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Baiting Hollow Country Club

Photo from Rich Acritelli

“But as the enemy closed in, Michael recognized that the survival of his men depended on calling back to the base for reinforcements. With complete disregard for his own life, he moved into a clearing where his phone would get reception. He made the call, and Michael then fell under heavy fire. Yet his grace and upbringing never deserted him. Though severely wounded, he said thank you before hanging up and returned to the fight before losing his life,” President George W. Bush, Oct. 22, 2007

Bush widely spoke about the heroic abilities and attributes of Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy during a 2005 battle within the mountains of Afghanistan. Bush addressed the unique comradery of this special forces team that fought against the tenacity of the “Mountain Tigers,” who allied themselves with the Taliban, that were situated near the Pakistani border.

Murphy and his men were greatly surrounded, and they were outnumbered in soldiers and guns that targeted them at every turn, but these four SEALs only had one of its members survive in Marcus Luttrell, fought to the bitter end against enemy forces that targeted American troops that operated in this rugged area of Afghanistan.

Almost 14 years after Bush presented Dan and Maureen Murphy with the Medal of Honor for their son Michael, this story was recalled at the Baiting Hollow Country Club on Tuesday, July 20. On that day, 170 golfers that participated in the fourth annual outing to remember this local military figure.

Photo from Rich Acritelli

As the golfers drove up to this course, they saw the American and Navy SEAL flags proudly flown for this event. It was not difficult to see the tremendous pride of the golfers, the police, former rescue workers, and veterans that were on hand to reflect on the tragic memory of “Operation Red Wing,” and the sound leadership of Murphy.

The North Patchogue Fire Department presented the “Murph Truck,” the Suffolk County Police Department flew its helicopter over this course, and Penn State student Daniela Bevas articulated the spirit of her fellow alumnus Michael who graduated from this college through the singing of the National Anthem.

Playing next to Dan was former SEAL Team Six member Robert O’Neill that was present to pay tribute to his friend. O’Neill helped raise needed funds for the Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy Navy SEAL Museum that is being built in Sayville and is expected to open on April 28, 2022.

The presence of O’Neill brought about an immense amount of curiosity in meeting the Navy SEAL that shot Bin Laden on May 2, 2011. Like the cheers that were felt by Americans some 10 years ago when baseball fans learned of the death of Bin Laden during the New York Met’s and Philadelphia Phillies game, the same emotions were felt a decade later when O’Neill spoke at this dinner.

After listening to the trumpet playing of Post 6249 member Greg Efermetz “call’s all to order,” this dinner crowd that grew to 350 people, heard O’Neill’s surprising account of this mission. O’Neill’s speech utilized a serious and humorous tone to explain this dangerous mission to fly into the middle of Pakistan.

Many people were on the edge of their seats to learn about the planning, training and final implementation of this risky plan to kill the architect of the 9/11/ and the several terrorist attacks against Americans that were conducted by Bin Laden during the 1990s.

This native of Montana easily connected with the residents of Long Island, especially those from North Shore that listened to O’Neill’s personal description of this top-secret assault, and the History vs. Hollywood analysis of the 2012 film “Zero Dark Thirty” portrayal of finding and killing of Bin Laden.

There was a local understanding by this westerner that realized there were many people at this fundraiser that had personal, family and friends that were killed from this terrorism. On this day, there were 9/11 responders, rescue and salvage workers that spent countless hours at Ground Zero, and local citizens that protected America in the Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan that were in the presence of O’Neill.

It was an outstanding event that saw O’Neill personally sign copies of his book “The Operator,” that focused on his vast military experiences. Some of these included the rescue Captain Richard Philips from Somalia pirates and a severely wounded Luttrell from “Operation Red Wing’s” that was almost taken by the enemy in Afghanistan.

Next to O’Neill was author Gary Williams who wrote the account of the life of Michael P. Murphy through SEAL of Honor, and CEO of PC Richard and Son, Greg Richard. There was $500,000 that was raised through generous checks that were presented at this dinner from various major businesses, and there were many funds that were donated from the golfers who purchased shirts, hats and raffle tickets.

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Last year, tragedy struck after 16-year-old Thomas Cutinella, a former Shoreham-Wading River High School football player, suffered a fatal head injury after colliding with another player during a football game on Oct. 1. Cutinella died later that day.

To honor his memory, community members from Shoreham-Wading River gathered on Sunday at Wildwood State Park in Wading River for the first Patriot Run. The event was sponsored by the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcat Athletic Club.

John Regazzi, a physical education teacher at Wading River Elementary School, created and organized the event to honor Cutinella. Alice Steinbrecher, a second grade elementary school teacher at Miller Avenue Elementary School also helped, and said the two decided to call the event the Patriot Run to honor Cutinella’s own patriotism.

“One of [Tom’s] biggest loves was his country, besides his family,” Steinbrecher said. “He cared so much about the men and women fighting for our country.”

According to Steinbrecher, more than 300 people attend the event to either show their support or run the race. Cutinella’s former football number, 54, was also considered when they determined the length of the race. The number was included as the race was made a 2.54 mile run.

Those who wanted to participate had to register to enter the race. The fee was $20 for adults and $15 for children if residents register before or by Sept. 4. Those who registered the day of the event paid an additional $5. Although everyone who registered for the event received a ticket for the barbecue that followed the race, only those who pre-registered received a T-Shirt in support of the event.

According to a friend of Cutinella who wanted to remain unidentified, the money is going toward the Tom Cutinella Scholarship fund.

“I knew him for a while… and he just, he’s the kind of kid you’d see in the hallway and no matter who you are… he’d say hi,” the friend said. “He didn’t see social barriers. He [was] just a friend to everybody. I think that’s why the whole community was united [after his death].”

A total of $70,545 has been raised for the scholarship before the event, but it is still unclear when Regazzi will know how much money they raised at the Patriot Run. The Cutinella family didn’t speak regarding the event or the loss of their son as the media was asked to respect the family’s privacy.

Jim Madden of Wading River is a parent of a student who went to school with Cutinella. Madden says the incident reminds people that unexpected events can happen.

“He was hurt on the football field and many of us have children that participate in sports whether it’s football, lacrosse, baseball,” he said. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare when something like that happens. It’s chilling to all the other spectators and the other parents and it’s a reminder to everyone that things like this can happen. Life really is very fragile you have to cherish every day.”

The event is one of several scheduled for this year. The Thomas Cutinella Memorial foundation is also support Cutinella in the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Tower Run in New York City on Sunday Sept. 27 and the first golf tournament fundraiser in his name on Monday Oct. 12 at the Baiting Hollow Country Club in Baiting Hollow.

The hope is that these events, including the Patriot Run, will help those Cutinella cared about while keeping his memory alive.

“He was a great kid,” Steinbrecher said. “Last fall was a big tragedy for our community so this year we wanted a chance for the community to come together in a positive way. The Cutinella family [is] asking people to go out and do acts of kindness in his honor and so this was our way of getting the community together.”

 

Editor’s note: This online story was updated to name the correct title for John Regazzi.