Suffolk County officials and members of the community gathered en masse on Saturday morning, at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, to honor our Men and Women who serve in our Armed Forces. Over 200 local veterans and residents were in attendance. Veterans who served dating back to World War II stood proud with present day Servicemen for the annual occasion. First observed in 1950, Armed Forces Day has been held annually on the third Saturday in May to honor those who have served or continue to serve in the five branches of the U.S. military.
“Suffolk County is home to the largest Veterans population in the State and we remain committed to supporting these brave men and women as well as their families… I look forward to hosting this annual event to honor those who have served our nation to protect the very freedoms we enjoy here at home.” – County Executive Bellone
The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 11, AMVETS Massapequa and the Central LI Chapter of Korean War Veterans Association opened the ceremony with the posting of the colors. Legislator Tom Barraga, a Marine Veteran, led the Pledge of Allegiance. The Keynote speaker of the event was Eric Hesse, Director of the NYS Division of Veterans Affairs and retired US Army Colonel delivered the Keynote address during the ceremony. Hesse discussed the importance of caring for our Veterans when they return home, reminding us all of the sacrifices they have made in keeping our country safe. Colonel Hesse placed wreaths at various monuments, including World War II, Korean War and Women Veteran Statues, the Vietnam War Monument, the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan War plaques.
“The sacrifices that our American heroes make are enormous… I am proud to be an American because of the hard work and sacrificial service of our Armed Forces, the United States would not be the country it is today without the sacrifices that our military service men and women make every day. I am also proud of all that we do here at home in Suffolk County to help our veteran population.” -Legislator Leslie Kennedy
U.S. Navy veteran, William Rodriguez was presented with a proclamation for his years of service at the ceremony. Mr. Rodriguez is retiring as a staffer of the Suffolk County Veterans Service Office. In addition to those Veterans who were honored for years of service, a the Suffolk County’s Gold Star Families were given a special recognition, honoring those heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Suffolk County Veterans Service officers and Suffolk County Joseph Dwyer Program representatives were also in attendance. The initiative originally led by Congressman Zeldin, when he served as a NY Senator, the Suffolk County Joseph Dwyer Program is a peer-to-peer program for Veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI. This successful program now actively serves the needs of veterans in 16 counties across New York State and is now replicated throughout the Nation.