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Long Island Veterans Home

Thomas Cassidy with his father Hugh

By Thomas Cassidy

New York State government should not cut funding for America’s heroes residing at the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University. The veterans home has, and does, provide first-class health services for veterans and their spouses who receive rehabilitation and long-term care in their time of need. Providing topnotch nursing home care for our veterans, many of whom put their own lives on the line to keep us safe, is a patriotic action that truly expresses “thank you for your service.”

At the age of 17 my father, Hugh “Joe” Cassidy, enlisted in the United States Coast Guard to serve his country during World War II. Before he reached his 19th birthday he participated in five shore invasions with the Marines and Army as frogman. 

He was frequently shot at while he stood on coral reefs in the Philippine Islands acting as a human buoy to help keep the landing boats from crashing into reefs and sinking. He was almost thrown overboard when his ship, the USS Cavalier, was torpedoed in the still of a Pacific Ocean night. But my Dad always said he was not a hero. His heroes were all the soldiers and sailors who put their lives in harm’s way, were wounded or died in battle.  

When the LISVH first opened, he again served his fellow veterans for many years as a volunteer. He visited the nursing home almost every day because it was his way of supporting his “band of brothers and sisters.” When my Dad fractured his hip at age 83, many doctors at the hospital thought he would never walk again. 

It took a year of rehabilitation with the skilled and compassionate staff at the veterans home, but my Dad walked out of the nursing home and spent the last year of his life with my mother in their own home.

In the 74 years since the end of World War II, military men and women have been on the front line of battles in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other locations around the world. Sadly, the physical, emotional and psychological wounds never heal for many of the warriors who fulfill their oath to protect America. I learned that firsthand more than 20 years ago when my father had emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix.

I visited him the morning after his operation. He was laying his bed shivering and shaking uncontrollably. He whispered he had the worst nightmare ever. He was back in a foxhole in the Philippines, guns were blasting and bombs were dropping all around him. Then he looked at his fellow combat veteran in the bed next to him and said, “Sal got me through it. Thank God he was here for me.”

Today we might say that my father had post-traumatic stress disorder or a flashback. But whatever you call it, his fellow veteran pulled him through just like the veterans do for each other every day at the Long Island State Veterans Home. 

New York State is facing a budget crunch, that much is true. But exempting the state veterans’ nursing homes from the budget cuts would be a meaningful way for New Yorkers to say “thank you for your service.”

Members of the Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336 of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. in October 2017 presented the Long Island Veterans Home at Stony Brook University with a check for $5,000. Photo from Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336

Members of one veterans post are not letting diminishing membership stand in their way when it comes to helping former soldiers.

Marty Kupferberg and Stan Feltman outside the Middle Island Walmart selling poppies. Photo from the Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336

The Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336 of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America regularly collects donations to help veterans. In the last few months, the group raised money to sponsor three barbecues at the Long Island Veterans Home — one in August and two in September — along with a September golf outing for the home. Norman Weitz, post commander, said many of the members volunteer at the veterans home, and while the post has contributed funds in the past, including a $5,000 donation in 2017, this is the first time they are sponsoring events.

Fred Sganga, executive director of the Long Island Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, said the post’s contributions are valued.

“Their generosity has a direct impact on the quality of life of those veteran residents we are so honored to serve each and every day,” he said.

Since October 2017, the vets have contributed approximately $16,000 to causes dedicated to helping U.S. veterans, according to Weitz. In addition to the veterans home, the Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336, which meets in Centereach, has donated to various organizations including Paws of War, the Suffolk County United Veterans, and Operation Remember, a campaign spearheaded by county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) to update memorials in Setauket, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson to include those who served in the Gulf wars.

When it comes to donation dollars, Weitz and Barry Kopeloff, junior vice commander and chaplain, credit member Stan Feltman, 93, for enabling the group to donate as much as they do.

“He’s an amazing individual,” Weitz said.

Feltman can be seen every day outside the Middle Island Walmart selling poppies to raise money for his fellow veterans. Weitz said Feltman, at times, has collected up to $1,800 a month, and while many give a single dollar or two to the veteran, others sometimes give more.

“Their generosity has a direct impact on the quality of life of those veteran residents we are so honored to serve each and every day.”

— Fred Sganga

“One lady said here’s an extra $30 just for you, and Stan is independent, so he just throws that money back in the pot,” Weitz said.

Kopeloff said when it comes time to donate money, post members suggest organizations and then the group votes on whether or not to do so.

While many have heard of the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion, there are those who are unfamiliar with the Jewish War Veterans.

“We’d like people to understand what we do for the veterans, what we do for the community,” said Weitz.

Members of the post, which was originally called the Three Village Post 336, meet at the New Village Community Center in Centereach once a month. While there are more than 100 members who live in various areas in Brookhaven and even outside the town, Weitz said they may get around 20 members who can show up.

The post is always looking for new members, and like similar veterans groups, have no younger members who served after the Vietnam War.

“After Vietnam, it’s hard to get them because they’re young, and they’re working,” said Kopeloff, who is also on the Jewish Committee on Scouting.

Kopeloff said during Scout Sabbaths, when Eagle Scouts visit synagogues, he will ask if anyone in the congregation is interested in the post. Weitz and Kopeloff said members can be anyone from the Jewish faith that have served with any of the military branches of the United States or any allied nations. He said everyone has something important to contribute.

“The veterans that are coming home today from the Gulf War, from Afghanistan, are more attuned to helping veterans, and I think this would be a great plus,” Weitz said.

To help the Col. Mickey Marcus Post with its fundraising goals or for more information on the post contact: Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336, Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., P.O. Box 583, Centereach, NY 11720-2716.

By Heidi Sutton

The Long Island State Veterans Home (LISVH) in Stony Brook honored our fallen heroes with a Memorial Day ceremony on May 24.

The special event featured speeches from Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley); Colonel James McDonough Jr., director of the New York State Division of Veterans Services; County Executive Steve Bellone (D); and was attended by many veterans living at the LISVH, elected officials including Assemblyman Steve Engelbright (D-Setauket) and Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) and many veteran service organization members. 

Rabbi Joseph Topek gave the invocation, Rev. Gregory Leonard gave the benediction, Father Thomas Tuite gave a Veterans Prayer and Lee Ann Brill, Miss NY Senior America 2017, sang lovely renditions of “Star Spangled Banner,” “Wind Beneath My Wings, “Amazing Grace and “God Bless America.”

The afternoon commenced with a wreath laying ceremony conducted by James Carbone, World War II veteran and LISVH member, at the Walk of Heroes on the grounds; a color guard, firing detail and taps memorial by Marine Corps League East End Detachment 642, and a “Tolling of the Bells” memorial service led by LTC Marion McEntee, deputy director of nursing at the LISVH.

Rabbi Topek said it best in his opening prayer. “Today we remember those who have laid down their lives in service of our country, who in the words of President Lincoln have laid the most costly sacrifice upon the altar of freedom … May we the citizens of the United States remain mindful of those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom in the many conflicts of the past — Veterans of World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, Persian Gulf War … May their memories always be a blessing to our nation today and every day.”

Photos courtesy of Doreen Guma and Congressman Zeldin’s office

Local children took time out of their school day Nov. 9 to show veterans that they will never forget.

Some 50 students from New Lane Memorial Elementary School in Selden performed a patriotic musical celebration at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University.

Fifth-graders from the school thanked the 300 veteran residents for their contributions and sacrifices while serving in the armed forces after the performance by shaking hands.

Also in attendance were state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who was the keynote speaker; Fred Sganga, LISVH executive director; several veteran service organization members; and the New York Army National Guard.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, standing, visits with James and Noreen Saladino after the couple shared how adult day health care has helped them face service-related health issues in 2016. File photo by Phil Corso

By Alex Petroski

Disabled veterans received some good news March 28.

President Donald Trump (R) signed the Adult Day Health Care Act into law this week, a bipartisan bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) that will expand access to health care for disabled veterans who need extra assistance and special attention in their daily lives, according to a press release from Zeldin’s office.

“This is important legislation that provides a valuable and necessary service to our nation’s veterans,” Zeldin said in a statement. “By expanding access to [the] Adult Day Health Care [Act], we can ensure that all veterans receive the best and most efficient outpatient services that provide each veteran with the assistance and special attention they need, while still allowing them to maintain their independence.”

The bill defines the program as a reimbursable treatment option through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Previously, the program was only accessible for disabled veterans at three state veterans homes in the country, leaving the expense of health care oftentimes directly shouldered by the veteran and his or her family, according to the press release. One of the three homes was Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook.

The Adult Day Health Care Act provides comprehensive medical and personal care combined with engaging social activities for the physically or cognitively impaired, as well as an array of therapies and counseling.

With the passage of the bill, now those who are 70 percent or more disabled as a result of their service are able to access the in-home day care at no cost at any of the 153 state veterans homes in the U.S.

“I am grateful to Congressman Zeldin for having the foresight to introduce this bill on behalf of all severely service-connected veterans who reside in state veterans homes across the country,” Vietnam veteran and patient of the Stony Brook facility Al Anderson said in a statement. “The bottom line is that this legislation will allow me to return home to my family while still having the ability to receive essential services through the Adult Day Health Care program. I can keep my chronic conditions in check and still enjoy the comforts of my own home.”

Fred Sganga, director of the Long Island State Veterans Home, also thanked Zeldin for his efforts in advancing the legislation.

“This legislation helps to restore a veteran’s freedom to remain an active member of their community even after succumbing to the perils of military service,” he said. “Congressman Zeldin never forgets the sacrifice of brave women and men who donned the uniform to protect the freedoms we all enjoy today.”

The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

“Our nation’s veterans and their dedicated families have sacrificed enough,” Zeldin said. “This bill will give veterans the care they have earned while providing families with the support and relief they need to help their veteran loved ones to lead a fulfilling life, while keeping families together and strong.”