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Veterans Honored

Oyster Bay remembered its veterans by laying wreaths at the American Legion and VFW monuments in front of Town Hall West on Nov. 11. While the number of veterans attending is decreasing, the need to remember them is even more important. Quentin Roosevelt American Legion Post No. 4 Commander Reginald Butt, Jr. said the veteran group goes to schools to speak to the children about what the veterans have done.  

“There is a lot of history they don’t teach,” he said. “We go to schools and do flag presentations and say things to students even the young teacher’s don’t know. Every Memorial Day we hold an event here, so we can all remember those veterans.”

This year on Veterans Day, Commander Butt talked about the toll of suicide on returning veterans.

Reality Check

According to the American Legion it is a chilling fact. “More than one a day. That is how many members of our active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve forces have committed suicide over the last year.

 “Simply put, we are losing more service members by their own hands than we are by the enemy in Afghanistan. Only those who experienced firsthand the horrors of combat can understand why most of these young men and women feel compelled to take such drastic and permanent measures.

“But those of us gathered here to observe Veterans Day know that we love them. We appreciate them. We are grateful for their service,” stated the Legion.

The commander said it was important to take care of our veterans. “Plus, we have a lot more women vets than we have had before. The VA has to set up a way to care for women veterans. We have never before had women vets in combat.”

America is home to more than 1.2 million women veterans.

“Veterans Day is also a day to remember all those who served in battle and those stationed here at home: everybody had a job to do.”

The best we can do is say, “Thank you for what you have done for our country.”

According to the Legion, to help cut down on the suicide rate, it is good to watch your veteran to see if he or she is showing signs of unhappiness or depression, and encourage them to seek help through the VA immediately.

“If they have had difficulty obtaining the benefits that they are entitled to, especially women, let her know that The American Legion has thousands of trained service officers nationwide that will help her navigate the bureaucracy free of charge,” said the Legion.

Commander Butt said, “With this war, it seems to be more psychologically stressful than others, it’s that type of war. With the IEDs, you never know when one is going to go off. They are a strong bunch of guys, and with a suicide rate (nationally) of one a day, it’s very hard but the VA is working on it.”

But, he said it is difficult because they are backlogged. “Today to get VA benefits, it takes a year: you do all the forms correctly, and it still takes a year. Especially,” he said, “in New York, California and Pennsylvania; with most of the veterans coming from there. It makes it hard.”

Wreath Laying

Oyster Bay VFW Post 8033 speaker John Bruckner added his comments on the crucial issues facing veterans and helped in the wreath laying.

Wreaths were laid by Legionnaire Frank Zangari at the VFW Monument to veterans of all wars and Legionnaire Danny Aquilino at the American Legion Monument that lists veterans from WWI and WWII. Two VFW members also placed wreaths: Nick DeSantis at the Legion Monument and John Bruckner at the VFW monument.

Black Veterans

Commander Butt complemented the article on the ceremony at Pine Hollow Cemetery reported in the Nov. 22 issue of the Enterprise-Pilot. He said, “We go up every year and put 25 to 30 flags there, every Memorial Day. They had their own troops, but with white officers. The Tuskegee Airmen was a totally black regiment, and I was a guest speaker in Hempstead and present was a Tuskegee Airman. I will be getting in touch with Denice to work with the USCT re-enactors in the future.” They expressed an interest in marching in Oyster Bay’s Memorial Day Parade.

A Poetic Outlook

The American Legion officially addressed the plight of veterans by quoting a British writer. In the poem “Tommy,” the great writer Rudyard Kipling lamented over the rude treatment a British soldier received at a pub. Writing in classical old English, Kipling compared the abuse with the more favorable treatment that “Tommy” receives by the public during war.

“For it’s Tommy this, an ‘ Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’

But it’s ‘Savior of ‘is country’ when the guns begin to shoot;

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;

An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!”

Ladies and gentlemen, let us always treat our 22 million veterans as the saviors of our country that they are: even when the guns are no longer shooting, Kipling concluded.

The Legion’s overview of the issues does put the facts into perspective.