VFW member is committed to aiding fellow vets

VFW member is committed to aiding fellow vets

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Dennis Sullivan is a Man of the Year for selfless work

Dennis Sullivan blows a bugle at the 2011 Veterans Day Ceremony at the Centereach VFW post. File photo by Brittany Wait

By Mallika Mitra

As state surgeon of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in New York, Dennis Sullivan works hard to ensure that his fellow veterans are cared for.

Sullivan is also the quartermaster and financial officer of VFW Post 4927 in Centereach, which he joined in 1984. According to Richard Autorina, chaplain of the VFW post, Sullivan continuously displays “caring, compassion and commitment toward veterans.”

Sullivan visits Veterans Affairs hospitals and outpatient clinics to assist veterans with personal problems, and raises money to help veterans in emergency situations, Autorina said.

“Dennis was a great comfort to me as a parent,” when her son was deployed to Afghanistan with the Army, Councilwoman Kathleen Walsh said. According to Walsh, when her son returned, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury. Walsh said Sullivan helped her understand her son’s PTSD.

Sullivan mentored many young men coming back from having been deployed, Walsh said. When Sullivan visits veterans at VA hospitals, he also helps them fill out their forms and speed up their VA claims.

“Anything I can do for the veterans,” Sullivan said of his visits to VA hospitals.

For spending his time caring and advocating for veterans, Dennis Sullivan is a Man of the Year.

The VFW state surgeon is also the chairperson of Recycled Rides, a program that provides veterans with cars. According to Chris Senior, the owner of Crestwood Auto Body, insurance companies donate to the program cars that have been in accidents, stolen or were company cars. Then, auto body shops donate time and labor to fix the cars, companies donate car parts to assist in fixing the cars and Sullivan coordinates getting the cars to veterans.

“He is a selfless man,” Senior said of Sullivan. “He is always looking to help someone less fortunate than him.”

Ed Kizenberger, the executive director of Long Island Auto Body Repairmen’s Association, met Sullivan through the VFW when he was looking for a way to donate rides to those in need.

“He was very enthusiastic about helping,” Kizenberger said. “He is one of those people who is always happy to donate his time and resources to help others.”

Sullivan is also a member of the Veterans Review Board of the Long Island Home Builders Care Development Corp. A not-for-profit, the organization uses donations of land and dollars to build new homes for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Autorina, the organization has given away two homes and will be giving away five more in December to Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and their families. In June, Sullivan was on the panel of six VFW commanders who chose Marine Sgt. Ryan Donnelly to receive a new home.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) met Sullivan 11 years ago when Bishop was first elected to Congress. They worked together when Sullivan asked Bishop for funding to renovate the kitchen of the Centereach VFW building.

Now Sullivan is on Bishop’s Veterans Advisory Board, which reviews issues important to veterans. According to Krystyna Baumgartner, Bishop’s new communications director, the board is especially interested in legislation that deals with appropriations and protecting both active duty service members and veterans. The board advised the congressman on the REVAMP Act, which would create a grant program for veterans organizations, such as the VFW, to receive up to $250,000 to renovate their halls, Baumgartner said.

Because Sullivan is so active in VFW affairs across the state — traveling throughout the state to help veterans — the two have worked on similar projects and events, said Bishop, who described himself as lucky to be able to call Sullivan a friend.

This year, state Sen. John Flanagan inducted Sullivan into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame. Sullivan was honored for his service to the United States during the Vietnam War and his continued commitment to his fellow veterans since the end of his service.

According to Autorina, after Hurricane Sandy, Sullivan visited VFW posts on Long Island and spoke to veterans who were victims of the hurricane. He raised and distributed $148,000 to more than 350 veterans and ladies auxiliary members, Autorina said.

“Dennis is just a phone call away of anyone in need,” Autorina said. “If he can’t help them, he will go out of his way to find the right person for each situation.”