In the spirit of the month in which we honor veterans, Assemblyman Brian Curran hosted a ceremony on Nov. 19 at the Lynbrook Veterans of Foreign Wars post to recognize nine veterans for their service to the country and to their local communities by inducting them into Curran’s Veterans’ Hall of Honor.
Members of Nassau County VFW posts gathered with their families for the ceremony, and a lunch. In a poignant reminder of prisoners of war and those who went missing in action, one small table, displaying the flags of each branch of the military and a POW-MIA flag, was left empty in the middle of the room.
The ceremony started with the Pledge of Allegiance, and Toni Ann Butler sang the national anthem. Curran spoke, and then each veteran was introduced by the mayor of his town or another dignitary, who detailed the honoree’s active-duty service and his volunteer work in his community.
The veterans who were recognized were Pasquale Alesia, of Malverne; Ed Cook, of East Rockaway; James Keane, of Rockville Centre; David Alexander Rutkowski, of South Hempstead; John Sandrowicz, of Baldwin; Ed Shaw, of Lynbrook; and Ken Weir, of Lynbrook. Each was presented with a plaque commemorating his induction, and a few of them spoke briefly, expressing their gratitude for the honor, thanking their families and emphasizing their commitment to continued service.
“I would like to challenge all the veterans here this afternoon,” Alesia said, “to continue your excellent work in helping veterans and their families in need.”
“I read that the American Legion said a little over 11 percent of the population was in the military in World War II,” Weir said. “In Vietnam it was about 4.3 percent, and in the last 20 years it’s under 1 percent. So it’s up to us to do all we can for our community.”
“One of the things I’m hoping to do in my future, and I’m hoping to do it in every town,” Shaw said, “is remind you that there are so many other veterans that are in our towns that have not even known what we have here, everything we do.
“I’m hoping to get the word out more to a lot of the veterans that are everywhere in this area,” he added, “and try to get them to join us, because they just don’t know what we have to offer them, and what we have to offer the towns and communities.”
Hempstead Town Councilwoman Laura Ryder thanked all the veterans for their service, as well as their family members.
“Being from a military family myself, I understand what it’s like, and the sacrifices that the families have to make as well,” Ryder said. “And when your loved one goes off to war, off to serve, it’s a very difficult time for the families back at home.”
Sandrowicz noted the obligation he feels. “As veterans we have an obligation to our community,” he said. “As veterans, we were trained to help people, and that’s what we’ve got to remember, is to help everybody and make it a better place.”