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Memorial Day

“Army” of People Work to Save Life of Sound Beach Man

Sound Beach resident Jim Kennedy, right, and his wife Trish. Jim’s life was saved thanks to scores of people, from the samaritan who performed CPR to the doctors at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo from Trish Kennedy

What was just a day of golfing with his two sons turned into a life or death situation for one Miller Place School District athletic director and another area resident. It became a day where scores of people, both medical and nonmedical alike, worked to save a man’s life and return him to his family, alive and with his full faculties.

The Kennedy family said they would have lost their father and husband if it weren’t for Pietrie and the other medical staff that saved his life. Photo from Trish Kennedy

It was a bright sunny day the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, May 22. Ron Petrie, of Sound Beach, was out with his two sons Michael and Matthew for a day of golf at the Rolling Oaks Golf Course in Rocky Point. Being it was a popular day for some socially distanced sports at the course, the trio was paired up with fellow Sound Beach resident Jim Kennedy. They were strangers, but they got to talking as they moved languidly across the greens. Petrie’s sons were still relatively new to golf and were taking it slow to learn more of the ropes. 

Petrie said he could tell that the new acquaintance loved his wife and two daughters just by the way he talked of them and how one of his daughters just recently graduated from college. 

Then at the 8th hole, Petrie turned around, and said he saw Kennedy a few yards behind them. The man had fallen face down in the fairway. He didn’t seem responsive. 

“The initial thing is just to figure out what was going on,” Petrie said, remembering the events of a few weeks ago. “It was kind of a sense of we’ve got to figure out what’s going on … It was definitely unnerving.”

Petrie got to the ground and rolled Kennedy over onto his back. He shook him, shouted his name, but there was no response. He checked everywhere, from his carotid to his brachial arteries for a pulse, but could not find it. The man was in agonal breathing, as if he was gasping for air, whenever the athletic director moved or shifted him. Though Petrie didn’t know it, the man was having a heart attack, and a severe one at that.

He told one of his sons to call 911, then that they should clear the area of any kinds of obstructions like golf clubs and bags and stand at the top of a nearby hill to flag down the emergency service vehicles that came by. Despite the threat of the COVID-19 virus, the athletic director began compressions and continued it for about five minutes until emergency responders arrived.

It’s something that as the head of athletics, as well as health and physical education, is kept up to date with the latest training every year. He fell into the steps of compressions. He saw the man had lost all control of bodily function and fluid. He had already vomited and he decided to focus on what he could control, that being pumping Kennedy’s heart for him.

“I coached for 25 years, I’ve gone through every gamut of CPR that it seems every two years they’re changing,” Petrie said. “The latest protocols are when in doubt, hands only, breaths are secondary.”

Medical professionals would learn Petrie’s actions most certainly saved the man’s life, and likely helped preserve the man in what is the most consequential time in a heart attack, where oxygen no longer is being pumped up to the brain. 

Speaking many days after his time in the hospital, as he continues his recovery day by day, Kennedy said he remembers very little of what he was doing before he collapsed, and practically nothing until he found he was lying in a bed at Stony Brook University Hospital. He learned later his heart attack, caused by the complete blockage of the left anterior descending artery, is sometimes called the widow maker, as that specific artery provides blood into the heart, allowing it to function properly.

EMTs on the scene put him on a machine to do compressions and managed to get a weak pulse back in Kennedy, about 15 minutes after he went down. The ambulance team decided to take Kennedy to Stony Brook University Hospital’s cardiac department, where nurses and doctors would spend nearly the next nine hours in battle over the man’s life.

Kennedy’s sister, Kathleen Taibi, just happens to work as a nurse practitioner at the Stony Brook cardiac department. Her husband, Dr. William Taibi was Kennedy’s physician before he retired from his own practice in 2016. The duo received the call of Kennedy’s circumstances from their house upstate. They rushed down to Stony Brook, who let the Taibis and Kennedy’s wife, Trish, into the normally restricted lab, as many there thought it could have potentially been the husband’s final moments.

Doctors in the catheterization lab put two stents in his artery to open the worst of the blockages. After that though, Kennedy suffered two more cardiac arrests after he was put into the coronary care unit. An army of staff “worked on him and worked on him and worked on him,” William Taibi said. Medical professionals managed to stabilize him during the second round of catheterization.

The doctors put the man in an induced coma for several days, using an intentional cooling of the body to minimize the amount of oxygen the brain and body need. When he was warmed and awoke that following Monday, doctors and family were relieved to find he did not seem to have any damage in brain function. In just a little over a week he was released from the hospital.

“He came out of it miraculously,” Taibi said. “There were all sorts of miraculous events … if you’re looking for a hero story, it’s [Petrie and his sons], they performed CPR on him in the time of COVID. They were able to give him those first five minutes, that’s probably why he has his brain function today.”

Despite having never really met each other until that day on the golf course, it just so happens that both men were connected through the school district. Justine Scutaro, who teaches in the district and is also the girls volleyball coach, is the goddaughter to Kennedy.

“I’m just happy the family still has him in their lives,” Petrie said. 

Kennedy, who works as a corrections officer for Suffolk County, remembers very little of events, only really up until the Wednesday after Memorial Day.

“I’m feeling a little better every day — when I came home everybody was really happy to see me upright and able to walk.” he said “I’ll forever be indebted to Ron.”

Trish Kennedy said Petrie “is our hero — performing CPR on a total stranger — especially during this pandemic.” She added that the work of everyone, from the athletic director to the people in the ambulance to the men and women in the hospital, helped save her husband’s life.

“Ron not only saved my husband, he saved [my daughters’] Kimberly and Kaitlyn’s dad,” she said.

Petrie said CPR is taught during the first quarter of health classes every year. Students wonder aloud why they have to learn the skill or when they will have to use it.

“We got him to where he needed to be,” he said. “To think his family will have the opportunity to be together, to know they will still have that opportunity, is a huge relief.”

The story printed in the June 4 issue of the Village Beacon Record incorrectly spelled Petrie’s name. This version corrects that error.

Somber day marked with wreath-laying event

By Heidi Sutton

In Setauket, Memorial Day is usually marked with a parade from Main Street to Route 25A followed by a remembrance ceremony, but these are not usual times.

For the first time in recent years the parade was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Veterans of Foreign War Post 3054, which hosts the Three Village Memorial Day Parade each year, decided to hold a brief wreath-laying ceremony at Setauket Veterans Memorial Park to memorialize those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

The park’s monument honors members of the community who perished in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

 “As long as two comrades survive — so long will the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States render tribute to our heroic dead,” said Post Commander Jay Veronko, who led the 10-minute remembrance event.

“On this day, forever consecrated to our heroic dead, we are assembled once again to express sincere reverence. This monument represents the resting places of many departed comrades who served in all wars. Wherever the body of a comrade lies there the ground is hallowed,” Veronko recited. 

As in years past there was the traditional rifle salute, a prayer, the playing of taps and rousing renditions of our country’s national anthem and “God Bless America” by Arleen Gargiulo of Setauket, albeit with face masks while adhering to strict social distancing measures.

Kellen McDermott of Cub Scout Pack 18, Beverly C. Tyler representing the Three Village Historical Society, and Tim Still and Jack Cassidy from VFW Post 3054 presented wreaths.

“Our presence here is in solemn commemoration of all these men — an expression of our tribute to their devotion to duty, to their courage and patriotism. By their services on land, on sea and in the air, they have made us their debtors, for the flag of our nation still flies over a land of free people,” Veronko said.

The Post also paid their respects to their departed comrades Edward Arndt and Walter Denzler Sr. and “a solemn tribute to all comrades wherever they may rest.” The group also laid wreaths at the Setauket Village Green Memorial and the Stony Brook Village Memorial. 

Veronko thanked the participants for coming. “Hopefully next year we can have a parade,” he said.

Photos by Heidi Sutton

It was a muggy Saturday morning at Washington Memorial Park Cemetery in Mount Sinai, May 23. Across lawns dotted with inset grave markers, small flags were listless in the stagnant air. There, while COVID-19 has meant many could not participate in the large, standout flag planting ceremonies normally seen the weekend before Memorial Day, families, friends, Boy Scouts and active service members still found ways to honor those who are buried there.

Adam Morris, bottom right, helps his family and friends, clockwise from bottom, Bailee Morris, Skye Sherrard and Jocelynn Morris plant flags. Photo Kyle Barr

Riverhead residents Bill Merker and his son Zach visited the grave of Glen “Doc” Moody Jr., an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who had passed away April 8. His grave was still packed with fresh dirt and had not yet even received the stone marking his name on his grave. 

“He was a very big inspiration for us,” said the younger Merker, a member of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets program who said Moody would teach them about medical procedures.

Moody, of Miller Place, had been featured in a previous article in TBR News Media papers. The marine veteran had been active helping his fellow veterans adjust to life outside the military and had been active with the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation, which helps provide service and therapy dogs to veterans. Moody, who passed at the age of 39, had his own service dog, a red fox Labrador named Independence, who never left his side.

Scattered around the park were others helping to plant flags. Ray Langert, one of the groundskeepers at the cemetery, helped one group of folks looking to plant flags at veterans’ graves. 

Adam and Melora Morris, of Mount Sinai, joined with their children and friends to come out to Washington Memorial to plant flags. They said while they regularly attend the flag planting ceremonies at Calverton National Cemetery, federal orders to ban large gatherings at the cemeteries put a squash to those plans. 

Ray Langert, who works at Washington Memorial Cemetery, looks over his parent’s grave. Photo by Kyle Barr

It was a sentiment shared all across the North Shore with people trying to offer memorials to those passed. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who had petitioned the federal government to allow the large-scale flag planting events at places like Calverton, still offered condolences and remarks. Bellone also thanked the health care and essential employees continuing to work through the Memorial Day weekend.

“This day is unlike any other we have seen in modern times,” Bellone said. “We could not gather the way we normally do … But we did come together today to recognize, make sure we are honoring those really precious individuals in our community who have served and sacrificed.”

Some still managed to go to the Calverton cemetery to offer what services they could. Members of the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 went down that Saturday morning to place flags and host small services. 

On Memorial Day, May 25, the VFW hosted a small ceremony in the park behind Tilda’s Bakery in Rocky Point. In Sound Beach, community leaders placed a wreath at their own vets memorial on New York Avenue.

Despite restrictions and the need for distancing, it’s still hard to estimate how positive the impact is in memorializing those who’ve passed. Langert’s own father and mother, Robert and Elsie, are buried in the mausoleum on the grounds of the Washington Memorial Cemetery. Robert was a U.S. Army veteran who passed in 2005. The Morris family and friends offered to place a flag by his father’s stone in the mausoleum. 

“He would have loved to see that,” Langert said, sitting in his lawnmower’s seat with a smile. “He would have been ecstatic.”

Planes from the 106 National Guard Rescue Wing flew over St. Charles and other local hopsitals May 16. Another flyover from the Bayport Aerodrome Society is planned for Memorial Day. Photo by Brendan Duffy

After 66 days stuck in New York Pause, Long Island is expecting to start phase one of its economic reopening on Wednesday.

“If we continue on this track, and we believe that we will, we are looking to reopen Long Island” on Wednesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters. “That is great news.”

Phase One includes construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, retail (which is limited to curbside or in-store pick up or drop off), manufacturing and wholesale trade.

Bellone urged residents to continue to wear face coverings when they are indoors or when they are around other people and can’t maintain a reliable six feet of social distancing. He also acknowledged that the reopening of the camping reservation web site did not go as planned last night, when it reopened at 7 p.m.

The site crashed amid a high demand which was built up by the long layoff from recreational and leisure activities.

Bellone expects to get the site up and running this week and indicated he would provide plenty of notice for when it is reopening so that people can book their reservations for periods starting after July 15.

This morning, Bellone joined residents at Babylon cemetery, who came out to place thousands of flags at the graves of veterans across the county.

Volunteers placed flags at the graves of former service men and women, thanking veterans across the generations and centuries who are all “part of this great American story that gives us and has given us our freedom,” Bellone said.

As for the COVID-19 update, the number of residents who tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours was 130, which brings the total to 38,802. That doesn’t include the over 12,000 who have tested positive for antibodies to the virus.

As of May 21, the number of hospitalizations from the virus declined by 16 to 409, while the number of people in the Intensive Care Unit declined by six to 125.

Bed capacity fell below 70 percent usage, with 993 beds available out of a total of 3,035 and 212 ICU beds available out of a total of 547.

Over the last day, 43 people left the hospital. An additional eight residents from the county died from complications related to COVID-19, which raises the terrible death toll to the virus to 1,822.

To honor the veterans and health care heroes, the Bayport Aerodrome Society, which is the last remaining public grass airfield on Long Island, will do a flyover with eight World War II era planes on Memorial Day.

Starting at noon on Monday in Brookhaven, the planes will fly over Long Island Community Hospital, Mather, St. Charles, Stony Brook, St. Catherine’s, Huntington Hospital, and Good Samaritan. The planes will end their flight over South Side Hospital in Bayshore.

Three of the pilots are veterans.

St. James Memorial Day celebration 2018. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

After a Memorial Day weekend when beaches will be open under new social distancing rules, Suffolk County is on track to reopen the economy starting next week.

Camp grounds will reopen starting on June 1. Starting tonight, residents can make reservations to visit those camp grounds starting on July 15, which is “a positive sign of the progress we’ve made,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said today that Long Island was on track to potentially reopen. What that requires is additional contract tracers, which Suffolk and Nassau officials said they were currently working on acquiring, and a 14-day total decline in deaths. The latter is likely the most tentative, and will surely depend on no spikes in numbers in the coming week.

The governor announced he would allow construction staging on Long Island, in anticipation for phase 1 of reopening, which would allow construction companies to start up again.

Bellone said people often think of Memorial Day weekend as the start of the summer season. This year, as the county and state look to loosen restrictions caused by COVID-19, summer will “serve as the unofficial transition to reopening our economy,” Bellone said.

Bellone encouraged residents to participate this weekend in the first of the Suffolk County Veterans runs. Interested participants in the virtual race, which is free but accepts donations to support veterans, can sign up at suffolkveteransrunseries.com.

The Suffolk County Police Department reiterated its plan to enforce social distancing and wearing face masks over the Memorial Day weekend. The SCPD anticipates crowds in downtown areas and said its Together Enforcing Compliance (or TEC) Team would be on foot in downtown areas and parks. Marine Bureau officers also expect more boaters on the water than usual after the end of New York Pause and planned to adjust their staffing levels and patrols accordingly.

Bellone raised the white flag in his ongoing effort to honor veterans who are buried at Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery. After putting together a proposal about how the county could plant flags safely at the cemeteries, Bellone received several rejections, interrupting an annual tradition that began in 1995.

The county executive still plans to plant flags for deceased service men and women at 15 non-national cemeteries tomorrow.

Bellone provided the daily update to the viral numbers.

An additional 119 people tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of residents who tested positive to 38,672. That does not include the 12,013 people who tested positive through the antibody test, which indicates they had the virus at some point.

The number of hospitalizations from the virus decreased by 28 to 425 through May 20. The number of people in the Intensive Care Unit increased by two to 131, also through May 20, which is the most recent 24 hour period for which the county had data.

With 882 beds available from a total of 3,009, the occupancy is just over 70 percent, which is the target for reopening. The number of available ICU beds is 193 out of a total of 547, which means ICU occupancy is at 65 percent.

In the last day, the number of people who died from complications related to the coronavirus increased by 12, bringing the total who died to 1,814.

Separately, the county executive office distributed an additional 30,000 pieces of personal protective equipment.

Bellone said 16 sites at CVS drive-through locations would provide self-administered COVID-19 tests. Residents will drive to the drug stores and will receive instructions with the kit. Someone from CVS will observe the process to ensure it is done correctly. Residents will get results within three days.

The county had six pediatric cases in the hospital as of May 20, which does not necessraily mean they have the rare inflammatory condition the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking.

Gregson Pigott, the Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said the inflammatory condition caused by COVID-19 was still “very rare.”

Photo by Rita J. Egan 2018

Frustrated by a Veterans Affairs office that has denied his repeated requests to conduct flag planting at Suffolk County’s two national cemeteries over Memorial Day weekend, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is asking President Donald Trump (R) to get involved.

“I’m asking for his support once again on an incredibly important issue in this moment,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters.

Bellone thanked U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) and Trump for their help in securing personal protective equipment for the county and for helping to ensure that the county can tap into the municipal liquidity fund, which will allow the county to provide temporary property tax relief until July 15.

Without help from the president, Bellone said he is “afraid that a tradition that goes back a quarter of a century will end this Memorial Day weekend.”

Even if the county can’t place flags at Calverton National Cemetery and Long Island National Cemetery, Bellone and the county plan to place flags at 15 cemeteries. The County Executive is still looking for volunteers, who can sign up through his facebook page at facebook.com/SteveBellone. He is also looking for a donation of 3,500 8×12 inch or 12 x 18 inch flags in good condition.

Separately, the county executive indicated that Suffolk County residents shouldn’t expect fireworks displays in July to celebrate Independence Day.

“We know reopening our economy safely and being able to sustain that is directly connected to keeping our curve flat,” Bellone said. “Opening back up to mass gatherings” which would include July 4th fireworks “would undermine our goals.”

Viral Numbers

Hospitalizations continue to decline. The number of people in Intensive Care Units has declined by 29 through May 19 to 129, which is the “largest decline the county has seen” in a while, Bellone said.

The number of people who are hospitalized was 453, which is a decline from two days earlier, when the number was 497.

In the past day, 53 people have come home from the hospital.

The number of deaths due to complications from COVID-19 rose by 11 to 1,802.

The number of people who tested positive for the virus increased by 142 over the last day, rising to 38,553. That doesn’t include the 11,461 people who have tested positive for antibodies to the virus.

Stony Brook Update

Stony Brook is cutting back the hours of its drive-through testing site in the South P lot. It will be open from 8 a..m until 6 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. Residents must make appointments in advance through the New York State Department of Health Hotline, at 888-364-3065 or at coronavirus.health.nygov/covid-19-testing. The site will not accept walk ins.

Finally, America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer and Apollo Theater Competition Grand Prize Winner Christian Guardino will perform tonight at 8 p.m. at the entrance to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

The performance is for hospital personnel only.

The musical tribute will include a light show.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The weapons and uniforms are different, but the goals are the same: to protect the interests of Americans everywhere and to save lives.

Every year, Memorial Day presents an opportunity to honor the men and women who served our country in the military, as we appreciate their courage and sacrifice during battles against a range of enemies.

This year, we have a large group of people who are laying their lives on the line for the benefit of society. They are the first responders, who arrive at the homes of people stricken with symptoms of a disease that can make breathing difficult, that can give them a fever for days or even weeks.

They are the nurses who not only take the pulse and blood pressure of their patients, but also provide a human connection when those with the virus can’t have friends and family visit.

They are the doctors who use the best medicine at their disposal to provide comfort until a new standard of care is developed or a vaccine is created.

They are also the police and fire rescue teams that set aside their personal concerns about interacting with members of the community who might be sick to help strangers and the family members of those strangers.

Without these health care workers prepared to help in the struggle against a virus that never takes a weekend off or for which chicken soup, sleep or a hot shower are inadequate to ameliorate the symptoms, Long Islanders would be struggling on their own, infecting each other, and dying at even higher levels.

At the same time, people who work in other fields have been vital to the ongoing functioning of our society in the midst of the pandemic. The people who deliver packages and the mail have connected us to an outside world we can’t visit. They travel through our neighborhoods, wearing gloves and masks and bringing everything from Mother’s Day cards for the mothers and grandmothers we dare not visit lest we are an unsuspecting carrier of the deadly disease, to the paperwork we need to sign.

Those who work in grocery stores stock the shelves with the necessities and luxuries we snap up every week, as we continue to feed families huddled in our homes. Bus drivers and transit workers enable first responders, grocery store clerks, and others to get to and from their jobs.

In addition to accepting their normal responsibilities, these people also go to their jobs in a new normal that requires many of them to wash their clothing and shower before they interact with their family, which some of them only do while wearing masks.

Some of them have died in the line of duty. They have made the ultimate sacrifice because their difficult jobs haven’t provided them with an immunity from a virus that threatens everyone.

This Memorial Day, we should honor the fallen from past wars, the soldiers who fought in Europe 75 years ago, the ones deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, those who trudged through the jungles of Vietnam, and the patriots who ensured our freedom during the founding of the country.

We should also honor the fallen victims of the virus who were on the front lines, armed with personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns and face coverings. 

When we wave our flags and honor those who gave their lives, we should pray for and thank the heroes of the last few months as well. They put themselves in harm’s way and inspired the rest of us with the same kind of courage we celebrate each year from our armed forces.

Members of the Sound Beach Fire Department at the Memorial Day commemoration 2019. Photo by Kyle Barr

Even as County Executive Steve Bellone (D) awaits word on a possible policy change that would enable flag placement on Memorial Day for veterans buried at National Cemeteries, he has partnered with 15 non-veteran cemeteries to schedule flag placements on Saturday, May 23.

The County will work with local Boy Scout Troops and Veterans organizations to conduct the flag placements.

The Suffolk County Veterans Services Agency is working with local Boy Scouts to identify the sites for flag placement and with the Suffolk County Health Department to create safety procedures that will meet state and federal guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those who are placing flags to honor veterans will pick up flags at safe distances of six feet and will be required to wear face coverings.

Bellone is asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to donate the thousands of flags it purchased that would typically show appreciation for veterans at national cemeteries.

The county executive wrote a letter last week to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, requesting an amendment for the suspended honors at Calverton National Cemetery and Long island National Cemetery. Suffolk County has more veterans than any other count in New York State.

“This plan demonstrates that we can safely conduct group flag placements to honor our Veterans while protecting the public health,” Bellone said in a statement.

The participating cemeteries are:

• Washington Memorial Park Cemetery, Mount Sinai

• Union Cemetery, Middle Island

• St. John’s the Evangelist Cemetery, Riverhead

• Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, Southampton

• Mt Pleasant Cemetery and Crematory, Center Moriches

• Huntington Rural Cemetery, Huntington

• Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Coram

• Queen of All Saints Cemetery, Central Islip

• First Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Southold

• Shaarey Pardes Accabonac Grove Cemetery, East Hampton

• St. Ann’s Episcopal Church Cemetery, Sayville

• North Babylon Cemetery, Babylon

• Babylon Rural Cemetery, Babylon

• St. Patricks Cemetery, Smithtown

• Our Lady of the Isle Cemetery, Dering Harbor

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For close to a month, Tom Butera, a mason in Port Jefferson village, laid the bricks down for the new Armed Forces Tribute in front of the Port Jeff High School. Though he had been laying bricks for over 40 years, bending over, picking them up, planting them in the ground, to him, every brick represented a family and a sacrifice.

“These we’re the heaviest bricks I ever laid,” he said.

On May 30, veterans cut the ribbon on the new tribute surrounded by well more than 100 local residents. The center of the memorial is a large stone with a plaque on it surrounded by bricks donated by local residents with notes of names of family members who were involved in the armed services. By the end, the memorial looks remarkably like the sketch by high school student Jillian Lawler produced in January, when the brick drive was first announced.

While many donated $100 for each brick, others in the community came out to support the new memorial. Gabe Zoda, 17, a senior at the high school and a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 45, donated benches to the project, each emblazoned with the fleur-de-lis of the Boy Scouts. Zoda expects to move on to Hofstra University after graduation where he will study broadcast journalism.

The idea for the project spawned from local Vietnam veteran Jim Henke, who had originally approached the district several years ago about building the memorial. It would take years, but the district helped form an Armed Forces Tribute committee in 2017, with local veterans and residents as members, who helped get the project rolling at the beginning of this year.

“Most of these veterans I knew myself from the Vietnam era,” Henke said. “We played ball together, we had a good time in the 60s, and we lost so many of those lives that I thought this was just fitting.”

Though it took time for the project to take root, he said it was the efforts of the school administration and Superintendent Paul Casciano.

“I want to thank the entire Port Jefferson School District community that raised enough brick sales to support the project without any assistance from the school district,” Henke said.

Local residents stooped down to take pictures of bricks donated by friends and family, and the Port Jefferson art staff was on call if people looked to get a rubbing of their bricks.

“I would like to say thank you for the names of the men and women engraved on the walkway,” said high school Principal Christine Austen. “My hope is that this tribute stands as a reminder to all the youth that Port Jefferson veterans are heroes that will always be close to our hearts.”

Butera feels a deep connection to the new veterans tribute. It’s his father’s name, Technical Sergeant Tony Butera of the U.S. Army Air Corps, that is inscribed in one of the bricks. His father was shot down during WWII over Hamburg, Germany, flying in a B17 bomber. His plane landed on a field of sheep, what they called a “fleece-lined landing,” and he and his compatriots were held at gunpoint on their knees by several disgruntled farmers. He became a prisoner of war on Jan. 17, 1945, and he was held for 134 days in a POW camp before it was liberated by troops led by Gen. George Patton. It was with his father that Butera picked up and laid his first brick.

While he looks fondly back on the stories of his father, he sees the different side of war with the record of his son, Greg, a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan. There was a time where Butera had no communication with his son for three months, though now Greg is home, and has a wife and a daughter.

“When it got hard to work, I told myself ‘shut up — these people were in a much harder spot,’” Butera said. “It was such an honor to do it.”

Jim Henke’s name was changed May 31 to correct the spelling of his last name.

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