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Honoring veterans with a luncheon in Hewlett

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“It’s important that we don’t forget about our veterans,” New Horizon Counseling Community Relations Coordinators Audrey Goodman said.

There were 14 American military veterans and their families at the St. Joseph’s R.C. Church gymnasium in Hewlett for a luncheon on Nov. 4 for an early Veterans Day celebration organized by the Valley Stream-based New Horizon Counseling Center and the Lynbrook Restorative Therapy & Nursing Center.

Veterans Day is observed on Nov. 11 and honors veterans who have served in the United States armed forces. It was once Armistice Day and marked the end of World War I. The veterans in attendance served in WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars and Operation Desert Storm. The luncheon included a panel with six veterans who discussed the importance of recognizing their fellow veterans.

Inwood resident Emanuel “Totz” Poretta was on the panel. He served in the Marines as a rifleman during the Korean War. He noted that WWII veterans should be appreciated on a greater level. “If you see a World War II veteran, you should make sure you take the time to thank them,” Poretta said. “Unfortunately, as the years pass, the number of living World War II veterans are decreasing.” The Veterans Administration estimates that within 20 years, there will be no living veterans of WWII.

Harry Hansen is a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3350 of East Rockaway member Harry Hansen was also on the panel. He served in the Marines during the Vietnam War. Hansen called Poretta his “brother” though they were in the Marines roughly 20 years apart.

Hansen noted the issue of homeless veterans on Long Island and across the country. “There are thousands of veterans across the country that are homeless. That is unacceptable,” Hansen said. “That number should be zero.” According to the federal Department of Housing and Development, the number of homeless veterans on Long Island declined to 135 from 141 from 2017 to 2018.

Longtime Oceanside resident Jerry Stone was one of the World War II veterans in attendance. He was appreciative of the recognition he’s received in his life. “It’s been great having people thank me for my service over the years,” Stone said. “I never expected the appreciation, I just looked at serving as doing my job.”

Denise Walsh, community liaison for Lynbrook Restorative Therapy & Nursing Center, helped coordinate the luncheon. “I’m always amazed seeing how the audience responds to our veterans panel,” Walsh said. “I love seeing the veterans in the audience participate and detail their experience of serving.”