Elementary School’s first Veterans Parade is held on Nov. 9. Photo courtesy SCSD
Mills Pond Elementary School’s first Veterans Parade is held on Nov. 9. Photo courtesy SCSD

Mills Pond Elementary School Principal Ireen Westrack proudly told local veterans that, “We wanted to do something more personal this year.”

So, she, Mills Pond staff and students hosted their first Mills Pond Veterans Parade on Nov. 9.

Veterans related to students and staff were invited to the school in honor of Veterans Day.

The veterans walked down a red carpet with their relatives, were served a hot breakfast, received thank you certificates and participated in a parade in front of the school.

The 5th grade choir also performed some patriotic songs and local Girl Scouts proudly led the parade.

By Greg Catalano

VFW Post 3054 in East Setauket hosted a moving Veterans Day ceremony at Setauket Veterans Memorial Park on Route 25A on Saturday, Nov. 11, paying tribute to U.S. service members and veterans of all generations.

After a performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a touching prayer, members of the Three Village community, including Scouts, Daisies and members of the East Setauket Fire Department, among others, placed wreaths in tribute to all the local community members for their military service over the years.

By Michael Scro 

The Kings Park Veterans Day parade and memorial ceremony took place on Saturday, Nov. 11, where local veterans, first responders, Scouts, Kings Park High School performers, community groups and residents gathered to honor all who have served in the military.

Originally named Armistice Day to commemorate the ending of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954, passed by Congress and signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R). Each year, it is held to honor military veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The parade began at the R.J.O. Intermediate School. It concluded at Veterans Plaza in front of the Kings Park Library and 1 Church St. Well over 100 participated during a comfortably crisp, sunny November morning.

The memorial ceremony was held immediately afterward, featuring a moment of remembrance and wreath laying. Speakers included VFW Kings Park 5796 Cmdr. Eric Burnett, American Legion Post 944 Cmdr. Hans Richter, American Legion Post 944 member Phil Barczak and Superintendent of Kings Park Central School District Timothy Eagen.

Burnett acknowledged the branches of the U.S. military, giving a brief historical background of each, and paid tribute as members of some branches in attendance cheered when they were mentioned.

Richter pointed out that this year marks the 100th anniversary of their American Legion Post and spoke about Donald C. Munro, a veteran of World War I for whom the post is named.

“He was a Kings Park resident, served the community as a plumber, and when his nation called for his service in World War I, he answered, and that’s where he died,” Richter said. “Veterans run deep in Kings Park. We have names on our memorial in the plaza going back to the Revolutionary War — it is very humbling.”

Barczak said it is the veterans who have given America its freedom of religion, speech, the press, a right to a fair trial, the right to vote, and it is the veteran “who salutes the flag, serves under the flag and has given us the freedom to proudly wave our flag.”

Eagen spoke about how Kings Park schools teach their youth “the importance of service, and the history and significance of Veterans Day,” where students honor local veterans with meals, letters, hugs, handshakes and saying, “Thank you for your service.”

The wreaths were laid beside the memorial stone at Veterans Plaza, which states, “This monument is dedicated to those who made the supreme sacrifice and to others of our community who served honorably in our country’s wars.”

By Michael Scro 

Greenlawn celebrated Veterans Day with a wreath-laying ceremony at Greenlawn Memorial Park on Saturday, Nov. 11, where a large crowd of local veterans, residents, law enforcement, Scouts and other community groups gathered at 11 a.m. to support the holiday’s tradition.

Originally named Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, the holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954, passed by Congress and signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R). Each year, it is held to honor military veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Hosted by American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244 on a comfortably crisp and sunny November morning, post Cmdr. Trisha Northover said, “To serve is to give, it is to find access to joy.”

“There are many things that come to mind,” Northover added. “We are struggling through conflict, and a new generation will be called up to honor and serve the country. Each person that puts on the uniform knows they can give up their life — it is simply the most honorable thing that one can do.”

1st Vice Cmdr. Carlo Giordano spoke about the programs the American Legion supports, such as the Boys and Girls State, where high school juniors spend a week in July at a college upstate to participate and learn about democratic government and gain leadership experience. Over the course of 15 years, Giordano said Post 1244 has sent over 200 students. The organization also supports Operation Enduring Care, which assists veterans who require assistance due to illness or homelessness.

Giordano concluded by saying, “I am proud to be a veteran, and especially proud to be part of the American Legion.”

The wreaths were laid beside a monument stone at Greenlawn Memorial Park, which has a plaque for American Legion Post 1244 and states, “Dedicated to those who made the supreme sacrifice — Village of Greenlawn 1960.”

The ceremony concluded with the playing of taps.

Photo by Heidi Sutton

“Thank you for your service.”

Especially around Veterans Day, we say and hear these words many times. We express our gratitude and appreciation for American veterans, those who risked it all so that we may enjoy our cherished American freedoms.

The freedom to speak one’s mind. The freedom to exercise one’s sincere religious convictions. The freedom to peaceably assemble and petition government — and the freedom of the press.

While we often take these freedoms for granted, we must remember that they are not guaranteed. Throughout our national history — from imperial Britain to the Confederate States to the Axis powers to al-Qaida — our enemies have sought to deprive us of our sacred freedoms. They have sought to undermine and wipe away our way of life and our democracy.

Standing in their way time and again have been American service members. To protect and defend our democratic norms and our way of life, veterans risked their lives, many paying the ultimate sacrifice.

Along the North Shore, we live among some of American history’s greatest patriots. No matter his or her tour of service, each veteran has a story to share. And crucially, many have carried the banner of service back into civilian life, building up our local communities and making this a better place to live.

We would be deeply troubled by the loss of local and national historical memory. Thankfully, we have history courses built into elementary and middle school curricula. We also enjoy and sincerely appreciate the efforts of local historical societies here preserving our history.

History gives us roots, establishing a sense of who we are and where we came from. To move forward as a community and nation, we must first grasp how we arrived at where we are. Fortunately for us on Long Island, we have a path ahead.

At the former Rocky Point train station, a collection of veterans and local volunteers are building out the Suffolk County World War II and Military History Museum. This regional veterans museum, to be operated by VFW Post 6249, aims to tell the stories of local service members from across Long Island. The museum is slated to launch on Thursday, Dec. 7.

Since learning of this project, our staff has enthusiastically supported its mission. We believe the museum will help foster two of our central goals as a staff: informing locals about their community and inspiring love for this place we call home.

As this year’s Veterans Day services wind down, we can all help this museum get off the ground. The museum is actively seeking donations in the form of equipment, uniforms, combat supplies and other artifacts and memorabilia.

We ask our readers to honor a veteran in their own lives by donating. We urge all to help lend a hand — because these stories are too valuable to lose to history.

To donate, contact the museum’s curator, Rich Acritelli, by emailing [email protected].

Eric Waxman, Jr. honored as the Veteran of the Game at the September 24th, 2023 NY Yankees Game in the Bronx. Pictured with Eric is his grandson, U.S. Army Major Eric Waxman IV.

By Rita J. Egan

This year, receiving special recognition for his military service came earlier than Nov. 11 for one local veteran. The New York Yankees honored Eric Waxman Jr., of East Setauket, during their Veteran of the Game ceremony on Sept. 24. The occasion coincided with his 96th birthday.

The Korean War veteran has been a fan of the Yankees since 1934. He said his first baseball game was with his dad, and on Sept. 24, he was escorted on the field by his grandson Army Major Eric Waxman IV.

Waxman is a familiar face in the community due to his past and current community service with St. James R.C. Church, the Knights of Columbus and the Three Village Historical Society.

Active duty

U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Eric Waxman, Jr.

While studying at Fordham University, he was enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. He had served in the Army earlier, from 1945 to 1946, which qualified him to be advanced in the ROTC program. After completing his training, he was called to active duty in the U. S. Army in September 1951.

During the war, the then New Hyde Park resident was stationed in Germany and was part of the Cold War force. The era marked a time filled with tension between the former Soviet Union and the United States.

“They told us we were the only army that was between the communist Russians and the North Sea,” he said.

Waxman served as a 1st Lieutenant with the 14th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Armored Division as a forward observer. In the case of combat, he said, it would mean that he would stand at the shoulder of an infantry lieutenant at the front line or a soldier in a tank. His job would be to adjust the fire on the target.

“It was a little bit frightening to know that you were adjusting artillery fire on a simulated target but it was live ammunition,” he said. “That was exciting and I’d say exhilarating to be adjusting real live ammunition.”

Between his earlier service and his time spent in Germany, he served a total of 39 months. He was placed in a reserve unit in September of 1953 for a short time and soon after was retired from the military.

Life and service after the Army

After serving in the military, Waxman entered the education field. For most of his career, he was a high school principal. His first stint in the position was in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, for 10 years. He would then go on to be principal at Harborfields High School for three years and William Floyd School District for eight. When he retired from being a principal, he was an assistant dean at Touro Law School for 14 years.

He and his wife, Anne, moved to the Three Village area 46 years ago and raised seven children. Today, their family has grown to include 34 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren, with three more on the way.

Through the decades, Waxman has balanced community service with career and family. He was involved in the Three Village Historical Society for 20 years, serving on the board for seven of those years and helping out with the society’s various tours.

His love for history began when he taught the subject in a junior high school before becoming a principal.

“I have a deep appreciation for the importance of the study of the past,” he said.

During his time with the historical society, he said he enjoyed discussing Colonial and Revolutionary times with those who attended events such as the society’s Spirits Tour and Village Green Walking Tours.

Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly C. Tyler said Waxman always made himself available to help at society events.

“He was one of those people who we could really rely on to always be there,” Tyler said.

The historian said when leading tours, Waxman had a knack for covering what was needed for participants to understand. At the same time, he knew to avoid getting too complex about the history.

“He’s very knowledgeable, and he has an incredible depth of information,” Tyler said. “People enjoy listening to him.”

While Waxman no longer volunteers for the historical society events, he remains an active member of St. James church’s parish and its Knights of Columbus.

Father Robert Kuznik has been with the church for more than two years and said getting to know Waxman “has been a highlight.”

“He’s a humble but a constant presence,” Kuznik said. “You know that if something is happening in our faith community, he is there.”

Kuznik said Waxman is part of several groups in the parish that provide help to the community in addition to his involvement in the Knights of Columbus, where he participates in the food and blood drives. He also works with fellow parishioners to help organizations such as the Life Center of Long Island, which helps pregnant women in need and young women with children.

“Mr. Waxman is a man of great wisdom,” he said. “He brings his experience and knowledge together and uses them well. It is such a great privilege, such a blessing to be so often in the presence of this wonderful man.”

Kuznik said Waxman frequently reads the Scriptures during Sunday Mass and other services, and he also comes once a month to help and pray at a Mass for young people with disabilities.

“At heart, he is an educator, an incredible communicator,” the priest said. “Listening to him making an announcement in his booming voice, his style, repetition, you know instantly that whoever was in there will walk out well informed.” 

Reflecting on his military service

Waxman said he feels there is a lot to gain from serving in the military.

“Learning to discipline yourself and to be task-oriented is helpful no matter what you do with your life, and you get the training that you need to learn the importance of discipline and obedience in the basic training of the armed forces,” he said.

At the same time, he is concerned for service members, especially his grandson Eric, who has been deployed to Afghanistan three times.

“We’re so proud that he’s going to serve,” Waxman said. “I think that’s the main thing, finding men and women who are willing to serve their country in time of need.”

Waxman described war as “the last resort to solve a disagreement.”

“I’m proud to be an American and to have had the opportunity to serve,” he said.”I hope that we’re able to make our way in the world as a nation, and I hope that we live in more peaceful times in the future.”