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Rich Acritelli

Major Martin Viera, back row third from left, along with other members of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing. During 9/11 he was an eighth grade science teacher in New Jersey, and the terrorist attacks pushed him even further to join the service. Photo courtesy of 106th Air Rescue Wing

By Rich Acritelli

Nineteen years ago, this Sept. 11, the U.S. was attacked in lower Manhattan, the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and over the farm fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Long had it been since our people endured such a threat to the national security of America. In a matter of moments, a horrified generation of citizens watched a dangerous threat oppose this country. But, almost immediately, there came an unyielding spirit of patriotism that matched every serious historic event that gripped our people.

‘If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.’ 

—Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl

The above quote was from the wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl, who lost his life due to this terrorism in what was known as the “plane that fought back.”  Regardless of race, ethnic group, religion or economic class standing, years ago during and after this assault on our soil, all people in this country helped each other during this time of sorrow. People sent goodwill packages to the rescue workers, firemen, and police officers that spent endless days searching for survivors and the remains of citizens from the World Trade Center. Yellow ribbons were wrapped around trees and porches, patriotic bumper stickers were on our cars and trucks and Walmart was unable to keep up with the massive requests to purchase American flags. Through this national hardship originated an immediate willingness to help others, to serve at home and abroad. People looked at the flag with an intense sense of pride.

But in our current times, the political, economic, social, racial and ethnic tensions have divided this outstanding country. Today, on both sides of the political aisle, there is a noticeable resentment that threatens to weaken the foundations of a country that was always an example towards others. Regardless of our citizens’ differences, our people could always count on supporting each other through the darkest of times. To friend and foe alike, American has been a true source of strength and determination since 9/11. For in this country it was not that long ago that people lined the streets to wave to rescue workers and give them a needed boost as they headed towards Ground Zero. There were the sad periods when people, especially those from the North Shore, attended funeral services for those local graduates and citizens that were killed from these attacks. This also marked the point where there has been continued fighting and presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of the world, where our residents served with distinction to protect the freedoms of this nation against terrorism and its supporters. 

Members of the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 stand proud. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Local residents widely recalled important memories of when America was united some twenty years ago. Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore fondly recalled the unity that was demonstrated on the North Shore. Weeks after the attacks, there was an outside assembly program at the Rocky Point High School football field. The American flag that was flown at Ground Zero was presented by parachuters jumped over a packed crowd. Years after this event, Cognitore still gets chills from this program that brought these people together to cherish a flag which survived the earliest moments of the War on Terror.  

Miller Place resident Anthony Flammia is a retired 24-year veteran of the New York City Police Department. As a motorcycle patrolman, Flammia spent over 300 hours at Ground Zero where he assisted in the rescue and the recovery efforts. He has tirelessly championed local, state and federal legislation to aid the thousands of rescue workers and citizens that have been severely inflicted or died from the 9/11/01 related illnesses. As a devoted member of the FEAL Good Foundation, Flammia’s mission has been to help many people from this period that saw all people, from all different backgrounds come together. Flammia recalled the devotion that his fellow officers showed to each other at this time and he stated, “It did not matter if your skin color was white, black, orange or purple. We all helped each other, and we bled blue.”

Marty Viera was a 1988 graduate of Rocky Point High School and a former lifeguard at Smith’s Point that currently serves at the New York 106th Air National Guard base at Westhampton. As a combat rescue officer, Viera has spent numerous days away from home in deployments at home and abroad. During 9/11, Viera was an eighth grade science teacher in New Jersey who was in the process of joining the military. Once the nation was hit by terrorism, Viera felt helpless that he was unable to help our people and he quickly pursued a career in the service. Always an upbeat military officer, Viera is proud of his training and combat experiences with his fellow service members who are devoted to live by the creed of this Rescue Wing, “These things we do, that others may live.”

John Fernandez was a talented student athlete that graduated from Rocky Point High School in 1996. “Spanish Lightning” went to the West Point Prep School for one year and moved onto graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York in 2001. As a young second lieutenant, he was completing training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, when terrorism hit this nation on 9/11. For Fernandez, this was an extremely personal matter for this local officer, as he recalled watching the destruction of the Twin Towers, he immediately ascertained that our country was at war against Al-Qaeda. 

By 2003, Fernandez entered Iraq with some of the first American forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This Shoreham resident is an upbeat father of six children that was severely wounded overseas and has the constant reminders of Second Gulf War. For many years, Fernandez worked for the Wounded Warriors where he had seen incredible acts of comradery between the city rescue workers and veterans. Years after 9/11, Fernandez observed these groups bond together through a special source of unity that was based in service. Fernandez explained that this “shared sacrifice” brought these proud Americans together that fought both on foreign battlefields and amongst the debris of Ground Zero.

In the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, a parachuter jumped down to Rocky Point HIgh School football field carrying a flag that was flown at Ground Zero. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Almost two decades ago, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) vividly remembers the dark moments of terrorism and its aftermath within the city. Recently Toulon recalled, “I was working for the New York City Department of Corrections as a captain assigned to the Firearms & Tactical Unit, and I remember my first thought was to secure and protect the range because the range had many millions of rounds of ammunition and thousands of firearms. As an EMT, I was then sent to respond to the scene like so many other first responders. Everyone who responded and volunteered at the site of the attack was hoping to save lives, and I was sent back to my post at DOCS because it quickly became obvious there were few survivors that day. I was able to contribute several years later in the helping to build a lasting memorial in Nesconset to all the heroes, the first responders, and all those that perished due to the 9/11 related illness. The 9/11 Responders Remembered Park was a labor of love for me and so many others who came together to recognize the sacrifices of all those who responded to Ground Zero.”  

During the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the American people, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” At the turn of this new century, America on a beautiful, sunny, late summer day was changed forever. It seemed like yesterday that airplanes were re-routed to Canada, national airports grounded all flights, harbors were closed, and there were numerous security inspection checks through bridges and tunnels. But Americans came together in a positive spirit to overcome the unknown, while these current times are complicated, our citizens, including those on the North Shore, do not have to look far to recall the way that all groups of people came together during after 9/11. As in any part of our long history, the citizens of the U.S. has always proven to be a resilient people, able to rise up and defeat all daunting obstacles in its way.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

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General Montgomery, right, with generals George Patton, left and Omar Bradley (center). Public domain photo

By Rich Acritelli

Between the invasion of France and the fall of Paris in the summer of 1944, the Allies were not prepared for the vicious fighting that ensued directly after the D-Day landings in Normandy, France.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his planners prepared for every type of problem before Operation Overlord, but they were shocked at the brutality of the warfare that awaited their land forces against the well-hidden German military. As more men and materials were dispatched from England to this area that was known as the “Bocage,” Eisenhower and his key subordinate General Omar N. Bradley were dismayed over the extreme losses and puzzled over how to handle this costly opening offensive campaign in France. They did not fully know how to engage an enemy who was difficult to see and was eager to make the Allies pay for their successful landings.

At a time when Eisenhower looked to push his leaders like that of Bradley and Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery to gain military results against the enemy, progress was slow. The Germans dug in and they halted the advance of the Americans, British, and Canadians. Whereas General George S. Patton was a talented, but controversial leadership figure, he was absent from the Normandy landings.  Through the Slapping and Knutsford Incidents, Patton added to the immense pressures that was placed on Eisenhower. He was not dismissed from the service, but Eisenhower kept this feared tank commander in the dark as how he would be used within the future military campaign in France. It was not until well after D-Day that the Third Army became operational and Patton would be its commander.  He eventually directed this army that pushed the enemy across France and towards the Rhine River.  And through the historic Battle of the Bulge, Patton’s armor would eventually drive back this German surprise attack to the relief of Bastogne and the paratroopers that were surrounded by Hitler’s forces.

Before D-Day, General George C. Marshall, supported Eisenhower’s threat to send Patton home in disgrace, but he also informed this figure that nothing should be done to weaken his hand in fighting the difficult German military machine. Patton was not an easy general to guide and his mouth often put him in trouble, but he was the most talented armored leader that the United States had in its ranks. There were some points during the Normandy Campaign that Eisenhower openly stated that he wished that Patton’s unyielding presence was there to fight this difficult battle, but this was wishful thinking, as allied tanks played no pivotal role during this tenacious battle.  

With the huge amount of resources that Eisenhower had at his disposal in the hedgerows, the Germans extracted some 40,000 casualties against the Allies. Through a maze of vines, bushes, and trees that seemed to be connected, there was no telling if a German was hidden within the foliage of Normandy.  Several weeks after D-Day, Eisenhower and Bradley were frustrated at the lack of progress and the increase in casualties. As the Germans stymied the Allies, the Wehrmacht was unable to reinforce their own lines and they lost the immense leadership skills of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel who was seriously wounded by British fighter planes.

This was a hard time for the Allies as Montgomery was known for moving too cautiously and he lived up to this negative reputation when he failed to take the French city of Caen. Bradley lost his patience and he fired several generals through their inability to overrun the Germans. On July 4, 1944, as American soldiers celebrated Independence Day, an intense artillery barrage of fire hit the well covered Germans.  It was a strenuous campaign that tested Allied officers and soldiers to push the Germans out of their strategic defensive positions. Although the Allies were less than a year from winning the war, there were always strains on the military relationship between the Americans and British. Marshall believed that Montgomery received far too much credit for being an army commander that had to be prodded to move. The Army Chief of Staff wanted stability within the alliance, but not at the demise of American prestige. With our nation providing the bulk of men and materials on the Western Front and taking the recognizable direction against the Germans, Marshall was concerned that Eisenhower favored the British a little too much and he ordered him to leave England and set up his command in Normandy, where he would take over the direction of this intense fight.

At same time when some senior German military figures tried to assassinate Hitler in East Prussia on July 20, 1944, Patton arrived in France. He was told by Bradley that a massive carpet-bombing assault was to target the stubborn German positions and break open their lines to be exploited. It was the expectation that “Operation Cobra” would create a large enough corridor to allow American armored forces to penetrate deeply within the open lands east of Normandy. After 3,400 tons of bombs were dropped, this campaign successfully developed when four American armored divisions pushed through this opening in the lines.  This allowed the Americans operate south westward and take the French port of Cherbourg and to drive in a different direction to liberate the major prize of Paris.  

Once Patton’s tanks were employed, the German Higher Command in France never stood a chance in defeating the sheer pressure from air and land that Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton had at their disposal.  The summer of 1944 was a dangerous year for the Germans, as the immense amount of force that the Americans delivered against Hitler’s beleaguered armies.  And while Eisenhower had a difficult relationship with Patton, keeping him in command paid large dividends towards victory in Western Europe against the Nazi Regime.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

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Eisenhower, Omar Bradley and George Patton. Public domain photo

By Rich Acritelli

“The question is just how long can you keep this operation on the end of a limb and let it hang there.” 

These were the words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower in the hours before the June 6 D-Day amphibious and air drop landings. While Eisenhower was surrounded in this meeting by noted leaders like General Omar N. Bradley and Field Marshall Bernard L. Montgomery, the immense strain of making this momentous decision was on the shoulders of this native of Abilene, Kansas. Through the poor weather conditions that almost derailed the landings, Eisenhower was concerned that if this massive forces waited any longer, it was possible that the Germans would have learned of the true landings were to be at Normandy and not Calais, France. Judging the factors that were against his naval, air and land forces, Eisenhower simply stated, “Ok, we’ll go.”

U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Public domain photo

As Eisenhower feared the heavy losses that were expected to penetrate the “Atlantic Wall,” he was confident of the Allied plans to achieve victory against the Germans. While German leader Adolf Hitler made numerous military miscalculations, one of his worst was the full belief that Americans that lived under capitalism and democracy which could not defeat the German soldiers that were indoctrinated within Nazism. Eisenhower was representative of the average soldier from the heartland, small towns and cities of this nation that wanted to fulfill their duty, save the world from tyranny, and return home to their families.  

As a young man, Eisenhower grew up in a poor, rural, and religious family. While he was a talented baseball and football player, the young man did not stand out amongst his peers as being the best.  There was the belief that he had lied about his age to show that he was younger to be originally accepted into the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, but he was turned down by this school. But Eisenhower gained a congressional appointment for an army education and he was ordered by the War Department to head to West Point in June 1911. Due to the two years of work at a creamery, Eisenhower was a bit older and experienced and the hazing that he took as a freshman was not challenging for the 21-year-old during his first semester. This Class of 1915 was one of the most highly promoted groups to graduate from West Point with over sixty officers attaining the rank of general during World War II.

Eisenhower had two main interests that stayed with him for most of his life. He was an avid card player that supplemented his low army pay with winning numerous hands against his fellow officers and like that of Ulysses S. Grant, he was highly addicted to nicotine. There are many parallels between the lives of Eisenhower and Grant, as both officers were from the mid-west, they were not from wealthy families, and as Eisenhower was a strong football player, Grant was one of the finest horseback riders in the army. Both men graduated in the middle of their classes at West Point, though much of this was due to a lack of interest that they demonstrated with some of their studies. The other key attribute was that they were extremely likable men that were easy to approach, they used common sense to make difficult decisions and they were not swayed under highly stressed war time situations.

Athletic promise and some mischievous was seen when Eisenhower played minor league baseball under an assumed name during the summer months when he returned home to Kansas. Eisenhower did not admit to playing professional baseball until he was President some decades later. During his years at the academy, Eisenhower was a talented football player that suffered a career ending knee injury. He was fortunate that the doctor wrote a medical report that stated he was physically able to complete the rigors of his army responsibilities. In September 1944, during the Operation Market Garden air drops into the Netherlands, Eisenhower was unable to leave his plane during a meeting with Montgomery because he still had severe pain from this chronic knee ailment. 

For the two years leading to Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war in 1917 against Germany, Eisenhower served in the infantry and was a football coach at a prep school near his San Antonio army base. During this early period that Eisenhower showcased his coaching knowledge, many of the American soldiers kept a watchful eye on the border after it was attacked by Mexican bandit Pancho Villa. There were also pressing issues that the United States would be pushed into the Great War that raged in Europe. Unlike other older World War II officers, Eisenhower had no combat experience during World War I. He distinguished himself running a tank training center in Camp Colt Pennsylvania that was outside of Gettysburg. For his efforts, Eisenhower was promoted to the rank of colonel, but the fighting ended as he was preparing to ship out. Eisenhower was an extremely capable officer, but he believed for the next twenty years that he would never have the chance to prove his abilities under enemy fire.

After WWI ended, the National Defense Act of 1920 drastically cut back the army promotions that were seen during the war and Eisenhower was demoted to a permanent rank of major. At this time, Eisenhower convoyed across the nation from Maryland to California and he observed the poorly connected roads that led from cities to the rural areas. Later as President this knowledge pushed him to build more infrastructure projects during the 1950’s. Living at Fort Meade, he also met George S. Patton, where both men and their families became good friends. Eisenhower enjoyed listening to war time exploits of Patton and both men had endless discussions on military tactics. 

It has been stated that these officers were not friendly during and after World War II, but this was far from true. These two men were completely different from each other, Patton was extremely wealthy, and he lived a vastly different life than Eisenhower. Patton furnished his house with furniture from France, had sports cars, servants and the best polo horses. Eisenhower had to rely on the poor military pay and he took furniture from the nearest dump that he refurnished. 

There were many other connections that surely aided the professional development of Eisenhower.  During World War I, General Fox Connor was a key planner that pushed American troops into the first battles against the Germans on the Western Front. He was a trusted leader that listened to the early military doctrine that these younger officers sought within the next major war. Eisenhower credited Patton with meeting Connor whom he considered to be a teacher and father figure that cultivated his earliest approach to leadership. Connor was a well-rounded officer that understood the need to work well with allies and to establish the most efficient military organization. These traits were all exhibited by Eisenhower’s command style during World War II and Connor advised his protégé to gain a position that enabled him to work with the brilliance of George C. Marshall. Although both men knew of each other and had brief encounters, they would not have any major connection for some twenty years until the start of World War II in 1939. 

Whereas Eisenhower did not serve in France during World War I, he had the unique opportunity to visit the battle sites with General John J. Pershing. The Battle Monuments Commission was established in 1923 to identify the different places that Americans fought from 1917-1918. While this was at first seen by Eisenhower as a limited position, he was in the presence of Pershing and he was able to show his considerable talents with his writing. Like that of the other senior officers, Pershing was extremely pleased with the ability of Eisenhower to accurately present the American contributions to this war.  Several years later when Pershing wrote his own memoirs, he asked Eisenhower to review the portions of this book that pertained to the battle sites that he commanded. In an interesting twist of fate, Eisenhower would again see these locations as the senior Allied commander during World War II.

In 1926, Eisenhower entered the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Missouri.  Armed with the knowledge of the terrain around Gettysburg, he was able to decisively speak about the tactics of this Civil War battle that made him shine amongst his fellow students. Graduating first in his class, he was given some help by his friend Patton who provided his notes to Eisenhower from his own time at this school. By the end of the 1920’s, Eisenhower completed the prestigious education through the War College. This school was established to train our future army leaders and Eisenhower was evaluated as being one of the most superior officers within his class. When he graduated his paper on mobilization was sent to the War Department, and some ten years later, his ideas were used during the tumultuous mobilization, training, and planning years of 1939-1941. 

In 1930, General Douglas MacArthur became the youngest Army Chief of Staff to hold this position.  While promotions were slow for Eisenhower, he was widely liked, and he continued to work with the best minds in the army.  As he respected the experience of MacArthur, Eisenhower did not like the the man’s ego and often clashed with some of his rash ideas. In 1932, World War I veterans widely suffered from the Great Depression and they descended on the capital to wage a massive protest. They sought an early payment of bonds that were promised to them for their service during the war. Army veterans organized themselves into groups, lobbied politicians, and slept on the lawn of the Capital Building.  

After there were hostile actions between the police and veterans, Hoover ordered MacArthur to use limited force to push these people out of Washington D.C.  Although MacArthur led many of these men, he was convinced that there were communist radicals intermixed within the protesters ranks and that they had to be driven out of the capital by excessive force. Eisenhower was appalled MacArthur’s action who he believed severely misinterpreted his orders from Hoover. As he later traveled with MacArthur to live in the Philippines to run their military, by 1939, he requested a transfer back to the states. He was burnt out for handling the numerous responsibilities of working for MacArthur and he wanted a fresh start away from this demanding officer. At this time, his son John asked him about entering West Point, Eisenhower stated that the army was good to him, but he would shortly be retiring as a colonel.

With World War II starting in Europe, General George C. Marshall was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt the position of Army Chief of Staff. It was known that Marshall kept an eye on promising officers that he was bound to place in key leadership positions. While he barely knew Eisenhower, Marshall was giving a glowing recommendation by General Mark Clark on his effectiveness. At one point, Eisenhower believed that Patton was destined for the highest rank and responsibility. While Marshall respected Patton, Eisenhower was one of the few officers that understood the big military picture, he respected his planning during the 1941 military maneuvers, and his ability to solve complex problems with little help from others.  

From 1941-1944, Eisenhower in quick time went from an untried senior officer in battle, to organizing the greatest coalition ever assembled to defeat Hitler’s forces in Europe. As Eisenhower pondered attacking Normandy in the hours before the June 6, 1944 D-Day landings, his many decades of service, experiences, and relationships helped him make this momentous decision. Always armed with the will to succeed for this nation and the world against this totalitarian power, Eisenhower’s presence some seventy six years ago made the tremendous decision to bring the beginning of the end to Hitler’s terrible rule on the European mainland.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

By Rich Acritelli

Kindness, devotion, hard work, and determination; these are the words to describe the loyalty that the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook has toward its patients. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made their mission immensely difficult, this facility is carrying out its responsibilities to support our local veterans at this nursing home. This staff has adapted to the hardships of this virus, and they are finding different ways of helping many elderly veterans who have served in practically every military branch.

The vets home has created a multi-faceted program that helps people from Riverhead to Massapequa. Leading the way is Jean Brand, the Program Director of the Adult Day Health Care Program, with their efforts based in Stony Brook and in the homes of these older populations who rely on the services.  Even before the coronavirus changed operations, staff members have provided assistance in cooking, bathing and nutritional aid that allows for breakfast and lunch to be served along with taking home a meals for dinner. They also provided rehabilitation for physical and speech therapy programs. As the veterans ages range from the mid 60’s to over 100 years old, the staff’s devotion also allows the older counterparts to take a brief break in handling the rigors of treating their loved ones.  

From the start of the day, the state nursing home provides transportation to bring citizens that served from World War II, Korean and Vietnam to Stony Brook. Due to this current pandemic, the programs are now more home based. Although these were necessary changes, according to Brand, the organization is finding new ways to help these older citizens. Through a home delivery program, several meals a week are organized and distributed to the elderly. Brand and her staff are currently preparing food that is non-perishable and easy to eat. Deliveries also include necessary items that have been difficult to purchase such as toilet paper, masks, wipes, paper towels and soap. They have also sent home word puzzles and and other games to help keep their minds sharp and to pass the time, as many of these veterans that are spending numerous hours in their houses.

With many longterm relationships built up at Stony Brook, the staff misses these familiar faces and their stories of service of defending our nation during many trying times. Many of these men and women are considered family members to the staff. The entire staff, through expertise and professionalism, has for many years attended to the many diverse needs of these men and women. They have implemented telehealth to boost morale and at the same time to safely utilize social distancing initiatives to keep a watchful eye on the health of their patients. Although sending home food is a primary function of this program, many of these telephone calls are keeping the lines of communication open, and range from a simple hello to necessary inquiries about serious ailments.

Brand spoke about a unique program that was created to connect the patriotic stories of national service to the students of today. The Long Island Museum has worked with the vets home through a pen pal project which has younger men and women reach out to veterans to learn about their lives. Even as this has been tough period, this idea has developed relationships between different generations. Young people have seen and heard the examples of service by our senior population. This writing programs has also allowed younger students to identify the various issues that impacted the mobility and health concerns that have widely plagued older populations. 

Not since the days of the 1918 Spanish Flu has our nation had to handle a health crisis of this magnitude.  The numbers of the people that have been impacted are still staggering, but the efforts of places like the Long Island State Veterans Home continue to adapt and overcome many of these medical challenges that still pose a major concern to this country. This homecare program has completely shown the determination of longtime staff members like that of Brand and her fellow workers to help their patients before, during and after this sickness is finally subdued.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

Port Jefferson EMS team has been on the front lines of the pandemic since its start. The team covers the Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson and Belle Terre communities. Photo from Michael Buckley

By Rich Acritelli

Working over 180 hours over the last two weeks, Paramedic Michael Buckley of Port Jefferson has been extremely busy providing dire medical attention to the North Shore community. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Buckley has been a key member of the Port Jefferson Emergency Medical Services. Around the clock, Buckley has been caring for patients in Belle Terre, Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai. Like every American, he is looking forward for this nation to getting back to normal where he can go to the gym, see his friends and family, and go out to a nice dinner.

Michael Buckley in his military uniform with his brother Shawn. Photo from Buckley

Even during the interview, Buckley was called twice for services to bring sick residents to the Mather, St. Charles and Stony Brook University. It has been a trying period for our nation, but citizens like that of Buckley demonstrate their compassion to help other through perhaps the worst viral this nation has endured in recent memory. He is one of 250,000 Emergency Medical Service workers that immediately answers every type of health-related call. This particular ambulatory company is located on Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Mount Sinai and it is one of the nearly 22,000 transport medical organizations that answer an estimated 240 million calls made each year. During every type of weather condition, this ambulance company has tirelessly worked for the betterment of these local hamlets and villages.

This native of Port Jefferson completed his education at St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington. He enjoyed playing football, excelling at his grades, and continuing the strong tradition of family members that worked and went to this school.  As a young man, Buckley was an Emergency Medical Technician who worked closely with ambulance crews. After graduating in 2008, Buckley was accepted to St. Johns University in Jamaica, Queens. During his college years, he majored in business management and was accepted into the Officer Candid School for the military at his college.   

After earning his degree in 2012, Buckley enlisted into the U.S. Army in 2013 where he completed his Basic Training and Officer Candid School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was later ordered to Fort Sill, Oklahoma and was later commissioned as a field artillery officer before being transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was assigned to the field artillery for the combat renown 82nd Airborne Division.  With this elite unit, Buckley earned his wings and eventually made thirteen training jumps. Currently, he is a captain at reserve military base in Farmingdale, where he assists the enlistment of former officers through the Army Reserve Career Division.

This extensive military training has prepared Buckley for the rigors of being on the front lines of dealing with COVID-19. Every day, he is covered from head to toe with protective gear, including a N95 face mask and shield, gloves, goggles and a protective gown. As he still handles every type of medical call, Buckley responds to numerous suspected Covid-19 emergencies that bring people to the three major local hospitals. With twenty words or less, the ambulances quickly communicate with emergency rooms to inform them of the severity of the call. While Buckley does not know the name of every medical professional in these sick bays, he is always amazed at their unyielding devotion to help other during this crisis.

Chief Rob Stoessel is an executive director of this ambulance service and he is extremely proud in how hard his crews are working during this crisis. As he believes that there are less cardiac and respiratory calls, the COVID-19 cases are hampering the process of bringing patients to the hospital. With these crews wearing extensive protective clothing and constantly cleaning their vehicles, equipment and themselves after every call, it has been a daily challenge to carry out their tasks. In order to protect these men and women, they can take showers and wear clean clothing before they drive home in their own cars. The Port Jeff EMS has increased its mobile fleet to five ambulances and three emergency service vehicles that are operating during all hours of every day. Stoessel said he wanted to thank his EMTs who were students at Stony Brook University. For a time, many of these student-volunteers were without housing, but they have shown an extreme amount of comradery to support the operations of the ambulance company.  Currently, some of these volunteers are staying at Danford’s Hotel in Port Jefferson.   

Buckley said he believes that the “social distancing” has been working, but people still need to stay home and away from each other. Driving numerous hours through our local towns, Buckley has seen a tremendous growth in the use of face masks and gloves. From his own observations, he sees the importance of listening to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and following the guidelines issued by the Center by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Even as Buckley has been working through this daunting physical and mental schedule, he has been enrolled at the Farmingdale State College. He is using his Montgomery GI Bill to complete the necessary prerequisites to be accepted by a future medical school. With a wealth of military and health background, he is determined to help future citizens in becoming an emergency room doctor. Stoessel said he has been highly impressed by the skills and dedication of Buckley and he believes that this paramedic “represents all that is good with this country.” 

Athletic Director Charlie Delargey charges down court. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Rich Acritelli

On Feb. 28, at Rocky Point High School, administrators, teachers, coaches, support staff and even district groundskeepers participated in the 2nd annual Swooping and Hooping basketball game. It was a night filled with cheers, laughs and comradery to raise money for the school’s Kids in Need Fund and VFW Post 6249 program to aid our local Wounded Warriors. Since the early fall, the game and fundraiser were led by the creative efforts of math teachers Jenessa Eilers and Carly Tribby. Through their efforts, the school raised $3,400 this year.

Guidance counselor Jimmy Jordan, also the boys basketball coach, passes to an open player. Photo by Kyle Barr

At the start of this year, the two younger educators took control of the Be a Nicer Neighbor Club after social studies teacher Brooke Bonomi retired last year. From looking at their ability to handle this lively night, a new torch has certainly been passed and accepted by Eilers and Tribby to continue making the school a “better place.” While the activity was flawlessly guided, these two educators put in countless hours in planning the fundraiser. They were present to guide the student-based process of organizing teams, general managers, coaches and entertainment for the night. Like that of Bonomi, it was the goal of Eilers and Tribby to give the students the responsibility in establishing the roots of success that will allow Swooping and Hooping to be a strong tradition for the high school.

Several weeks before this game, students organized a draft to pick the players for the night. With an assortment of background music, every participant was chosen by the leadership of groups named Hoops We Did It Again, Strawberry Thunder, the Dunkin Dino’s and the Flipping Mandalorians.  Up until the game, the students were expected to organize their rosters, make trades and sign free agents. For several mornings of the past week, Eilers and Tribby were surrounded by their club members to sell early tickets and team shirts which were worn by staff and alumni. Every part of the school district was represented within these four teams, from Principal Jonathan Hart and Athletic Director Charlie Delargey to the girls basketball coach Reagan Lynch and the athletic groundskeeper Aaron Lipsky. Armed with big smiles, the players arrived early, where they practiced shooting, stretched and organized some lay-up drills. Bonomi, a familiar face, wore a huge smile over the positive actions of Eilers and Tribby to build on a the event that he help create.

After a rousing national anthem performed by senior Molly Lambert and the presentation of the colors by Post 6249, its commander, Joe Cognitore, started the game with the tip-off. First-year assistant principal Lauren Neckin started the evening off on a high point by hitting a 3-pointer.  Right away, the students chanted for their fan favorites and intently watched the staff members who drove to the net and dove for loose balls. As longtime guidance counselor Tammy McPherson was bringing the ball up the court, she heard the warm gestures of her family including her baby granddaughter that came out to see her play.  This energy was repeated with math teacher Jason Rand hitting a jump shot in the last seconds of the first half. With over 400 tickets sold, the smiles were easy to detect among both fans and players.

Halftime entertainment of Rocky Point student dribbling blindfolded. Photo by Kyle Barr

After a rousing victory by Hoops We Did It Again, there was a musical halftime show performed by guidance counselor Michael Conlon and his Sound Choice club.  They brought the fans to their feet through their electric playing of Queens “We Will Rock You” and White Stripes “Seven Nation Army.”  To keep the people entertained, students and faculty tossed shirts into the stands, along with shooting contests, and many basket raffles. For the second time, Cognitore was the grand marshal for the game and he marveled over the wonderful job that Eilers and Tribby did to bring the staff and students together.

The second game demonstrated the athletic prowess of Strawberry Thunder and the Dunkin Dino’s.  While it was expected that the Dino’s would have a difficult game, this team hit their shots and kept the game close. Through the leadership of Delargey and guidance counselors Jimmy Jordan and Matt Poole, the Dino’s advanced to the finals where the crowd was at the edge of their seats. Science teacher Mark Brienza energized the fans through his superb shooting and the chants from the student body who said he should earn the most valuable player award for this evening. Opposing him was the point scoring strength of physical education teacher Kelly Calamita and Joseph A. Edgar special education teacher Lauren Boyle.

Again, the fans were into this game from the championship tip off to the final moments which saw Hoops We Did It Again named the 2020 victor. After the final moments of this game, the fans rushed the court and showed their appreciation for a wonderful night. It was a chance for the players to dust a little rust from their basketball skills and raise much needed funds through the kindness of the Be a Nicer Neighbor Club. Looking at the energy of this night, high school principal Hart said these, “ladies went above and beyond to ensure this year’s event was as successful as last year’s.”  

Through the efforts of Eilers and Tribby, they certainly have made strides to fill the major shoes left behind after Bonomi retired last year. Through his mentorship, these two young educators have proven themselves to be up to the task in organizing and running major programs that have turned into traditions for the district.

How the U.S. Made the Fateful Decision to Enter WWI

Above, President Woodrow Wilson addresses Congress in 1917, speaking on entering the war. Photo from Library of Congress

By Rich Acritelli

With the movie “1917” soon to be widely released in theaters, it’s interesting to look back on how Long Island was a key strategic reason the U.S. entered what was known as “the war to end all wars.”

Over 100 years ago, then President Woodrow Wilson agonized over the rationale for the United States to break with its historic policy of neutrality before America entered World War I against Germany. There were many dangerous periods within our history that surely tested our national leadership. This was no different in 1916-1917. At the end of his first term in office, Wilson sought economic and social reform in the U.S., but he had to contend with the terrible conflict over in Europe. Although the Atlantic Ocean separated the U.S. from the brutal fighting on both the eastern and western fronts, Long Islanders did not have to look far to identify the German military presence of U-boats that operated near their shores. During World War I and II, it was common for the U.S. government to order “light discipline” on the coast. German “Wolf Packs” operated near major cities like New York, surfaced, and were able to determine how close they were to the city by utilizing well-lit homes in waterfront locations like Fire Island. For three years, American ships operated within these hazardous waters to conduct trade with the Allies, where these vessels took heavy losses.

A man buys a paper announcing the U.S. has declared war on Germany. Photos from Library of Congress

It was an extremely complicated time for Wilson, who tried to keep the country out of this war. The horrific losses seen by the British, French and Germans were well publicized in American papers, and many citizens did not want their sons, friends and neighbors to be killed in what was thought of as a European dispute. Before he was reelected by an extremely close margin in November of 1916, Wilson campaigned on the promise that he kept “Our boys out of this war.” But behind closed doors, it was a different situation. Since the days of George Washington the U.S. economy was built on trade that always saw American ships traveling to Europe. Germany had most of its own ports blockaded by the strength of the British navy, and this warring government did not believe America was neutral through our business dealings with the Allies.  

The Germans believed they were forced to attack any civilian, commerce or military shipping that sailed toward British and French harbors. Wilson, like the presidents before the War of 1812, was unable to completely halt American maritime toward these hostile waters. Right away, cruise liners like the Lusitania was attacked off the coast of Ireland, and of the 1,198 people that were killed on the ship, 128 Americans were lost. The German government stated it gathered known intelligence that many of these civilian ships were carrying weapons to the Allies. As Wilson was expected to protect the American people, his own secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, opposed any offensive actions to arm U.S. ships or any threats toward the German leadership. In 1916, the Sussex was sunk, more American lives were lost, and Wilson was conflicted on how to respond against this German adversary who seemed unwilling to halt its policy of targeting American freedom of the seas.

Closer to home, in 1916, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico, where 19 American lives were lost. With the tense relations between the U.S. and Mexico, Wilson ordered General John J. Pershing to lead 16,000 soldiers to capture or kill Villa and his men. This U.S. expedition into Mexico demonstrated how unprepared the government was to conduct modern military operations. Pershing was unable to locate Villa within the Mexican terrain and the expedition was considered unsuccessful. This intervention also enhanced resentment by the Mexicans who gravitated closer to the Germans. The “Zimmerman telegram” by the German foreign minister openly stated that if Mexico went to war against the U.S., it would receive German assistance. These words were intercepted by the British and delivered to Wilson who was startled at the extent of German beliefs that Mexico had the ability to regain some of its lost territories that were now American states. Wilson’s fears were abundant, as he bolstered the U.S. defense of Cuba with an additional division of soldiers to guard against a possible German invasion.

Wilson was in a precarious situation, as there were known antiwar feelings against helping the British and French on the western front. During the election year, Wilson fully understood that the two largest immigrant groups in the country were the Irish and the Germans. He knew that some of these citizens had strong ethnic ties to their home countries and were not overly pleased to support the British Empire. While today we see Spanish as a common secondary language, during the early part of the 20th century, German was widely spoken in the Midwest and West. There was a huge German influence among American cities and towns that had ties back to this European power, and Wilson had to analyze the economic relation to this war of the many industrialists and financiers who looked to push the United States to support the Allies. They knew they could surely profit from the massive amount of weapons sold to these warring countries.

On the eastern front, there was the delicate situation with the ability of Czar Nicholas II to fight the Germans. His government’s conduct of the war was disastrous, and the Russians had abundant shortages of weapons, leadership and food at home. Before declaring war on Germany on April 6, 1917, Wilson watched Russia fall into chaos, as communist groups campaigned on the slogan that they were determined to quickly pull out of this destructive conflict. Although Wilson sided with the Allies and declared war against Germany, it was not without many internal strains. He was surely tested over the eventual American decision to abandon our foreign policy of neutrality that was established in 1789 to side with one European nation over another.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

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Rocky Point natives Gerard and Diane Hahn are honored along with three other siblings for service in the armed forces. Fifty other veterans were honored on the high school Veterans Wall of Honor. Photo by Kyle Barr

In Rocky Point, it’s hard to find a family without at least one armed service veteran as a family member.

As the Rocky Point High School band played out military tunes during a Nov. 15 assembly honoring vets, Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore read off each branch of the armed service based on the music playing. Veterans and their families stood up, but it wasn’t just the visitors, students stood up as well. For both the men in service caps to the kids in T-shirts and jeans, service to country runs deep.

People take pictures and point to names of family members on Rocky Point HS Wall of Honor. Photo by Kyle Barr

It’s a testament to the number of veterans and veteran families in Rocky Point that this year the district added 50 additional names to the high school’s Wall of Honor, which was constructed last year with just under 60 names of veterans who were from Rocky Point or graduated from the district.

Social studies teacher Rich Acritelli was the major driving force between the wall and its update. He sunk considerable time and resources into fundraising and getting the updated plaques on the wall, working alongside fellow teachers, administrators and the school’s Varsity Club.

“In less than two years, the entire main hallway of the social studies wing will be full of people from the armed forces who sat in the same chairs, played in the same gym and fields, performed in school plays, band and chorus as you do,” Acritelli said to the assembled students. “These are people who played on the same blocks as you did.”

Some families had more than one person in the armed services. The Hahn family, all Rocky Point natives, had five siblings whose pictures now hang up on the wall. Gerard and Diane Hahn flew back home to their roots to accept the honor on behalf of their family.

“Our reason for entering the armed forces was different for each of us,” Gerard Hahn said, who after high school had joined the Air Force as a munitions specialist. 

“For various reasons and in different branches of the service, we wanted to serve our country,” he said. “Regardless of which branch, we were all proud of our service and our combined over 40 years in the military.”

Diane Hahn, Gerard’s sister joined the Army after she graduated in 1982. She said she joined the military, already having an interest in computers, spending five years in active duty and six as a reservist in data. She now works as a government contractor with her own IT company in Washington, D.C.

The brother of Gregory Brons, a veteran who graduated Rocky Point in 1996 and studied physics from Syracuse University, said his brother joined the U.S. Army in the signal corps both at home and overseas. He moved to southern California to work in defense research and has become an activist for the LGBTQ community.

Greg Hotzoglou honors his brother Taylor, a veteran who died trying to stop an armed robbery. Photo by Kyle Barr

“He is a champion for the freedoms we live under,” he said.

This year’s updated wall also included the names of faculty, some who served and some whose families had been in the armed forces. Jerry Luglio, athletic trainer, came to the podium to calls of “Jerry,” by students. He served in the U.S. Submarine Corps during the Cold War. Anthony Szymanski, a business teacher at the high school, died in 2014 but was remembered for his service to both the school and U.S. Army.

Many veterans whose pictures hang on the wall in Rocky Point High School have given much, but some have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Taylor Hotzoglou was honored by his brother, Greg, who said the young man joined up and served in the 101st Airborne Division in 2007 and had been fearless in his wanting to protect his fellow soldiers, often volunteering for the gunner’s seat in Humvees, known to be the most targeted and dangerous position a soldier could take in a vehicle. Hotzoglou died when he returned to the U.S., as he tried to stop an armed robbery while outside of Fort Campbell Army Base in Tennessee.

“His attitude was, if it’s not me, then somebody else is going to have to go over there and suffer,” Greg Hotzoglou said. “He said, you know what, it should be me, I should go.”

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Rich Acritelli

Sitting down to write this story about 9/11, there is the constant reminder of how beautiful this day was with brilliant sunshine, warm weather and the buzz in the air of people going about their daily responsibilities.  It seems like yesterday that this same sort of memory that was some 18 years ago completely changed the course of American history. As people were handling their daily routines of putting their children on the bus and going to work, people in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., endured harrowing terrorism that shook the foundations of those cities. In the rural area of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the wreckage and the remains of Flight 93 were found.

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

Some 18 years later, families and friends still struggle with getting through this particular day. While there are students in our local schools who were not yet born when these attacks occurred, this terrible moment is still with us. As many of our students did not see the constant news coverage about the attacks waged on our nation by Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, 9/11 essentially became one of the longest days ever in our country. It remained with us for months and years, as our mind flashed images of the two planes that destroyed the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and Flight 93 that would have been used to target the Capitol or the White House.  

Americans were shocked at the news reports of the failed attempts of the shoe and underwear bombers to destroy other commercial airlines and anthrax that was sent to noted journalist Tom Brokaw. Today, young adults that like to attend popular concerts at Jones Beach do not remember the military presence in the Atlantic Ocean near the venue. The federal government ordered aircraft carriers that were in view of the amphitheater to fly fighter missions over major cities, including New York, to guard against the potential use of civilian aircraft that could possibly target major buildings and landmarks. In a total sense of shock, Americans were reeling from the earliest moments of terrorism that had clearly impacted our way of life.

Never before had Americans repeatedly watched the news coverage of citizens on American soil desperately running for their lives away from buildings that were collapsing around them. In many cases, they did not stop moving until they were across the Brooklyn Bridge, covered in dust and debris, with looks of despair on their faces. For months, North Shore rescue and demolition workers sifted through the wreckage of lower Manhattan to search for survivors and the remains of lost ones. In the tristate area there were daily reminders of 9/11 through the numerous funerals that were held for many of the 2,977 people that were killed.  And it was almost 19 days after the terrorists hit the U.S. that the military struck the Taliban and its allies in Afghanistan. Just this week alone, as peace talks continued between America and the Taliban, a car bomb derailed the negotiations and our soldiers are still operating to guard against terrorism in Afghanistan. While many local people are concerned that other parts of this country have forgotten about this date, 18 years ago showed the iron spirit of American resolve and willingness to help each other.

The Sound Beach Fire Department held its annual 9/11 ceremony Sept. 11. Photo by Greg Catalano

This was an attack that had never been waged against the U.S. before, but the American people presented an immense amount of comradery; caring for fellow citizens who were struggling from the attacks. At once, there was an outpouring of patriotism. Walmart was unable to keep up with the demand of its customers who wanted to purchase American flags.  People wrapped yellow ribbons around porches and trees and patriotic signs hung in businesses, schools and churches honoring the rescue workers at ground zero. Fire and emergency crews from every corner of this nation and Canada descended on Manhattan to help the New York City Fire Department. Both the New York Yankees and Mets participated in raising the spirits of the recovery workers by having their players meet with them in Lower Manhattan and honoring their tremendous sacrifices when baseball came back to America at Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Huge flags were presented by the military that covered the length of Giants Stadium during the national anthem. When motorists crossed over the George Washington Bridge, it was done under a flag that could be seen for miles.   

President George W. Bush, through a heightened security presence, was at the World Series that had been pushed back due to the 9/11 attacks. He attended the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks game where he stood on the pitcher’s mound, presented a thumbs up to the crowd and threw a strike to the catcher. At this time, former New York Jet’s coach Herm Edwards was asked football questions about an upcoming game and he told the reporters with tears in his eyes that sports is not everything. As the Meadowlands is within sight of the city, the Jets could see the smoke rise from the wreckage. He stated his team’s thoughts and prayers were with the rescue workers at ground zero.  Today, you can visit the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City and see a powerful sports exhibit that is connected to these attacks and how our local teams used athletics to help provide a sense of comfort and distraction during this tragic time.

Fire departments from Wading River to Mount Sinai came to the 9/11 Community Memorial in Shoreham Sept. 11, 2019 to commemorate that fateful day. Photo by Kyle Barr

Just recently, local leaders from the FEAL Good Foundation were in Washington, D.C., to lobby the government to prevent the discontinuation of the Zadroga Bill.  Retired New York City Police Officer Anthony Flammia strenuously worked with other rescue workers to promote the importance of this legislation to congressional members from every part of the U.S. The organization was determined to pass legislation that continued to help rescue workers suffering from 9/11-related health conditions. Longtime comedian Jon Stewart stood next to men and women from the FEAL Good Foundation to place pressure on congressional leaders to put their differences aside and pass this vital bill. Stewart openly wondered how our government was prepared to turn its back on survivors that unflinchingly answered the call on this date. Shortly after speaking to a congressional committee, NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez passed away from the poor health condition that he had gained as a result of his time at and near ground zero.

Over the course of American history, there have been many serious events that our nation has had to rebound from through the will of its citizens. 18 years ago, this dynamic character of our country rose out of the darkest moments of terrorism to show the world that Americans will always stand together. May we always remember our rescue workers, War on Terror veterans and those Americans that are currently struggling with 9/11-related illnesses. 

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

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The VFW, county government and the Mike DelGuidice-led Big Shot put on a massive concert for thousands Aug. 27. Photos by Greg Catalano

By Rich Acritelli

It was during this past week that classic rock could widely be heard throughout the North Shore. 

The Billy Joel “Big Shot” band that is led by local native Mike DelGuidice sang to a packed audience at Saint Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point Aug. 27. With almost 8,000 people on hand to watch the musical event, it was a great night enjoyed by all. For the last several years, Big Shot has been the main attraction of the summer concert series and a driving force of Post 6249 Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars’ local efforts.

VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore speaks at the Aug. 27 concert.
Photos by Greg Catalano

For the entire day, veterans of this military post diligently worked to ensure that this production was enjoyed by the many residents of this community. This operation was organized by Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore with eighteen members of the veterans organization that helped set up tents, directed where chairs could be placed, the positioning of garbage cans and worked with the church to ensure the success of this night. Cognitore was pleased to be working with Reverend K.J. Augustine, a new addition to the parish of Saint Anthony’s. It was a united effort by members of the church, VFW, county officials and local leaders that all participated in making this night come alive. Cognitore was thankful for the guidance that Augustine demonstrated to bring various organizations together through a musical tradition that has flourished at Saint Anthony’s during the summer months.

Cognitore said he was delighted that everything came together for all of the people on the beautiful evening to hear the DelGuidice sing the hits of Billy Joel, Elton John and Aerosmith.  For well over twelve hours, members of Post 6249 were seen in their blue shirts selling raffle tickets, pointing people to their seats, dancing, all with big smiles on their face, excited to watch this event unfold in front of a packed house. Even as DelGuidice now calls Florida his home, this local kid recalled his roots with good-hearted banter with the crowd. 

Since this series was created under then county legislator Dan Losquadro and continued with the aid of his successor Sarah Anker (D-Mount Siani), DelGuidice has been the key event to end these shows on a high note. While the musician performs next to Joel through the longstanding franchise at Madison Square Garden, DelGuidice is a proud figure from Miller Place. The former resident has mastered the songs of Joel and has members of his band playing with Big Shot to round out this talented group. With cheers that could be heard up and down Route 25A and Main Street in Rocky Point, DelGuidice played for almost three hours. 

It is this music that resonates well with many people that can identify with the local lyrics and spirit of Joel mastered by DelGuidice.  Like that of Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellancamp, and Zac Brown, the combination of Joel and DelGuidice music will continue to stand the test of time and local residents will surely enjoy these shows for many years to come.

The VFW, county government and the Mike DelGuidice-led Big Shot put on a massive concert for thousands Aug. 27.
Photos by Greg Catalano

The importance of this concert series is that the local government and Cognitore are able to bring solid musicians to this area to present their multitude of talents. Instead of worrying about paying an expensive ticket price and traveling into the city, many people are able to come home from work and within minutes hear the unique voice of DelGuidice play some of the most memorable rock hits. This leisurely event allows people the opportunity to see an outstanding show that is free, close to home and they also observe the likes of Post 6249 work for the betterment of the North Shore.

One of the finest songs that DelGuidice sang on this night was “Good Night Saigon.”  Immediately, DelGuidice invited all of the veterans to be present on the stage and be next to him and his band. Much of this tribute was presented to the Vietnam Veterans that were led by Cognitore. He had tears in his eyes by the overwhelming applause from the crowd. Standing next to the post commander, they looked out to the crowd as they raised phones over their heads.nThey turned on their flashlights and cameras creating a clear path of light across the fields of Saint Anthony’s.  

Veterans, young and old were continually thanked by DelGuidice and his band for sacrificing for this nation. In an evening with many highlights, this one surely hit home for the members of Post 6249 and for those with history of defending this nation at home and abroad.

Already, Cognitore is looking forward to next year. He wanted to thank all of the political leaders, the church, officers of the Suffolk County Police Department of the 7th Precinct for their role in handling crowd control, parking, the traffic, and being a presence to ensure the safety of an audience of thousands.