The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month- the time when many local communities take a few moments to honor all those who fought for their country. Levittown and Wantagh were among those communities last Thursday as local politicians, Scouts, and others joined with the veterans to commemorate them and all those who are no longer here to celebrate.
Nassau County Legislator Dennis Dunne, a Vietnam veteran from Levittown, described Veterans Day as a joyous occasion, noting, "It's the day we say thank you for making these sacrifices, leaving your family and friends, your school, your job, everything that you've loved, everything that was dear to you to do the greater good."
Dunne has been attending the Veterans Day memorial in Levittown for the last 30 years. He explained that often the turnout for this event depends on the weather, adding that even when only two people have shown up for the event, the memorial still took place. This year's commemoration of Veterans Day had a fair turnout, with representatives from each of the different veterans' organizations and the Ladies' Auxiliary of the American Legion and the VFW, as well as some local cub scouts and other local residents.
"Levittown was built by veterans for veterans after World War II, so it means a lot because it's a very strong veterans community," said Dunne.
It is the effort of all those who have served, that is being honored and it was an appropriate day for Richard Kaupke, a Levittown resident and a Korean DMZ veteran, to learn that an effort that he began in 1987, to have those veterans who received an expeditionary medal to receive the same recognition as those who received a campaign medal for combat, has finally come to fruition.
On Veterans Day, Kaupke, learned that Governor Pataki signed legislation into law that provides for an additional 10 percent Real Property Tax Exemption to any veteran who is a recipient of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. The Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal was developed by the department of defense to recognize the duty of those who served in localized conflicts such as those that took place Korea and Somalia. It can be earned through United States military operations, operations in direct support of the United Nations, and United States operations of assistance to friendly foreign nations.
These veterans who earned the Expeditionary Medal, noted Kaupke, were never able to receive the full 25 percent Real Property Tax exemption because the tax assessors did not understand that in many cases there was combat in these areas and some of those military personnel who were stationed there were injured or even lost their lives.
Kaupke felt that these veterans deserved the same rights as those who received the Campaign Medal for Combat and in 1987, after discussing it with Dunne, started a campaign to rectify the situation. Kaupke noted that throughout the years Dunne had been a real support to him, encouraging him as he continued to fight for the rights of those who earned the Expeditionary Medal. Now, after 12 years of fighting, Kaupke, who is a graduate of Division Avenue High School and a is member of Levittown's Post 9592 Veterans of Foreign Wars, has finally won his battle. "Now these guys that didn't get recognized for combat can get that extra recognition," said Kaupke.
Senator Charles Fuschillo, Jr., who sponsored the legislation for the recognition of the recipients of the Expeditionary Medal, was among those who honored the veterans in Wantagh on Thursday. He spoke to the large crowd gathered and read the poem, Flanders Field, a tribute to a fallen soldier. "Thank you to the veterans for making the ultimate sacrifice so that we and our children can live the lives we do," concluded Fuschillo.
Assemblyman Marc Herbst addressed his comments to the many children who gathered at the American Legion Hall in Wantagh, and asked them if they knew why they were not in school. He explained to the children that Veterans Day is to honor the veterans who could have been our brothers, fathers, or grandfathers, people we may never see again, for sacrificing their lives so we can have our freedom. He then encouraged everyone to take the time out of the day to thank a veteran for their sacrifice.
Many other speakers also took the time to speak about the sacrifices that the veterans made for all Americans and to remind everyone that Veterans Day is a time to remember those who were lost and to honor those who are still living for their bravery and courage.