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.”