On a recent December morning, while many shoppers rushed into the Middle Island Walmart to take care of some holiday shopping, others paused in the vestibule to throw some money in a bucket.
The container sat in a shopping cart filled with articles and wartime photos that feature veteran Stan Feltman, 93, the man standing behind the cart. Feltman is a familiar face at the store as he stands there practically every day, all year long, collecting money for his fellow veterans with the recognizable red poppies in his hand. Some days he takes a break, but only from his usual spot. He then moves on to collect money at the Walmart in Centereach or East Setauket.
Feltman said he’s met so many generous people through the years. He usually can collect between $80 and $100 after standing there for two hours. One day a gentleman shook his hand and noticed he was cold and bought him a jacket from the store. One woman gave him a $20 bill one day saying it was for him to keep.
“I took the $20, and when she left I threw it in the pot,” he said. “I don’t need the money.”
A member of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336, Feltman brings the donations to the post’s monthly meetings where he and his fellow members decide where the money should go. Post Comdr. Norman Weitz said over the last few years they have been able to donate more than $21,000 thanks to Feltman’s fundraising efforts. The post is a regular contributor to many veterans efforts, including the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University.
“A common theme you will see in the veterans community is that veterans are dedicated to giving back to helping other veterans.”
– Jonathan Spier
In 2017, the post donated $5,000 to LISVH. Jonathan Spier, deputy executive director of the vets home, said the donation was used to purchase oxygen concentrators for the patients. He said the JWV has been a partner with the home for more than 20 years and other donations from them have been used for recreational therapy programs. The post also assists Jewish vets to attend Shabbat and holiday services.
“A common theme you will see in the veterans community is that veterans are dedicated to giving back to helping other veterans,” he said.
Spier added he is in awe of Feltman’s fundraising efforts.
“It’s really incredible to see that passion and that energy and the effort that he puts in to help veterans,” he said.
As for his war record, Feltman was a B-29 tail gunner in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1945. He was a double ace, meaning he shot down 10 enemy planes. Weitz said he admires Feltman, who one time when he was shot down had to escape on a raft. When Feltman’s fellow soldier slipped off the raft into shark-infested waters, he dived down to save him and grabbed him by the collar. Feltman earned the Bronze Star Medal for saving the man’s life. The medal wasn’t the only one earned during his service, as he gained four medals in total throughout his time in the Air Corps, even though they are no longer in his possession.
“My wife was so proud of them when she passed away, I put them in her coffin,” he said.
Weitz said he believes there are more heroic acts that Feltman doesn’t talk about, and the office of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is trying to see if his medals can be replaced by writing to the Air Force Historical Research Agency, which has access to after-action reports. The post commander has also nominated Feltman for membership in the Legion of Honor of The Chapel of Four Chaplains, which recognizes veterans who have gone above and beyond their required duties and contribute to their community.
In addition to raising money for veterans, Feltman has participated in lectures at schools and senior groups, including Erasmus Hall High School where he attended while growing up in Brooklyn. He also has been interviewed for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, an initiative established to collect and preserve firsthand remembrances of wartime veterans.
Weitz calls Feltman amazing and said he is worthy of all the accolades he has received.
“The record amount of money he’s collected allows us to distribute thousands and thousands to local veterans organizations,” he said.