Tags Posts tagged with "Veterans"


The LoRusso boys. Photo courtesy of Rich Acritelli

By Rich Acritelli

Monday, May 27, is Memorial Day, which remembers all of those service members who were lost for the defense of America. It was created after the Civil War as Decoration Day to honor the lost Americans from both sides of this terrible conflict. Whereas our citizens fought in additional wars, it was originally recognized on every May 30, but it was changed in 1971 for the last Monday of May. As Americans will surely enjoy the warmer weather, this is a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day. 

Many of these memories are on display at the exhibit picture Wall of Honor at the VFW Post 6249 Suffolk County World War II and Military History Museum. There are a multitude of different pictures and military experiences from our local veterans. 

Frank Asselta

Rocky Point native Frank Asselta was taught by Joseph Edgar and enjoyed playing soccer, basketball and baseball. Graduating from Port Jefferson High School in 1963, Asselta attended Suffolk County Community College to earn his associates degree. In 1965, directly after graduation, he was drafted into the Army and attended basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. By 1966, he was deployed to South Vietnam as an infantry combat medic and he observed the massive escalation of this war to oppose the strength of the North Vietnamese Army and the Vietcong. Asselta was wounded in combat and he received the Bronze Star for his duel capacities of fighting the enemy and treating his own men under the duress of warfare.

Exposed to graphic warfare that resulted in fighting that never left him for the rest of his life, Asselta suffers from PTSD that he has managed for his entire adult life. This Sunday, May 26, Asselta is the driving force behind the annual VFW Post 6249 PTSD 5K Race at Rocky Point High School at 11 a.m. Asselta believes “all members of the Armed Forces who have been in combat need to be properly supported by our citizens. This run is a reminder to take care of all veterans who battle the difficulties of PTSD and I am proud of this mission to never forget about those veterans who are forced to deal with this condition.” The post’s Cmdr. Joe Cognitore marvels at the “immense energy” that Asselta displays on a daily basis to ensure the success of this race to care for our local veterans. 

Charles Pisano

Another infantry combat medic was a physical kid from Smithtown who was an extremely talented wrestler within Suffolk County and New York state. Charles Pisano was sent to South Vietnam and saw the powerful enemy buildup and their battlefield presence from 1968-69. He is one of the highest decorated medics to have served during the Vietnam War for the U.S. Army. Pisano for his immense time in the field was awarded the Combat Medic Badge, Army Commendation Medal with Valor, the Army Air Medal for 50 missions in the field, two Bronze Stars for Valor, the Silver Star and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for continually saving wounded American soldiers.

During every Memorial Day, Pisano’s prayers are always for those comrades who were killed from the Vietnam War. His daughter Jamie, a social studies and special education teacher at Rocky Point High School, recalls that “from a young age, my dad always made sure I understood how important Memorial Day was to honor our soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for America.” This family has devotedly assisted guide dogs who help blind veterans and those that are suffering from PTSD.

Nicholas LoRusso

Graduating Rocky Point High School in 2003, Nicholas LoRusso was a captain of the lacrosse team and a talented wrestler. He is one of four brothers to have attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In January, LoRusso, a military combat engineer, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and he has been in the active army for 17 years. He is married to Tricia with two kids, Madison and Cole, and has moved eight times during his career. LoRusso served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and taught at West Point. 

During the height of the War on Terror, LoRusso vividly recalled his time in uniform, “I have classmates that were killed in combat within the first 12 to 18 months of service after we graduated. I served in units that have lost people. Ramp ceremonies on Bagram Airfield and memorials on combat outposts and forward operating bases in the mountains of Afghanistan are burned in my memory. I get to see, hug, laugh and share moments with my family and friends, and those we remember on Memorial Day are unable to do so. There are children, mothers, fathers and siblings missing a piece of them. Mine are not. These are things I think about on Memorial Day and it makes me cherish what I have. Those we remember on Memorial Day stood up, said ‘Send me,’ and unfortunately didn’t come back. I am honored to have served among these brave and selfless people and I hope the service I have continued in the military and the life I am living is worthy of the lives they gave up for our nation.”

Kevin LoRusso

The LoRussos represent the multitude of American families who have sent many family members abroad. Kevin LoRusso was an artillery officer who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, where he fought in Mazār-e Sharīf. Like his older brother, he reflects on friends that he served with and recognizes Memorial Day as “a time I remember West Point classmates that have paid the sheer sacrifice while protecting this nation. Recently, a good friend Steve Dwyer was my lacrosse teammate at the West Point Preparatory School. He was a helicopter pilot who was killed with his crew on a training mission, leaving behind his wife and three young boys. As I spend time with my friends and family, I will be fondly thinking about my military friends who are no longer with us today.”

Gregory Monz

An all-around good kid who graduated from Rocky Point in 2005, Gregory Monz was a tough kid who was the first All-County football player for this high school. Before shipping out, Monz could be seen carrying a full ruck sack of rocks to prepare for his training. He descends from a family that has supported the defense of America over the last several decades and continued this military tradition during the height of the War on Terror.

  A corrections officer, Monz is married with a growing family of his own. He believes “Memorial Day for myself is exactly what this day is supposed to be about — remembering. I want to instill the same respect for our fallen warriors to my sons as my parents have taught me. I take my four sons to Calverton National Cemetery to help place American flags at every headstone. As a veteran, Memorial Day is a quiet day for myself. Many thoughts replay a bit more about my brothers I served with, not only about those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but also the ones who could not move on stateside. To this date I have lost more Marines to PTSD than overseas. We must do better and we also must remember them.”

Never forget

May this nation never forget about those lost veterans from all national defense conflicts and situations. Thank you to those current Armed Forces members who still operate in harm’s way that are determined to support this nation on Memorial Day. And may we always show appreciation to those current veterans who are out of uniform that have made our people proud of their services to support the citizens and ideals of this great country.

Memorial Day is a solemn occasion, a time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. We pay our respects at cemeteries, hold parades and fly the flag at half-staff. But as we honor the fallen, let’s not forget the living veterans who carry the weight of their service.

Memorial Day can be a springboard for a broader conversation about supporting our veterans. New York State, Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven all offer a range of programs that address veterans needs, from health care and education to mental health services and job training. Here’s a breakdown of some of the resources available:

New York State:

● NYS Department of Veterans’ Services: The DVS is a one-stop shop for veterans, offering benefits that include counseling, education assistance, employment programs and more. Call 888-838-7697 or visit NYS Department of Veterans’ Services website at veterans.ny.gov to learn more.

● Benefits for Veterans and Families: The NYS Veterans Bill of Rights ensures priority in employment and training programs. Explore details on the New York State Assembly website at nyassembly.gov.

Suffolk County: 

● Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency: The VS agency provides veterans with a variety of services, including benefits assistance, health care navigation, and referrals to mental health resources. Reach out at 631-853-8387.

Town of Brookhaven:

● Brookhaven Division of Veterans Services: The department offers support with benefit claims, honors veterans through ceremonies and maintains a food pantry specifically for veterans and their families. Call the veterans service officer at 631-451-6574.

Beyond government agencies:

● Veterans Service Organizations: These national organizations, like the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, provide camaraderie, advocacy and social events for veterans. Local chapters often offer additional resources. Find a VSO near you through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website at www.va.gov.

This is not an exhaustive list. Many local charities and organizations offer programs specifically tailored to veterans needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your local veteran service agency or VSO chapter for further guidance.

But government programs can only go so far. We, as a community, need to step up as well. Let’s reach out to veterans in our neighborhoods, check in on their well-being and offer a helping hand. Simple acts of kindness can go a long way in showing our appreciation for their service. Memorial Day should extend throughout the whole year.

A time honored tradition for Memorial Day, Long Island National Cemetery, 2040 Wellwood Ave., Farmingdale seeks volunteers to place American flags on veteran’s graves on May 25 at 8 a.m. and to return to the cemetery on June 1 at 8 a.m. to remove the flags. No registration required. For more info, call 631-454-4949.

Volunteers are also needed to place flags at Calverton National Cemetery, 210 Princeton BLvd., Calverton on May 25 at 9:30 a.m. and to pick up the flags on June 1 at 9:30 a.m. and roll them up in bundles of 20 so they can be put into storage for the following year. Rain date is June 2. To register, contact Frank Bailey at [email protected] or call 631-732-4529.


Veterans gather at the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University on March 29. Photos by Rich Acritelli

By Rich Acritelli

On March 29, 51 years after the last American troops were withdrawn from South Vietnam and the acknowledged prisoners of war were released by Hanoi, the war officially ended. 

The Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University held a symbolic Remembrance Day for Vietnam War residents, family members and local veteran organizations. After a special invocation by Rabbi Joseph Topek and the presentation of the colors by Rocky Point VFW Post 6249, the packed audience remained on their feet for The Star-Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Patriotism was personified by longtime Executive Director Fred Sganga who has cared for many veterans since 9/11 as he presented a hearty “Welcome Home.”

In 1975, two years after American troops pulled out, South Vietnam was finally defeated by the communist regime in North Vietnam. Today there are an estimated 610,000 living Vietnam War veterans who arrived home originally to open hostility toward their military efforts. This generation of veterans faced over 58,000 killed and there are over 1,500 missing in action from this war. 

On May 28, 2012, during a Memorial Day ceremony, President Barack Obama (D) mandated the National Vietnam War Veterans Day and in 2017 President Donald Trump (R) signed it into a federally recognized moment to fully honor Vietnam veterans. 

Many local Vietnam veterans were in attendance to help honor their comrades. 

Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) from the 4th Legislative District spoke about the military experiences of his family in numerous conflicts. As a chairman of the Suffolk County Veterans Committee, he identified the devotion of these local veterans who served in Vietnam and their generous efforts to support veterans’ causes. 

Since 9/11, groups like VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point and the Suffolk County Chapter of Vietnam Veterans have aided War on Terror veterans at home and overseas. They have organized Wounded Warrior golf outings, PTSD 5K runs, provided their posts for family military reunions, speaking at schools and have created patriotic memorials. 

As Suffolk contains the largest number of veterans in New York state and the second largest in the United States, their goal is to provide significant support toward our many local armed forces members.

A Marine Corps major who is a decorated Purple Heart recipient and a current reservist is 6th District county Legislator Chad Lennon (R-Rocky Point). He echoed the feelings of Caracappa and fully recognized the sacrifices in South Vietnam. Lennon identified the shameful treatment of these veterans and said, “This generation of veterans, not only fought battles in Vietnam but also at home. They were spat on and discarded as less than other Americans. However, they took those experiences and made changes that allowed future generations to be properly welcomed home.”

A resident of Port Jefferson Station, and now Bayport, military advocate Richard Kitson spoke about the two wars that Vietnam veterans faced overseas and at home. After this Marine Corps mortarman returned home to Levittown, his younger brother John at 19 years old enlisted into the Marines and was killed in action in South Vietnam. 

Understanding the early national, local and family heartache that is still felt by many of these veterans, Kitson spoke about the Vietnam veterans who served 240 days in the field, one out of 10 were casualties, and 97% received honorable discharges. He told an astonished crowd that many of these veterans who were from low-income families earned high school and college diplomas. 

Kitson described these southeastern Asia veterans as trailblazers who have fought for the expanded rights of veterans. From his earliest adult years, Kitson has always helped other veterans, spearheaded the Vietnam War memorial at Bald Hill, is a senior figure at Northport VA Medical Center and continues to help those men and women who have become afflicted with Agent Orange. 

Speaking on behalf of VFW Post 6249, “Lieutenant” Dan Guida was an armor commander during the heavy fighting in Vietnam. A daily volunteer at this veteran’s home, Guida addressed his “comrades” about the hardships that Americans absorbed against the enemy and at home. Like most of the veterans in this program, Guida observed that only family members and friends understood the early challenges of Vietnam veterans. Armed with a big smile, Guida constantly supports this facility with an unyielding friendship to care for residents with PTSD. Directly after Guida spoke, all the residents had their names called out, where they received applause and praise for their time in Vietnam.

On March 22, Guida helped Cmdr. Joe Cognitore of VFW Post 6249 create the first-ever veterans affairs workshop. 

Agencies from all over Long Island spoke to veterans about key services and programs that are provided to them and their families. A Vietnam veteran and a platoon sergeant who fought in Cambodia in 1970, Cognitore has been one of the most vocal local, state and veterans advocates over the last several decades. Since the First Gulf War, Cognitore has been a vital pillar of support and a source of information to help aid veterans of all ages. 

At the end of this ceremony, VFW Post 6249 retired the colors at this endearing program to “Welcome Home” our Vietnam veterans some 51 years after the last Americans pulled out of South Vietnam.

Rocky Point VFW rally for veteran funding on Feb. 1. Photo courtesy Office of Senator Anthony Palumbo

By Nasrin Zahed

State Sens. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Mario Mattera (R-St. James), alongside state Assemblymembers Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) and Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson), joined forces Thursday, Feb. 1, with local veteran groups to demand the prompt distribution of over $1 million in taxpayer donations destined for veteran organizations. 

The urgency of this allocation is underscored by the critical need to support veterans, particularly those requiring continuous care, through funds earmarked for state veterans homes.

The press conference, held at the Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249, served as a platform to amplify the voices advocating for the dissemination of these funds. In addition to the elected officials in attendance were Bob Smith, chairman of the Long Island State Veterans Home Advisory Board, and Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249 and a member of the LISVH Advisory Board, along with other local veterans and groups.

At the heart of the matter lies the delay in distributing approximately $410,000 allocated for state veterans homes, essential for providing round-the-clock care to veterans in need. Palumbo, recognizing the urgency of the situation, had previously taken action by issuing a formal letter to Amanda Hiller, acting tax commissioner and general counsel of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, urging for the expedited allocation of these donations.

During the press conference, Palumbo emphasized the moral obligation to allocate these funds, stating, “Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and it is our duty to ensure they receive the care and support they need without delay.” His sentiments were echoed by Giglio and Flood, who reaffirmed their commitment to advocating for the timely distribution of these crucial resources.

Smith continued the conversation, emphasizing the tangible impact of these funds on the lives of veterans, noting that every moment of delay translates to missed opportunities to provide essential care and services.

Cognitore expressed his gratitude, saying, “It was unbelievable, they went above and beyond their duty and our cause in representing us.”


Dorothy Cavalier, left, and Chad Lennon debate for Suffolk County’s 6th Legislative District. Photo by Raymond Janis

Two lawyers are vying to succeed incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) who is term limited.

Dorothy Cavalier (D-Mount Sinai), Anker’s chief of staff, is running to fill her boss’ seat against Chad Lennon (R-Rocky Point), a congressional aide to U.S. Congressman Nick LaLota (R-NY1).

In a debate at the TBR office spanning over an hour and a half, the two candidates presented their respective visions for the county’s 6th Legislative District, which covers the Town of Brookhaven’s northeastern hamlets from Mount Sinai to Wading River, extending as far south as Middle Country Road.


Cavalier has been a practicing attorney for two-and-a-half decades, working across the legal spectrum in such areas as personal injury, criminal defense and family law, among others. She was a traffic court prosecutor before entering Anker’s office in 2019.

Since entering county government, she said she has worked at “handling every aspect of the office,” from staff management, constituent services, drafting resolutions, reviewing the budget and advising the incumbent.

“I’m running for this seat because, for me, this is the next logical step,” she said. “I’ve come to love the job that I’m doing. I want to continue taking care of the constituents in the community that I raised my kids in and that I love.”

Lennon is a major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. He did four years of active-duty service, with combat deployment to Afghanistan, where he led over 50 combat missions.

In his professional life, he is an attorney at Tully Rinckey, specializing in military law, veterans law, security clearance representation and federal employment law.

“It’s all about service for me,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for 15 years and want to continue to do it.”


This year’s 6th District election comes at a time of countywide contention over the future of its wastewater infrastructure. Earlier this year, Republicans in the county Legislature blocked introducing a 1/8-penny sales tax to the November ballot, which, if passed, would have created a fund for innovative/advanced septic systems and sewers.

Lennon pointed to perceived deficiencies within the Water Quality Restoration Act, contending that too small a share of the revenue would have supported sewers.

“Right now, the problem is that three-quarters of that money is going to go to IA systems, and one-quarter is going to go to sewer systems,” he said. “We have hundreds of millions of dollars in shovel-ready projects to get sewer systems. That’s going to create more jobs, cleaner water and more affordable housing.”

Responding, Cavalier said she believed the proposed sales tax should have gone out for a public vote this November.

“The one-eighth of a penny in increased sales tax I don’t think is a burden,” she said. “It’s something that we should have given the people a choice on, whether to do that or not. Really, they just took the choice away from the people.”

She added that sewers are “not going to be a viable option” for much of the county, maintaining that IA systems are more likely to be implemented within the 6th District as well.

Economic development

Throughout the 6th District, commercial corridors are increasingly experiencing vacant storefronts and economic stagnation. Asked for the mechanisms the county can use to introduce public investment into struggling commercial districts, Cavalier touted the work she has done within the district office.

“We’ve worked with the Department of Economic Development and created a small business website so people interested in small business” can access grants and learn to finance their small business operations.

She advocated for creating a county department for prospective small business owners, who can receive advice to help tailor their business plans.

“I think we need to do more than just a job fair,” she said, saying the county could assist entrepreneurs by getting them on their path toward opening a business.

Lennon advocated hardening the built environment across commercial districts such as Sound Beach and Rocky Point, which he said are susceptible to flooding.

“Right where those downtown areas are, they can be really affected by four weekends in a row of heavy rain,” he said. “That could affect the businesses because if they get flooded, they get ruined, and when one business goes in that downtown district, it can have a cascading effect.”

Along with infrastructure improvements, he said the county must establish incentives not merely to introduce new businesses but to encourage them to stay in the area.

“We need to make sure that we incentivize businesses to stay with us,” Lennon said, endorsing the suspension of the county energy tax, which can eat away at proprietors’ bottom lines.


The county is also experiencing a regional flight of seniors and young people who are becoming priced out due to the high cost of living.

Lennon identified several tax categories he would “suspend right away,” such as energy, mortgage, gas and some property taxes.

“We need to look at our first responders, such as our firefighters, and see if we can give them some type of incentive to stay here as well as our parents and grandparents — anyone 70 years and above,” he said.

Cavalier said the county could support seniors and youth by promoting affordable housing investments. “I think that we really need to take a look at how to make it more affordable for our children, our seniors and for our veterans to stay here and retire here,” she noted.

The Democratic candidate also cited vacant strip plazas as a possible destination for mixed-use redevelopment. “We have a lot of commercial buildings and office space that maybe we can consolidate,” she suggested. She added that cutting back existing taxes and reinstituting the county’s task force for retired veterans are necessary policy solutions.

Pedestrian safety

Cavalier suggested a civic-oriented approach to identifying areas for new sidewalk projects. She prided herself on the North Shore Rail Trail, noting that pedestrian safety along the trail remains a continual work in progress.

She suggested that state Route 25 and pockets along 25A have created a public safety hazard. She backed “working with [New York State] to try to get a light on 25A” to stop the speeding from Oakland Avenue to Miller Place Road.

Lennon supported greater coordination between the county and the Brookhaven Highway Department to construct new sidewalks and expand bike lanes.

“The problem that we have is that a lot of the main roads are state owned, and to get anything changed — for instance, having traffic lights put up — the state has to come in, recommend a study and do a change,” he indicated. “The state’s not even coming in right now, so we need to work with our state partners in the Assembly and the Senate.”

Veteran services

The 6th District is unique for its concentration of veterans. An area of focus for Lennon, he outlined a multipronged vision for bringing more veterans in touch with the existing benefits available to them. “The biggest thing is information,” he said. “Who do I speak to, and how do we get it to them?”

He noted that introducing veterans to union jobs and enrolling them in college programs on Long Island would be steps in the right direction.

To continue to support the veterans within the district, Cavalier said the county could lend a hand in coordinating with veterans groups and creating housing opportunities for homeless veterans.

She said there are various services and programs tailored for veterans that many do not realize exist. “We really need to not only strengthen those services, but we need to get the information out there that they exist,” she said.

Quality of life

Cavalier identified public safety as a top quality-of-life concern for 6th District residents. She expanded those public safety concerns to fears over environmental degradation and roadway safety. Summarizing her local priorities, she said, “For me, it’s public safety, it’s affordability and it’s traffic safety.”

Lennon agreed with Cavalier on public safety and the cost of living in the area. But he cited the ongoing migrant crisis within New York state as problematic for Suffolk County.

“We don’t have the infrastructure” to support new migrants, he said, identifying potential shortages of teachers and a lack of available resources. “You can’t just say we’re going to dump hundreds if not thousands of people into this county and think it’s going to be successful.”

District 6 voters will have the final say on these two candidates. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Scene from SailAhead's Let's Take A Veteran Sailing event on Aug. 13.

It was a spectacular sunny & breezy day for SailAhead’s Let’s Take A Veteran Sailing event hosted by Centerport Yacht Club (CYC) on Sunday, August 13. Thanks to CYC Officers, staff and over 100 volunteers on 35 boats with skippers & crews, all 140 veterans and guests had a memorable afternoon sailing on Long Island Sound to raise awareness for PTSD and veteran suicides.

Photos by Joan Gallo, Martha Keller & Jenny Duclay

Above, organizers outside the planned veterans museum in Rocky Point. From left, museum curator Rich Acritelli, VFW Post 6249 Cmdr. Joe Cognitore and museum committee member Frank Lombardi. Photo by Raymond Janis

Later this year, members of the Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249 will launch a museum showcasing the lives and legacies of local vets.

Each of us has been touched by a veteran. Whether they are our family members, friends or remote acquaintances, American veterans have given much of themselves so that we may enjoy our freedoms.

After completing their military service at home and abroad, many have returned to Long Island to build up and enrich our community. Their examples of duty and sacrifice can offer powerful insight for civilian life. Now, our vets aspire to continue their service by educating us on the trials of war.

At TBR News Media, we uphold the adage that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. We also regret the anti-historical narrative sweeping our contemporary culture.

If we are to strive for peace, we must learn from war. If we are to endure as a community and nation, we must confront our history forthrightly.

Veterans can teach us — especially our youth — some of life’s most important lessons: How can the veteran experience inform our understanding of mental health and trauma? What can the confrontation with death teach us about life? What is the meaning of sacrifice? 

Our service members are an untapped fountain of history and wisdom. They possess firsthand knowledge of some of our nation’s most important events. We must hear these stories. But to get there, we must first lend a hand.

The curators of the Rocky Point veterans museum are actively soliciting donations. Whether by contributing monetarily, sending military gear or books or volunteering our time to build out the facility, we can all do our part to assist in this noble endeavor.

Long Island’s veterans have served our nation courageously, and this museum will soon stand as the next iteration in their long line of service. 

Let us channel and honor their example. May we, too, answer the call by showing our appreciation and sharing the stories of our local veterans. 

To learn more or how to donate, please contact the museum’s curator, Rich Acritelli, at [email protected].

Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Alese, left, with Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker. Photo courtesy Anker’s office

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) presented a proclamation to Sgt. Jessica Alese, the 6th Legislative District’s nominee for Women Veterans Appreciation Day on Wednesday, July 26.

“It was an honor today to recognize Sgt. Alese,” Anker said. “Throughout her service, she has demonstrated bravery, leadership and loyalty to her country and her soldiers. Thank you, Sgt. Alese, for your invaluable service, and thank you to our women veterans everywhere.”

Alese joined the Army National Guard in 2009 and is now a Sgt. 1st class. She toured Iraq, was stationed in Guantanamo Bay and took part in Operation Shared Accord to train with the South African National Defense Force. 

Since 2020, she has worked in the Drug Demand Outreach Program to reduce drug abuse and addiction rates among youth and veterans across Long Island. Alese also spends her time mentoring, training and supporting her fellow soldiers. 

For more information, contact Anker’s office at 631-854-1600. 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Nick Caracappa shake hands during signing ceremony. Photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

A countywide housing initiative recently got a bit sweeter for veterans and people with disabilities.

Public officials, veterans and disability advocates together with community members gathered Friday, June 9, at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, where Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) ceremonially signed two landmark pieces of legislation.

U.S. Census Bureau data indicates Suffolk County is home to over 56,000 veterans, the highest concentration of any county across New York state and among the highest in the nation. The census also indicates that 6.1% of the county’s 1.5 million residents are with a disability under 65.

Under the new local laws passed unanimously by the Suffolk County Legislature last December and signed officially by Bellone in January, funds and housing units will now be set aside to accommodate veterans and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We are committed to, in this county, making sure that everyone in our community is included,” Bellone said during the recent ceremony.

Legislator Leslie Kennedy speaks during the signing ceremony event. Photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

The two bipartisan legislative packages were introduced by Majority Leader Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) and Legislators Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) and Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), among others.

Caracappa, who chairs the county’s Veterans & Consumer Affairs Committee, noted the sizable veteran and disabled populations, suggesting the county is pursuing a proper course for these historically underserved communities.

“We have far too many veterans on our streets [who are] homeless,” he said. “We have far too many individuals, family members, neighbors, friends with disabilities who are willing, able, ready for a life of independence and dignity.”

Kennedy decried the lack of initiative across all levels of government in supporting these demographics. “We would be nowhere without our veterans, and we have done so little to assist them as life goes on,” she said. “This is us moving forward.”

The county legislator added, “For those with impaired abilities, they deserve to live on their own.”

Trish Calandra of Wading River, in an emotional address, shared the story of her two children with autism, who are both now living on their own.

“To see them living this great life was something I really needed to help others achieve,” she said. “There’s still more to do. We need to get this across this state. We need to get this across this country. We have so many people who need assistance and need help.”

At podium, Tom Ronayne, director of Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency. Photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

Tom Ronayne, director of Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency, celebrated the legislation, noting that Suffolk County has “set the bar high.”

“For the people who are most directly affected by what is happening here today, their lives are changed profoundly,” he said. “They can lay down and go to sleep knowing that they have a safe, affordable place to live and that tomorrow will not challenge them in the ways that yesterday may have.”

He concluded, “Welcome to Suffolk County because this is how we do it here.”