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Soldiers

Members of the North Country Peace Group organize a Ban the Bomb rally on the corner of Bennetts Road and Route 25A in East Setauket June 17. The group shows support for the current United Nations talks to adopt a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

A local grassroots organization played their part in a worldwide demonstration to support negotiations of the United Nations to adopt a treaty to ban nuclear weapons June 17.

“There are 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and 90 percent are controlled by the United States and Russia, 1,800 of those are on high alert.”

— Susan Perretti

The Women’s March and Rally to Ban the Bomb took place in New York City, though activist groups around the world including in East Setauket, organized simultaneous events to the New York City march to make their voices heard. The North Shore Peace Group put together their own Ban the Bomb rally on the corner of Bennetts Road and Route 25A in East Setauket, where the members stand every Saturday holding signs featuring messages of peace and in opposition of the policies and agenda of President Donald Trump (R). The women-led marches were not exclusive, as people of every gender, political affiliation and background were invited to speak out.

Nearly two-dozen activists were at the intersection holding signs with messages such as “Peace is Patriotism,” “Abolish All Nukes” and “Support U.N. nuclear ban talks.”

Port Jefferson Station resident Rosemary Maffei, who joined the group after last year’s presidential election, explained why the North Country Peace Group decided to participate in the show of support.

“It’s a worldwide event, and we just want to make sure that our little corner of Setauket here is represented on such an important happening in the world with possible nuclear proliferation,” she said.

Bill McNulty of Setauket said the “Ban the Bomb” message fits the mission the North Country Peace Group has been supporting for 15 years.

“Basically the banning-the-bomb effort ties into this idea that the bomb, the nuclear weapon, has been described over the years as being the taproot of violence,” McNulty said. “We’re anti-war. We’re anti-violence. We advocate for nonviolent, peaceful resolutions to our problems.”

A member of the North Country Peace Group holds the photos of soldiers who died in recent wars. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Peace group honors soldiers

By Rita J. Egan

The Women’s March and Rally to Ban the Bomb in East Setauket coincided with the North Country Peace Group’s annual reading of the 41 names of Long Island soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. After the members’ demonstration, they stood in a circle, holding up a photo of each soldier and reading his name as well as some information about them, including family members left behind.

Two members from the North Country Patriots, who stood on the opposite side of Route 25A across from the Peace Group in an opposing rally, came across the street holding a big American flag toward the end of the readings. One said that any memorial honoring soldiers needs flags. After the rally, one of the men, who asked not to be identified, said he tried his best not to interrupt the ceremony but he kept thinking to himself, “They were honoring our soldiers, but there was no American flag.”

Rosemary Maffei, of Port Jefferson Station, said the group feels showing the soldiers photos and reading their names is the group’s way of honoring the men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“We had flags at the ceremony but this is a time to remember and reflect, not flag-waving,” Maffei said.

Port Jefferson’s Myrna Gordon, another active member of the group, echoed McNulty’s sentiments.

“We feel that nuclear war is something that we have to stop,” she said. “And the buildup of armaments, and the buildup for things that might be devastating to the world, is something that we are tuned into very much. So today it’s ‘Ban the Bomb,’ next week it might be something else. We’re not a one-issue group, but we are a peace and justice organization, and we stand firmly in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world.”

Setauket resident Susan Perretti said the statistics the group gathered from a video produced by Reaching Critical Will, a program of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, are disturbing. She said nuclear bombs are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner.

“The information we were given is there are 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and 90 percent are controlled by the United States and Russia, 1,800 of those on high alert,” Perretti said. “And they are 1,000 times more powerful than the ones the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and not to mention the irreversible damage to the planet.”

Lisa Karelis of East Setauket held a sign decorated with three flags that read “We Are All Americans,” and carried a small flag. She said she wanted to show that peace-loving citizens are also patriotic.

“I think it’s very important especially with what’s going on in politics, and the uncertainty of the person who has the finger on the button to particularly see how dangerous it is to have nuclear proliferation,” she said. “It all boils down to humans. After all humans make decisions. Anything that we can do to make it more difficult for something to happen inadvertently, or under the control of one person who may not be thinking clearly or wisely, is very important. And it’s for the benefit of all humanity, that’s why one of our signs has the Earth on it. It’s not an American issue, it’s a human issue.”

In recent months the North Country Peace Group has also organized or participated in several rallies covering various topics including climate change; excessive use of force by police; the political donations of Robert Mercer, billionaire co-owner of the Setauket-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies; and a sister march to the Women’s March on Washington.

The U.N. talks regarding nuclear weapons are taking place until July 7. The U.S. has taken the position to boycott the discussions along with about 40 other countries, according to Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

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Sept. 1, 1919 — Celebration, Parade & Memorial Service on Labor Day. The soldiers who posed for a picture on the Setauket Village Green included: Ernest West, second from right, front row; George West, second from right, fourth row; Harvey West is third from left, third row. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Yesterday, Nov. 11, was Veterans Day, a day to honor all the men and women who served our country. However, Veterans Day began to mark the anniversary of the end of World War I (The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 — the Armistice with Germany). President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

In 1954, Armistice Day was amended to honor all veteran and the name was changed to Veterans Day.

On Sept. 1, 1919, a celebration, parade and memorial services were conducted at the new East Setauket Memorial and then, at the conclusion of the parade, on the Setauket Village Green.

Muriel Hawkins of East Setauket, 18 years old at the parade, remembered how her uncle Ernest West, who was a ship’s carpenter in the Navy, made seven trips across the Atlantic and back during the war. Ernest was one of four brothers who served during the war. The other three, George, Harvey and Percy, were in the Army. All four were the sons of Setauket blacksmith Samuel West and all four returned.

Two who did not return were memorialized at a ceremony on the Village Green at the end of the parade as reported by the Port Jefferson Times.

“With the service men in uniform standing stiffly at attention and the civilians with bared heads, the entire assemblage united in singing ‘America’… The Rev. T.J. Elms then dedicated a rock to the memory of the Setauket boys who died in the war — Raymond Wishart and Harry Golden… Mrs. Wishart received a medal for her son and Mr. Golden for his boy.”

The massive boulder and south-facing bronze tablet were erected on the Setauket Village Green in their memory. The boulder was brought from Strong’s Neck and the plaque was designed by the well-known artist William DeLeftwich Dodge who painted the murals on New York history that are in the state capital in Albany.

Private Raymond Wishart, son of Postmaster and Mrs. Andrew Wishart, was born Sept. 10, 1893, and he died in France on Aug. 23, 1918. His remains were returned to this country and were buried in the Caroline Church of Brookhaven graveyard on a Sunday in July of 1921.

Harry Golden is remembered by his nephew Sam Golden.

“He was a Sergeant in charge of the mules,” Sam recalled. “His unit was attacked and he was killed. He was 28 years old when he died and he’s buried there in France.”

On the opposite side of the rock is a plaque that was placed there after World War II. It reads, “1941-1945 – In memory of Clifford J. Darling, Henry P. Eichacker, Francis S. Hawkins, David Douglas Hunter, Orlando B. Lyons, Anthony R. Matusky, Edward A. Pfeiffer, (and) William E. Weston of the United States Armed Forces who gave their lives in World War II.”

To be continued.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.

Stock photo

A military report has concluded that one in three Americans are currently too overweight to enlist in the armed services.

According to Still Too Fat to Fight, a military study, at least nine million Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are too overweight to serve in the military. The Army Recruiting Station of Smithtown has witnessed this problem in some of their applicants.

Still Too Fat to Fight and its predecessor Too Fat to Fight, both released by Mission: Readiness, are studies that discuss the problems with overweight citizens and the military force.

“Being overweight or obese is the number one medical reason why young adults cannot enlist,” according to the study. “The United States Department of Defense spends approximately one billion dollars per year for medical care associated with weight-related health problems.”

Mission: Readiness is a national security organization, and their mission calls for smart investments in America’s children. It operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit Council for a Strong America.

“I’ve seen, in my experience, it’s been consistent that a certain amount of applicants have been too overweight to enlist,” Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Carmack said.

Retired Army Gen. Johnnie E. Wilson said, in Too Fat to Fight, that the threat could become much bigger.

“Childhood obesity has become so serious in this country that military leaders are viewing this epidemic as a potential threat to our national security,” he said. “We need America’s service members to be in excellent physical condition because they have such an important job to do.”

While Carmack said he does not foresee the issue becoming too threatening, he said it does “put us in a situation where we need to be more selective.”

Carmack, a senior ranking official at the Smithtown recruiting station, has been working in recruitment for the past four years, and has been on Long Island, at the Smithtown office, for the past two. He said he has found success with the Future Soldier Physical Fitness program.

The Future Soldier program is a training program that is “designed to get future soldiers ready for basic training,” Carmack said. The program includes information about basic training, general military orders, military time, and physical exercise.

The program is meant to make future soldiers more prepared, and also help motivate and train citizens who are interested in joining the military but are unable to due to issues like their weight.

“Most of the time, young ladies and men want to join the program, and they typically stay with us until they can enlist,” Carmack said. “I have worked with quite a few men and women to help them achieve their goal and get to that acceptable weight limit for Army standards.”

Future Soldier Anthony Troise, of Smithtown, has benefitted from this program.

When Troise was in high school, he discovered his interest in the military, and learned he would need to improve himself in order to enlist. He started training on his own, and once he was 17, met the standards and began attending the Future Soldiers program.

“I’ve lost a few pounds, and am benefiting physically and in my health overall from this program,” Troise said. “It’s a lot of physical fitness and a lot of cardio and core. Every time they want to improve different aspects.”

According to Still Too Fat to Fight, during the Iraq war, Congress expanded the number of military recruiters. The Army also experimented with accepting physically fit recruits who had more excess body fat than those previously allowed.

The Army discovered that overweight recruits were 47 percent more likely to experience a musculoskeletal injury, such as a sprain or stress fracture. Since then, the Army has stopped accepting overweight recruits.

Carmack said that the Future Soldier program is making positive success against this issue.

“A structured program is the best way to combat it.”

Mission: Readiness, an organization of retired senior military leaders, focuses on 17 to 24 year-olds in the Unites States that can’t serve in the military due to a variety of reasons including poor education, being overweight, and having a criminal history.

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Chief Master Sgt. John Bellissimo, boat captain Adrian Mason and Master Sergeant Shawn Burke holding part of the day’s catch of fluke. Photo from Angelo Peluso

By Angelo Peluso

As we all go about our busy lives, we sometimes forget to say thank you to those who protect our freedoms and our coveted way of life. Those liberties were bestowed upon us by visionary forefathers, etched in our Constitution, fought for in wars, and above all else, preserved and protected for generations by all those who serve.

Regardless of one’s political beliefs or political party affiliations, we as a nation are united by those freedoms we all enjoy. We are forever indebted to the many who have served and to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so others can enjoy unparalleled liberty.

Paying tribute to members of the American military for their honorable and selfless service to our country takes many forms. Members of the outdoor community were among the first to embrace that patriotic practice. The Soldiers on the Sound fluke tournament, organized by the Smithtown Bay Yacht Club, is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 395 from St. James. The 2015 event marked the seventh annual gathering of soldiers and volunteers.

The tournament drew a total of 300 participants, including 135 active members of the military, 60 boat captains, 60 mates and 45 event volunteers — all working to make this the best day possible for the guest soldiers.

Those military members in attendance represented the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the renowned 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard, which is based in Westhampton. Many of the soldiers had recently returned from various deployments abroad.

‘Team Old School’ heads out on the water in the seventh annual Soldiers on the Sound fluke tournament. Photo from Angelo Peluso
‘Team Old School’ heads out on the water in the seventh annual Soldiers on the Sound fluke tournament. Photo from Angelo Peluso

It was my honor to once again participate in the event and serve as mate aboard captain Adrian Mason’s boat, Big Trouble. Two distinguished members of the 106th Rescue Wing joined with us for the day’s fishing activities — Master Sgt. Shawn Burke and Chief Master Sgt. John Bellissimo. These two seasoned military veterans are also seasoned anglers who are quite adept at catching fluke and big sea robins. One of the team’s keeper flukes was a contender for the day’s weigh-in. In the end, that fish was bested by the winning flatfish in excess of six pounds. The winning fish was caught by 16-year-old first mate Jake DeLeo with the assistance of Staff Sgt. Chris Arrigo from the 106th Rescue Wing, Air National Guard and his captain Tony Voelker. It was both DeLeo and Arrigo’s first year participating in the event.

Captain Adrian Mason of Time Flies Fishing Charters was at the helm of our boat. Like the other gracious captains, he donated his boat, time and skills to host our team of soldiers. Captain Adrian did not disappoint as a number of quality summer flounder were caught, including half a dozen large keeper fluke. The catching is usually secondary to the camaraderie, the laughter and the opportunity to say thank you to a group of patriotic Americans.

“I have been involved with the Soldiers on the Sound for five years, and I can’t thank these service men and women enough for all they do,” he said. “Spending a day on the water with them seems like such a small way to say thank you, but it really means a lot to them. They are heroes in my book and this tournament treats them as such. I am honored to be a part of it every single year and I am already planning for next year.”

The concept for the Soldiers on the Sound fluke tournament was the brainchild of Kings Park resident Mark Garry.

Garry felt a compelling and overwhelming need to honor members of our armed forces who are currently serving our country. His dedication to both cause and mission was intense, and he, along with his team of volunteers, took his vision and turned it into reality — organizing and running one of the most successful events of its kind.

“This event is a small token of appreciation for all that the U.S. military does so that we can all enjoy our freedoms and life in the greatest country on earth,” Garry said to the soldiers who took part in the event. “We can never repay you enough for all that you do for us and for your courage and skills.”

While the initial event seven years ago was a tremendous success, the 2015 tournament set the bar even higher. All soldiers and participants were treated to a pre-tournament breakfast, a BBQ upon their return from fishing, live music and a hot food buffet as the extensive raffle was conducted. The raffle prizes, donated by individuals, local businesses and corporate sponsors, included fishing rod and reel outfits, gift bags, gift certificates and handcrafted products. The top prizes were kayaks, flat screen TVs and computer tablets.

Beyond the fishing, the food, the prizes and the camaraderie of the event, one soldier’s comment hit home.

During one of the idle moments in an otherwise very active day, Chief Master Sergeant John Bellissimo spoke about the importance of the event.

“You cannot imagine how much an event like this means to the entire base,” he said. “Even those soldiers who did not attend will be talking about this for weeks. What matters most of all this is that we know people here on Long Island care about what we do. We are already looking forward to next year.”

The Soldiers on the Sound fishing tournament yields hefty results on Sunday. Photo by Joseph Bellantoni

By Rachel Siford

St. James was swimming with activity on Sunday as the Soldiers on the Sound fishing tournament hit the waters.

From 15 boats and 25 soldiers participating in 2009, to 57 boats and 135 soldiers this year, Soldiers on the Sound Ltd. has been thanking active military members every year with consistent growth and success.

Soldiers on the Sound is a military charity and fishing tournament for active service men and women, organized to honor and give back to those who are in the military.

At the event’s beginning, Mark Garry, president and founder of Soldiers on the Sound Ltd, got off his boat after a day of fishing and relaxing at the Smithtown Bay Yacht Club and saw news coverage of the war, seeing soldiers overseas laying in the sand using their helmets as pillows, and thought that he should do something to thank them for protecting his freedom.

He said he decided a fishing tournament was the way to go, because that is how he relaxes. Garry was then a Nassau County Homicide Detective.

“This is a very satisfying event to put on,” Garry said. “You can’t find anyone without a smile on their face.”

The event includes a fishing tournament, food, entertainment and raffles at Smithtown Bay Yacht Club, all paid for completely from donations. This year they raised about $13,000. Soldiers do not have to do anything. Local boat owners donate the boats.

Individuals and companies make the donations. Simrad Marine Electronics and C.E. Smith Company Inc. were major contributors.

“Soldiers bring nothing and walk out of there with new TVs and trips to Florida,” Garry said. “Soldiers leave in disbelief, because it’s hard for them to grasp the fact that there’s no catch.”

Soldiers are mainly local to Long Island and work out of the airbase in the Hamptons, but many come from all over.

Ed Reiter, retired command chief master sgt. of the 106 Rescue Wing, Air National Guard, serves as the liaison.

“What the soldiers do is unbelievably generous,” Reiter said. “A lot of the soldiers are overwhelmed by the generosity and support.”

Jake DeLeo, a 16-year-old first mate, caught the winning fish, weighing more than six pounds, with help from Staff Sgt. Chris Arrigo from the 106th Rescue Wing, and his captain Tony Voelker.

“This event is really cool; it’s great what they do for the soldiers,” Deleo said. “The fish was big and flat, so it wouldn’t go in the net. I had to turn it sideways to finally get it in. Then we saw the rigging was stretched out and they could have lost the fish! The fish was so big they had to put it another cooler.”

It was both Voelker and DeLeo’s first year participating in Soldiers on the Sound.

Skip Hein is the only founding member of Soldiers on the Sound with a military background. He is a retired senior master sergeant who served in the U.S. Air Force and New York Air National Guard.

“Back in Vietnam, the public wasn’t really supportive of the military, so it’s just natural that I’d want to show my thanks to the military now,” Hein said.

The American Legion Riders from Greenlawn ride in the 2015 Memorial Day parade and honor a fallen soldier. Photo by Dan Woulfin
The Huntington Fire Department rides in the 2015 Memorial Day parade. Photo by Dan Woulfin
The Huntington Fire Department rides in the 2015 Memorial Day parade. Photo by Dan Woulfin

By Dan Woulfin

Huntington held its annual Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 25, and residents from all around watched their local veterans march down the street in honor of the American men and women of the armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, laying down their lives for freedom.

Firefighters, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and marching bands from local high schools and middle schools also marched in the parade alongside the veterans.

A scene from a previous “I Did The Grid” event in East Northport. Photo from Megan Scherer

By Julianne Cuba

This Memorial Day weekend, for the eighth year in a row, the streets of East Northport will be filled with joggers and walkers honoring the lives of fallen soldiers.

On May 23, the Cpl. Christopher G. Scherer memorial “I Did the Grid” four-mile competitive run, one-mile fun run and four-mile recreational run/walk honors the life of Chris Scherer and all men and women who gave their lives to serve the U.S. The run will begin at Pulaski Road Elementary in East Northport.

Scherer, who was a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, was born and raised in East Northport. He lost his life while serving in the province of Al Anbar in Iraq on July 21, 2007.

The late U.S. Marine Cpl. Chris Scherer. Photo from Megan Scherer
The late U.S. Marine Cpl. Chris Scherer. Photo from Megan Scherer

In his memory, the Scherer family started the Cpl. Christopher G. Scherer Semper Fi Fund, and on Memorial Day in 2008, held the first annual run to honor their son and all fallen warriors.

“Put your personal achievements away for the day and come to honor them [fallen soldiers] because it is Memorial Day weekend and that’s what we should be doing … take a little time to think about the men and women who have died serving our country and the families they left behind,” Scherer’s father Tim Scherer said.

Scherer said that his son was a great kid who loved life and wanted to help his fellow Marines. In their final phone call before his death, Scherer said his son asked him to send lighter boot socks that wouldn’t make him sweat as much. Just before he hung up, his son asked if he would be able to send socks for other Marines, too, because many didn’t have families.

The father said he sent out an email asking for contributions.

“It was just an email, I never thought I’d get anything, but in four days I had $2,500 to buy supplies for the troops, so we sent over 100 packages but he never got one of them … it was just heartbreaking.”

It was through his son’s own desire to help his fellow Marines that the Scherer family got the idea for the fund and run, he said.

Scherer said his son’s greatest quality was his loyalty for everything he loved — his family, his friends, his lacrosse team and the U.S. Marines.

“This is not just about Chris,” his father said. “The race is named after him but we run for over 6,800 fallen warriors … no service person is left behind. Everyone who has given their life is represented on Memorial Day, because that’s what Memorial Day is.”

Scherer said that instead of giving out awards, the run asks participants to look up the names of the four fallen soldiers on their bibs, from either Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. The bibs are given out before the run. Upon completion, each participant will ring a bell to signify that no fallen warrior would be forgotten, he said.

Meghan Scherer, the late Cpl. Scherer’s sister, also said that each year, they alternate giving out either a coin or pint glass, which were two of her brother’s favorite things.

“Challenge coins in the military are usually given when someone does something extraordinary, so we feel that they should receive a coin, because they’re doing something amazing by remembering these men and women,” she said.

His sister said she and her other siblings — an older brother, Tim, and twin sister, Kaitlin — were all always so close.

“Nobody ever picked on my sister or me because they knew Chris would always have our backs,” she said. “Chris would pick on us but it was never anybody else. We were always protected from the start and that’s what he did, he protected us as a Marine.”

Matt Baudier, 34, from Northport, was an Eagle Scout with Scherer and was his mentor for a few years, he said.

“As his mentor, he always looked up to me, but the day that he deployed, he became my hero,” he said.

Baudier said the run is a good way to honor Scherer and all fallen soldiers.

“One of our taglines is, ‘We run for those who stood for us,’” he said.