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VFW Post 3054

Somber day marked with wreath-laying event

By Heidi Sutton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Heidi Sutton

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Photo from VFW Post 3054

Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars East Setauket Post 3054 are beginning to see the results of working together with the community and elected officials.

The women’s bathroom before renovations at Post 3054. Photo from David Tracy

A year after post members began fundraising to help renovate their headquarters, which is at least 90 years old, they have been able to check a few items off their to-do list. Post Commander Jay Veronko credits not only the post’s fundraisers at Country Corner, Madiran and Prohibition Kitchen, but also contributions from community groups and the help of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

“We got some money rolling in now, and we’re putting that money back into the building,” Veronko said.

With funds raised, the post members have been able to replace the hood over the range in the kitchen and make the women’s bathroom an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restroom. They also installed a new fire system.

The post commander said several donations gave the post a head start, including $15,000 from Facebook group Three Village Dads raised at their August golf outing, a $30,000 grant from the Rommel Wilson Memorial Fund and a $10,000 state grant with the help of Englebright. Local businesses also donated supplies.

David Tracy, of Three Village Dads, said the partnership with the post began when the members wanted to raise money for a good cause. He said a few members now belong to the post. Members of the Facebook group, which recently became a nonprofit, assisted in the demolition and renovation, while 3VD members Mike Kinney did the plumbing, Chris and John Prussen of South Setauket-based JP Electric worked on the electricity and Tommy Raftery, along with his crew from Stony Brook-based Elite Home Improvement Services, undertook the majority of the rebuild.

Before the bathroom renovation, the space had two stalls and a different layout which made it hard to maneuver a wheelchair. It now has been made roomier and has a grab bar by the toilet, a wider door and an ADA-compliant sink. Veronko said Old Country Ceramic Tile in Port Jefferson Station donated all the tiles.

Hahn said it’s important to have an ADA-compliant bathroom as veterans age so they can still visit the post.

“That’s an important step that they took to make it accessible,” she said. 

Hahn coordinated a visit with local trade union representatives to the post more than a year ago. She said many local skilled laborers want to volunteer and use their skills to help veterans, which helps defray costs. The tour led the Sheet Metal Workers International Local 28 to build a custom range hood in the kitchen.

In the future, Veronko said, the post members hope to renovate the windows, floors and bar.

Renovations to the women’s bathroom in Post 3054 have made it ADA-compliant for all to use. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Englebright said the renovations to the building are important, and he was glad to help with the state grant as the members are generous with their time. He said the post is fundamental to the community, especially when it comes to continuing the tradition of the Memorial Day parade in East Setauket.

“One of the great events is the Memorial Day parade and at the end of each parade many of the marchers work their way back to this site,” he said. “It is a celebration of the day that takes place there with many of our veterans hosting anyone in the community who may want to have a hot dog and a soda.”

Veronko said the hope is that one day the post, which in addition to the Memorial Day parade hosts the Veterans Day memorial service and the fall chicken barbecue fundraiser, will be able to organize more community events like farmers markets. He added the 3VD hold their monthly meetings at the post, and the building is available for community and other veterans groups to meet.

Veronko said the renovations are needed for more than updating a historic structure. 

“The building needed updating absolutely, but we’re doing it for the next generation because we’re going to have a lot of Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans at some point,” he said. “I think there’s probably more of them than Vietnam vets that are eligible for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.”

The post will be holding another fundraiser March 14 at Country Corner in East Setauket from 4 to 8 p.m. For more information visit www.post3054.com.

Donations can also be sent to 8 Jones Street, Setauket, NY 11733.

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Photo from VFW Post 3054

Three Village veterans are hoping the community will stop by the pub Country Corner Saturday, March 2, for a fundraiser to benefit their Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3054 are hosting a fundraiser March 2 to renovate parts of their Jones Street building. Photo from VFW Post 3054

Michael Salemi, vice commander of VFW East Setauket Post 3054, said money raised that day will go toward much needed renovations of the post’s building located on Jones Street. Admission to the fundraiser will include food and one beer, and there will be raffles with prizes donated by local businesses.

Salemi said, in the past, the post has raised money for fellow veterans, especially at local homes, but recently they needed to concentrate on gathering funds for work on their post building. The group raised $2,800 during a Feb. 5 fundraiser at Madiran The Wine Bar.

“This past fundraiser at the wine bar and this one coming up at Country Corner, it kind of helps get ourselves squared away,” he said, adding once they complete renovations they can return to raising money for local veterans.

Quartermaster Jay Veronko said the post is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year with the Jones Street building being approximately 90 years old. Historian Carlton “Hub” Edwards said he remembers attending Setauket High School, which housed first to 12th grade, on Jones Street in the 1940s when the current VFW building was used by the school for gym, carpentry classes and school fundraisers. He said for years it was referred to as the scout house because a Boy Scout troop used it as a meeting place.

Veronko said even though the building has been renovated over the years, the post members are hoping to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and general renovations are needed, especially in the kitchen and women’s bathroom. The post has no income, Veronko said, as they are conservative about renting out the house for parties to the general public due to it being located in a residential area.

The quartermaster said the members were appreciative of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) who recently coordinated a visit with local trade union representatives to the post. Hahn said it was during a visit to a VFW post in Medford that she learned that sometimes trade unions donate their time to renovate VFW posts, and many local skilled laborers want to volunteer and use their skills to help veterans, which helps defray the cost of labor.

Hahn said she recognizes the appreciation residents feel for veterans, and believes they feel it’s important local posts have what they need to continue serving vets.

“I’m just trying to help however I can as a reflection of what I know is strong support from our community as a whole,” she said. “It’s everyone’s duty to help a little bit these folks who gave so much.”

Veronko said the hope is that one day the post, which hosts the East Setauket Memorial Day Parade and Veterans Day memorial service, as well as a fall chicken barbecue fundraiser, will be able to organize more community events like flea or farmers markets.

“We’ve been part of the community for a long time,” he said. “We try to be a good neighbor, and we’re trying to reach out a little bit more.”

Country Corner is located at 270 Main St., Setauket. The fundraiser begins at 4 p.m. March 2, and admission is $30 per person. For those unable to attend the event and would like to contribute, donations can be sent to the post at 8 Jones St., East Setauket, NY 11733.