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Korean War

By Rita J. Egan

Setauket and Stony Brook residents know if they want to learn about local history, they can turn to Carlton Edwards, known by many as Hub. However, Edwards, 93, is more than a local history lover — he was also a part of history. A veteran of the Korean War, he served during the early years of desegregation in the armed forces.

Segregation in the armed forces was banned in 1948; however, it took a few years before the military was integrated. Edwards’ outfit was one of the first to be desegregated, he said, and the veteran trained and served with people from different backgrounds and nationalities including Filipino, Korean, Chinese and American Samoa. He said everyone got along well.

His brother-in-law, who served in 1950, was with an all-Black unit. When Edwards, who is also part Native American, sent him a letter including a photo of himself and his fellow soldiers, his brother-in-law asked him, “What army are you in?”

Hub wrote back, “I’m in the United States Army. The same as you.” 

The road to Korea

Born in Stony Brook, Edwards was only a few years old when his family moved to Chicken Hill, a neighborhood in Setauket. He was known in the area for his athleticism as a baseball player, pitching for the school’s varsity baseball team in 8th grade. In 11th grade, he continued pitching for the school and a local semi-pro team.

In 1951, at the age of 21, he received two draft notices — one from the United States Armed Forces and the other from the Brooklyn Dodgers after the team heard of his three no-hitters. The baseball milestones occurred while playing for his high school team, the Setauket Suffolk Giants and Setauket Athletic Club.

Despite the stroke of luck potentially to play professional baseball, Edwards had no choice but to join the army during draft time.

“Uncle Sam took first precedent,” he said.

Edwards added he wasn’t alone in the community. “Most of the young men that I went to school with all ended up in the service.”

Before joining the army, all he knew was the Three Village area. After stops in Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, and Camp Stoneman, California, he was put on a boat to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he trained.

The veteran, who served from 1951 to 1953, said the Schofield Barracks they slept in while training in Hawaii were nice but still had bullet holes from the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. After training in Hawaii, his unit headed to Busan, Korea. He said it was a different world than what he knew. His unit worked with injured soldiers, helping them get to hospitals in Japan, or even home.

“That’s why I never talk about it because I saw a lot of wounded,” the veteran said.

Growing up and attending Bethel AME Church in Setauket regularly when he was younger helped Edwards keep his faith when he served. He still wears the cross he had in the army. “Even with the dog tags, I kept it on,” he said.

Despite what he experienced in Korea, Edwards feels the military provides much-needed discipline for young people.

“If you’ve been in the service, you learn how to take orders,” he said.

Being raised by a strict mother and grandmother, Edwards said he already possessed discipline when he joined the army. Edwards said he missed his family while away from Setauket and looked forward to receiving letters from his mother and grandmother as well as family members, friends and a girl he was dating at the time. “In fact, I still have some of those letters,” he said.

Life after Korea

After his time in the army, where he began as a private first class and ended his service as a corporal, Edwards returned to Chicken Hill. He carried the memories from his service, and while teaching Sunday School at Bethel AME Church for 20 years, Edward said he tried “to teach peace for your fellow man.” 

Soon after his return home, he met and married Nellie Sands. The couple bought a house in West Setauket and had two sons.

Edwards, a retired custodian for the Three Village Central School District, where he worked for 40 years, has been an active member of the Three Village Historical Society. Before the pandemic, he would greet guests at the society’s Chicken Hill: A Community Lost to Time exhibit every Sunday to answer visitors’ questions. 

Edwards has also been a member of the American Legion Irving Hart Post 1766 since 1953. For decades, he has participated in parades, memorial services and other veteran events locally as well as in Washington, D.C., Rochester, Buffalo and all over Long Island to represent his post. He said being a member has allowed him the opportunity to meet veterans who fought in different wars through the decades. 

In the early days, some members had fought in World War I and World War II. Edward said Nelson Combs, an early member of the post who was Black, had to fight in the French army during World War I because he was unable to sign up for the armed forces in the United States. Combs went on to receive the Croix de Guerre, which is comparable to the U.S. Bronze or Silver Star.

Joe Bova, who has volunteered with Edwards at the Three Village Historical Society and conducted research with him for the Chicken Hill exhibit, is currently working with the veteran on the renovation of the Irving Hart Post. Bova said his friend developed a lot of empathy while serving.

“He really felt strongly about what his commitment to people should be and that just transferred over to the community that he belongs to,” Bova said. He also credits Edwards with being actively involved with the Irving Hart post since he returned from Korea, recruiting members and playing a major part in the current renovations and plans for the post’s future.


Edwards isn’t sure if he will be able to attend Setauket’s Memorial Day Parade this year, but he said it’s always touching when veterans are acknowledged.

“Every veteran appreciates it when people recognize that you have served your country,” he said. “It makes you feel good that people appreciate what you did.”

As for his athletic accomplishments, those haven’t been forgotten either. On May 18, he was inducted into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame for those three no-hitters in his pre-war days.

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Korean War veteran Sal Scarlato in his mini-museum in his basement. Photo by Dave Paone

By Dave Paone

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. While many of the soldiers who fought in it are still alive today, the conflict has been dubbed “The Forgotten War,” because for some reason the media — and the populace in general — tend to give their attention to World War II and Vietnam, making Korea their redheaded stepchild.

Scarlato, left, with a South Korean counterpart. Photo from Scarlato

Sal Scarlato, of Hauppauge, has been working to change that.

On June 25, 1950, when Scarlato was 17, North Korean soldiers crossed the 38th parallel (the line separating North and South Korea) and the Korean War began. Three days later the first U.S. ground-combat troops arrived in Korea by order of President Harry S. Truman.

Scarlato had known of a few boys from his neighborhood in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn who were killed in combat early on in the war. This didn’t stop Scarlato and 16 of his pals from enlisting in the Marines after they turned 18.

“I was very gung-ho,” he said. “I was very anxious to be a Marine.”

Scarlato went from Parris Island, South Carolina, to Camp Pendleton, California, and then to Kobe, Japan. The next stop was Korea.

PFC Scarlato landed at Inchon April 10, 1952. He was 19 and in the infantry.

In the four months of training and traveling since he enlisted, Scarlato didn’t really understand the gravity of what was coming.

It wasn’t until he was on the landing barge, with his full pack of gear, seasick, heading for the shore, when the commanding officer yelled, “Land of departure, lock and load!” that he knew he was in a war.

Some guys on the landing barge actually soiled themselves they were so scared.

Scarlato spent his first three nights in Korea on a base with bombed-out buildings and then was sent to the front line.

“All of a sudden we got hit with small-arm fire and mortar fire,” he said. “So, we jumped out of the trucks, and we ran right for the rice paddies because that’s all the coverage you had.”

Scarlato found himself face-down in a pile of human waste, which was used as fertilizer.

“We were firing like crazy,” he said. “I had the runs, I urinated, I was crying,” he said. “A couple of guys got hit.”

One night Scarlato had outpost duty along the 38th parallel.

“That night the CCF [Chinese Communist Forces] really gave us a welcome,” he said. “When they came, I didn’t fire my weapon right away. I froze. So, the guy next to me — actually he was my squad leader — hit me in the helmet. He said, ‘You better start firing that weapon.’

“A couple of minutes later, he got hit in the belly. He fell right on top of me. And when the corpsman came, he said, ‘Give me your hand.’”

To help stop the bleeding, Scarlato applied pressure to the squad leader’s liver, which was protruding from his body. Right then and there the squad leader died.

“I cried like a baby,” Scarlato said.

It was at this moment he truly understood what he had volunteered for. He didn’t sleep for three days.

“After this I was very bitter,” Scarlato said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ And my officers always said, ‘You’ll find out. You’ll find out eventually what you’re doing here.’”

The war raged on. Scarlato witnessed countless casualties and then in July of 1952, he became one.

Once again, Scarlato’s unit came under attack by the CCF. With his peripheral vision, he could see an enemy combatant toss a hand grenade at him and the two other nearby Marines. The grenade exploded, killing one of them and wounding Scarlato and the third Marine. Scarlato rolled down a hill and suffered leg, neck and hand wounds and a concussion.

A corpsman gave him a shot of morphine, and with the help of two South Koreans, sent him via jeep to an aid station. (There was no MASH unit in the area.) From there he was flown via chopper with another patient to a hospital ship.

Scarlato recuperated from his wounds, although to this day he still has shrapnel in his neck, which sets off alarms at airports on occasion.

He thought this was his ticket home, but the Marines still needed him. He did receive a Purple Heart out of the experience, though.

Being sent back to his unit made Scarlato bitter.

“I hated everybody,” he said, even spitting on his South Korean allies when one came close. Prior, he was ready to make the Marines his career, but now he even hated the institution that he once loved so much.

However, soon after this, Scarlato discovered the officers were correct and he did indeed find out why he was there.

On patrol one day, Scarlato and his unit came upon a small village where several civilians had been killed, execution style.

“There were three little children,” he said. “Two little girls — they were full of blood — but they were not dead. There was a little boy, maybe five, six years old … he had his hand blown off.”

Scarlato immediately picked the boy up, who wrapped his arms tightly around Scarlato’s neck, strangling him. Scarlato picked up the child’s severed hand and put it in his pocket.

Scarlato bandaged the end of the boy’s arm and a corpsman arrived. They both tried to pry the child from Scarlato’s neck, but he wouldn’t let go. He screamed in pain the entire time.

The two soldiers flagged down a medical jeep and they drove to a nearby orphanage that had a medical staff.

The nurses were able to pry the child from Scarlato and placed him on a table. Scarlato and the corpsman turned and walked out, having done all they could.

While he was in the jeep, Scarlato remembered he still had the child’s hand in his pocket. He stepped back inside only to find the boy had died.

This was the defining moment for Scarlato. Out of all the death and carnage he saw, this was the worst. Now he knew the reason he was there was “to save these people’s lives. Before that, I didn’t understand.”

In 1985, the Korean War Veterans Association was chartered in Troy, New York, as a national veterans group. In 2010, Scarlato became president of the Central Long Island chapter. It’s through the KWVA that he works to preserve the memory of those who served in the war.

Part of his success in this endeavor is the $400,000 Korean War veterans’ monuments in Hauppauge, paid for by the County of Suffolk, and dedicated in 1991.

Additionally, Scarlato and his chapter raised $70,000 in donations to go toward the national monument in Washington, D.C.

Over the years, Scarlato has curated what he calls a “mini-museum” in his basement. On display are artifacts from his time in the service, including his Purple Heart, his .45 holster and his rain poncho.

At 87, Scarlato is still sharp as a tack and keeps up with the news, including the current US-North Korean relations. He feels President Donald Trump (R) is “in the ballpark” when it comes to dealing with North Korea and what he’s doing should have been done by previous presidents long ago.

“Trump has more ‘testicoli,’ if you know what I mean,” Scarlato said.

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Facebook post had the power to unite a community to make sure a former East Northport resident didn’t make his final journey alone.

More than 400 veterans, servicemen and Northport-East Northport community members attended the funeral mass of Saverio DeLaurentis at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church to honor his life and military service Sept.1.

DeLaurentis, 85, died in August. He was a U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Korean War aboard the aircraft carrier the USS Oriskany, according to old newspaper clippings. DeLaurentis’ final wishes were to have his funeral at St. Anthony’s of Padua followed by a burial at Calverton National cemetery, according to Jean Chiovarelli, co-chair of the ministry of consolation at St. Anthony’s of Padua.

“We found out he had no immediate family or friends,” Chiovarelli said. “We thought no one would come out to the church. We put some phone calls and emails.”

Chiovarelli started a chain of phone calls to spread the word among the area’s American Foreign Legions and Veteran of Foreign War posts of DeLaurentis’ funeral.

Then, a Facebook post made Aug. 30 by Lorretta Hamann, co-chair of the ministry of consolation at St. Anthony’s of Padua, caught the attention of local residents.

“We received a notice this morning about a funeral mass at 9:45 [a.m.] on Friday for a 85-year-old gentleman,” Hamann wrote. “No family, a court appointed representative made the arrangements. We are calling around to ask anyone who might be available to attend the mass. It would be nice if he didn’t make his last journey alone.”

American Foreign Legion Post 1244 of Greenlawn, American Legion Riders Post 1244 of Greenlawn, Northport Veterans of Foreign Wars, Commack Fire Department, Fire Riders of the City of New York, and several Boy Scouts were among the many who turned out to salute DeLaurentis’ as his casket was carried into the church.

“It’s overwhelming how many people are here to show their love, their support,” said Father Raj Savarimuthu during the funeral mass. “Thank you. Thank you.”

The American Legion Riders were escorting DeLaurentis’ funeral process to Calverton where he will be buried with full military honors.

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower makes Veterans Day an official holiday. Photo in the public domain

By Rich Acritelli

Veterans Day is a time to remember all of our past, present and future members of the Armed Forces, but it was only about 60 years ago that President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially created the holiday we know today. Much happened on Nov. 11 even before it became a date of remembrance — there were significant losses and gains for our militaries during this month throughout history.

In the fall of 1776, Gen. George Washington was reeling from one loss after another that sent his army retreating from Long Island, Manhattan and across New Jersey toward Pennsylvania. It was a dark moment in the Revolutionary War for Washington to lose ground to the British, though he ultimately led the colonies to victory.

President George H.W. Bush rides in an armored jeep with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. in Saudi Arabia, Nov. 22, 1990. Photo in the public domain
President George H.W. Bush rides in an armored jeep with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. in Saudi Arabia, Nov. 22, 1990. Photo in the public domain

During the Civil War, in November 1863, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was summoned to Chattanooga, Tenn., to prevent a total collapse of Union forces against the Confederacy. As Grant headed into the beleaguered city, he saw northern forces terribly hurt from the nearby Battle of Chickamauga. President Abraham Lincoln sent 20,000 soldiers from the Army of the Potomac to aid the defensive and later offensive efforts of Grant to defeat the South in that region, and while the Confederates had been on the verge of gaining a huge victory, Grant opened up the “Cracker Line” to Chattanooga, with additional men, supplies and horses to deter the enemy. Grant’s calm and cool presence helped secure a much-needed victory for a thankful Lincoln, who saw the battle as one of the greatest tests of survival for the Union.

Eisenhower had his own recollections of this date through his experience leading the Allied Forces during World War II. As a new commanding general, he planned the mid-November 1942 allied landings of Operation Torch against the Germans and the Vichy French in North Africa. From Morocco to Algeria, untested American military troops drove to destroy the war machine of Germany. The chainsmoking Eisenhower eagerly waited in Gibraltar for news that his men had achieved all of their objectives against the enemy. Two years later, in the fall of 1944, Eisenhower looked eastward as his forces operated on a broad front against the Nazis in France. By that time, his armies were nearing the German frontier with the belief that their bitter enemy was about to surrender. Little did he know that Hitler was planning a final December offensive, which would later be called the Battle of the Bulge, to drive a wedge against the Allies on the Western Front.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush led the American efforts to destroy the strength of Saddam Hussein. That dictator had invaded Kuwait and was poised to attack Saudi Arabia, but the U.S. aimed to protect the Saudis through Desert Shield. Two weeks after Veterans Day, Bush was eating Thanksgiving dinner in the desert with the American military forces that eventually led the fighting into Iraq and Kuwait to defeat Hussein’s Republican Guard army.

Over the last 15 years, the United States has been in a constant state of warfare against aggressor and terrorist forces. From the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, American service members from across the country have tirelessly fought against an enemy bent on hurting our way of life. Currently, this mission has expanded over the skies of Northern Iraq and Syria to limit the growing expansion and influence of ISIS.

Americans should not neglect the “Forgotten War” veterans of the Korean conflict who bitterly fought against the communists during that Cold War battle, nor the Vietnam War veterans who honorably served for a decade in that Southeast Asian country.

May we always remember and honor our veterans from every American conflict, on Veterans Day and throughout the year.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College. He was a staff sergeant in the New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach.

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Congressman Steve Israel presents Irene Barkin with a check for $67,199 in owed benefits that her husband William Rondi earned but never received. Photo from Joe Knickrehm

Irene Barkin of Kings Park knew her late husband deserved thousands of dollars in benefits after serving in the Korean War, but all she ever heard was “No.”

That changed on Friday.

U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) presented Barkin and her family with a check on Friday for $67,199 in owed benefits that her husband William Rondi earned but never received. Corporal Rondi served in the Korean War and sustained injuries in combat that later contributed to his death at age 34 in 1965.

After years of being denied benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Barkin reached out to Israel for help.

“It’s unconscionable that Irene and her family had to wait almost 50 years to receive the benefits that they deserved,” Israel said. “It is never too late to right a wrong, and I am honored to present this check to them today in recognition of William’s brave service. I thank Irene for allowing me the privilege to help resolve her case and hope that the healing process can now begin.”

Corporal Rondi, a United States Marine, suffered shrapnel wounds to the chest from an enemy mortar attack on November 11, 1952, while serving in combat. Unfortunately, medical officers were unable to remove a number of metal fragments lodged dangerously close to his heart and he was forced to live with them for the rest of his life.

“After years of being denied benefits from the VA, Congressman Israel took action and wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Barkin said. “William sacrificed so much for his country, and I am thrilled that my family is with me here today to celebrate his life and receive these benefits he fought so hard to earn.”

On Nov. 22, 1965 Rondi complained he was not feeling well and suddenly collapsed, shortly after returning home from work. He was rushed to Huntington Hospital and pronounced dead at the age of 34 from a “thickening of the artery walls of the heart,” which the VA would later rule to be a result of the injuries he sustained in combat.

However, it would take many years and failed appeals for Barkin’s case to finally be resolved.

Barkin first reached out to Israel’s office for help after her first denial of benefits by the VA in 2011. He was able to cut through red tape and help her obtain a second medical opinion from Dr. Kevin Olson, an internist, who found that it was probable that Rondi’s combat injuries did in fact contribute to his death, the congressman said.

This new evidence was sent to the Board of Veterans Appeals and Barkin was granted a new hearing that would ultimately lead to her previous denials being overturned.

In addition to the $67,199.52 in retroactive benefits, Barkin will also receive a monthly award of $1,254 for the rest of her life.

To date, Israel has secured more than $8.1 million in overdue benefits for New York veterans, he said.