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Follow Through

I don’t know about you but my stomach is turning and it’s not from too many barbecues Memorial Day weekend. No, my stomach is turning because we, as a nation, are hypocritical in the treatment of our veterans.

That’s not easy to write and I’m sure it makes some of you uncomfortable, but someone owes it to these men and women to speak what’s truly on their minds. I spent Memorial Day weekend at numerous observances and I had the honor of spending time with many veterans and their families. In no uncertain terms, our veterans are unanimously disgusted by the recent Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare revelations that treatment delays and falsified records have led to the deaths of fellow veterans.

So while we shoot off fireworks, thank our veterans for their service, and universally commit to remember their sacrifice, we must somehow reconcile with the reality that other veterans are being systematically denied quality healthcare. The veterans I spoke with had one overarching sentiment: we could keep our parades, bands, pomp and circumstance if only we would treat their brother and sister veterans with the respect they deserve.

They’re even more put off by all the debates, hair splitting, and finger-pointing on Capitol Hill. The truth is these very VA scandals are as old as the hills and prior presidential administrations had the exact same, unanswered problems. That’s the frustrating shame we shoulder together as a nation. The health and well-being of the very people who served us, many of whom were maimed, has become a football used for political advantage. Unfortunately, in Washington, while that football gets punted around, no one ever gets it down field.        

Here in New York, we’ve taken steps to get help for our veterans. We created a peer to peer veterans counseling program to help those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury. We also set aside a percentage of state contracts for returning service disabled veterans and are working on a tax return checkoff to fund assistance for homeless veterans. But to build on these, we need a comprehensive federal policy to ensure that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are not forgotten and neglected by their own government. That’s even more crucial here on Long Island, which has one of the largest veteran populations in the country.

I don’t purport to have the answers for this federal failure but I do know that they have just approved allowing more veterans to obtain treatment at private hospitals in order to improve care. But that will still only be a small fraction of their healthcare needs which prompted a very good observation from these veterans:  while our nation fitfully embarks on the colossal undertaking of a National Healthcare plan, how do we rationalize that we haven’t yet extended similar private healthcare to those who have sacrificed for us? How do we justify that those that deserve our best instead sometimes receive slow and substandard care at overcrowded and underfunded VA hospitals and clinics?  The truth is there is no good reason. Some will argue that the VA Healthcare system was designed to give veterans and their particular needs better, more personalized attention. But clearly, that’s just not the case. They wait weeks on end for appointments, see a different physician each time, and have no access to the world-class specialists our nation has to offer. It was a well-intentioned plan that just didn’t work but like all things federal, it is now a sacred cow that can’t be touched. That is unless everyday Americans create enough of an uproar to force change.  

That call to action should start right here on Long Island, home to nearly 140,000 veterans. We are reminded that when they were called, there was no debate or hair-splitting. They went and they went honorably. They have every right to expect the same from us.

News

Vastra boutique finds a niche

in hand-embroidered dresses

Who says a bride has to wear white on her wedding day? For South Asian brides, no color is off limits including brilliant reds, blues and golds. For the past 17 years, Vastra in Hicksville has been helping brides from New York and across the country find the perfect dress for their special day.

There’s no lack of Indian sari boutiques in Hicksville but according to Marketing Director Prachi Jain, what sets Vastra apart from the others is its emphasis on one of a kind, hand-embroidered Indian dresses.

Many would consider it rude to play with your food. That is unless, you’re participating in the Long Island Potato Festival. The event, which was held in Cutchogue, NY, included a mashed potato sculpting contest which was dominated by Hicksville’s Sarah Tsang, who won first place in the youth division.

Contestants were allowed to use any tools and materials to help bring their creation to life. Sculptures were left on display throughout the day and voted on by festival goers.


Sports

Somehow LSA, the Levittown Swimming Association, has always been a part of our Hicksville summers. My family’s introduction to the organization in 1975 began when our two older daughters tried out for the Parkway Swim Team, one of the nine teams that competed through July and most of August.

It was no small task for the younger girl, swimming her first full lap in the deep end of the pool to qualify at age six, but both girls made the team and donned the coveted gray tee shirts as the trees cast their shadows over the pool water at the end of practice.

I’m convinced that the soul and the center of Hicksville is Cantiague Park. And why not? Every weekend it’s a beehive of activity ranging from tennis matches, hand ball games, basketball and baseball games, swimming, hockey and of course ‘the beautiful game’ called soccer. Cantiague has two professional soccer fields that are perfectly manicured and begging to be played on. And they were. This weekend was the finals of the East Meadow Soccer Tournament which is one of the largest youth soccer tournaments in the nation, sponsored by the US Soccer Federation. There were 18 boys and girls teams in the finals and a large staff of referees.

Two of the refs were Steven Orozco and Randy Vogt who told me how soccer had been growing and has now become the second most popular participation sport in America with 25 million of us watching this year’s World Cup.  I also met and interviewed Joe Codispoti who along with Tim Bradbury is the head coach of Rockville Centre United, a U16 boys club.  This U16 team has a group of standout players led by  Jack Graziano, AJ Codispoti and Pat Basile who have been playing together for six years.


Calendar

Close Encounters with Benevolent ETs and Ascended Masters

August 29

Adventures in Genealogy

September 4

Greek Festival

September 5-7



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com