Written by Jill Nossa Wednesday, 13 November 2013 00:00
In celebration of Veterans Day, Glen Cove held two separate ceremonies on Monday morning honoring our local veterans. At 11 a.m., following annual tradition, city officials and veterans met at the doughboy monument outside of the Glen Cove Public Library; this year’s honoree was Howard Stillwagon, who served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam.
“I first stood here as the mayor-elect in 2005,” said Mayor Ralph V. Suozzi. “I have embraced a deep respect and love for our veterans over the past eight years. It is my privilege to honor the men and women of our nation...and I will continue to honor them until my last breath.”
He introduced Stillwagon, noting that he is a personal friend who he has known for years. Stillwagon is Glen Cove High School graduate, and was drafted into the Army a year after graduating, going to Vietnam in January 1969. Stillwagon then returned to Glen Cove, and worked for the post office for 36 years, until retiring in 2006.
“This is a tremendous honor...I feel overwhelmed and thank you all for coming out,” said Stillwagon.
Congressman Israel also spoke, stressing the need for remembering veterans every day of the year.
“In my office, every day is Veterans Day...no one has a right to forget what they have done when they come home,” said Israel. He noted that his office has secured $7 million in back pay for veterans during his term.
Earlier in the morning, Mayor Suozzi, the Glen Cove Youth Bureau and the American Legion Young-Simmons Post 1765 hosted a re-dedication ceremony in memory of Ralph Mastalio at Big Ralph Park located at Kelly Street.
The late war veteran and Glen Cove resident Ralph Mastalio was immortalized with the dedication of “Big Ralph” Park in his memory on June 13, 1965 three years after his passing at age 72. Mastalio served in both World Wars I and II, receiving the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his bravery. An immigrant from Salerno, Italy, Mastalio became a resident of Glen Cove at age 16. He served as a volunteer fireman with the Glen Cove Fire Department for 32 years. The call to serve his country was so strong that after serving in World War I, he re-enlisted at the outbreak of World War II when he was 52 years old; he was deployed to Asia and he was the oldest soldier in the regiment.
Over the years the monument made in his memory by the Sons of Italy was removed leaving no evidence of the park’s rich history. It has now been replaced with the assistance of the Department of Public Works and flagpole and benches have been added with technical support courtesy of Parks and Recreation.
“I used to play in this park as a kid,” said Mayor Suozzi. “One of the games we played was war...I didn’t know as a child that war is not a game.”