Veterans spend years of their lives serving their communities and the country — how can we follow their example? More than 100 people who gathered in the auditorium of Malverne High School on Sunday pondered that question as, one by one, 23 veterans from Long Island were honored with citations and applause.
The event, organized by State Sen. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, recognized the contributions made by local heroes that too often go unsung. Some honorees were in their 40s; others were senior citizens who were escorted to the podium. Still others had died years ago, and family members accepted their certificates on their behalf.
“We need to stop and remember those veterans who have given so much to our country,” Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said. “It’s important so we can learn their stories, learn about their sacrifice, and learn about how they have given so much to serve our country.”
Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick herself is from a family of veterans. Her grandfather saw combat in World War I. Her father was on active duty during the Korean War. The ceremony, she said, gave her a new level of appreciation for her family’s service.
The crowd manifested pride in the veterans in their lives — spouses beamed tearfully when their husband’s or wife’s name was called; adult children stood to take pictures of their parent being recognized; toddlers in American flag sweaters giggled and entertained delighted families.
And the attendees’ pride wasn’t limited to the loved ones they came to celebrate. Every honoree was greeted with enthusiastic applause. There was a shared understanding that each one had served and sacrificed.
Malverne Mayor Tim Sullivan and other elected officials expressed their gratitude to the local heroes. “The unbelievable experiences, both in and out of service to our country, both abroad and locally, really touched my heart,” Sullivan said. “The small ceremony here today is the least that we can do for you.”
He implored the attendees to get involved in local American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, to raise money for service dogs, to participate in local food drives — to serve, in one way or another, and be proud of it.
“Fly your flag with pride,” Sullivan said. “Because you can serve the people that we are honoring today, in honor of their service to us.”
Michael A. Valente
Michael Anthony Valente, Medal of Honor recipient and longtime resident of the City of Long Beach. died Jan. 10, 1976 at the age of 80. In every aspect of his life, he exemplified the very finest. He was a beloved husband and proud father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He was also an exemplary American citizen, heroic soldier, and friend to all Long Beach residents.
Born in St. Apollinare, Italy, Michael immigrated to America in 1913 through Ellis Island in search of a better life. He had only been in the country three years when he entered Company D of the New York National Guard, a decision that would lead him to the trenches of World War I France. On September 29, 1918, his unit was suffering heavy casualties in its assault against the Hindenburg Line. Infuriated by the losses, he decided to volunteer to go forward and assault the enemy machine gun nest that was pinning them down, and he became the first soldier to break through the “unbreakable” Hindenburg Line. For his heroism, he was cited for the Congressional Medal of Honor, which was presented to him by President Herbert Hoover in 1929. He was the only Italian-American to receive it in World War I.
Once he settled in Long Beach, he became a fixture who led the Memorial Day Parade. He served on the Draft Board during World War II, was a realtor and building contractor, and was City Marshall of the city that he loved. He was a humble, quiet man who never seized upon his fame to advance his condition in life, which surely garnered him the admiration of the community.
All these years after his death, he is remembered by his friends from Long Beach. In 1993, the Sons of Italy in America lodge was named after him, as was a senior housing building operated by the City several years earlier. A few years ago, September 29 was designated Michael Valente Day in the City of Long Beach by the Long Beach City Council; in 2011, the County of Nassau renamed the main bridge that connects Long Beach to the mainland as the Michael Valente Memorial Long Beach Bridge.
Dr. Allan Mirkin
Dr. Alan Mirkin’s life is marked by dedication, service, and a passion for improving the lives of others through his expertise in optometry.
He was born and raised in Rockaway Beach. After a stint at Brooklyn College in his youth, Mirkin answered the call of duty and selflessly enlisted in the Navy during World War Il. During his service, he held various crucial positions, serving as both a discharge officer and a signals officer on a Landing Ship Transport stationed in the Pacific. His time in the service instilled in him a sense of duty and responsibility that would remain with him throughout his life.
After an honorable discharge from the Navy, Mirkin enrolled in the prestigious Pacific College of Optometry, where he honed his skills and earned the title of a licensed Doctor of Optometry. He then took up a civilian position with the Navy and oversaw the assembly and quality of optical range-finding systems, which displayed his technical proficiency and his contributions to vital defense efforts.
Mirkin married the love of his life, Jean Mirkin, and together they built a loving family that grew to include three children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Their enduring bond was a testament to the strength of love and commitment.
In the pursuit of providing superior eye care to his community, Mirkin established a successful optometric practice in Rockaway Park, New York. He played a pivotal role in shaping the careers of his family members. His wife, Jean, became one of the first licensed female opticians in New York, and their children, Bruce and Nancy, became licensed opticians themselves. Today, their practice is led by the second generation of family optometrists, Dr. Daniel Mirkin.
As Mirkin’s journey continues, he cherishes the memories of over 70 years of marriage with Jean, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Their love and commitment will forever inspire those around them. Mirkin’s life stands as a testament to the power of service, family, and the pursuit of excellence in all endeavors.