Tag Archive | "American Legion"

Sag Harbor Heroes Honored During Veterans Day Celebrations

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By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

In annual Veterans Day celebrations this week, Sag Harbor residents recognized that honoring village veterans is a year round duty, not a daylong event. Whether by visiting a monument, putting up a plaque or rubbing a gravestone, veterans and community members work to celebrate our heroes throughout the year, and those efforts were officially recognized with commemorative events Monday.

From Cub Scouts to World War II veterans, troops in uniform kicked off the holiday at the annual Veterans Day Parade through Sag Harbor Village Monday morning. After the parade, government officials and honored servicemen gathered outside the American Legion Chelberg and Battle Post 388 on Bay Street. Following speeches, about 40 residents headed over to the Ferry Road Cemetery in North Haven to hear village historian Joe Zaykowski present a lecture on the cemetery restoration and the lives of veterans resting there.

VFW Commander Roger King addresses the crowd at the American Legion

VFW Commander Roger King addresses the crowd at the American Legion.

At the American Legion Hall, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9082 Commander Roger King, who served two terms in Iraq, spoke of veterans’ “sacrifice for the common good,” and the symbolic significance of this year’s restoration of the federal holiday to November 11.

Veterans Day is always observed on November 11; however, in 2012, for example, the official federal holiday fell on November 12 because it was a Monday. King recognized the significance of the holiday returning to November 11 as it coincides with Armistice Day, which marks the settlement signed at the end of World War I on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

Post Commander Marty Knab said the day’s events were intended not only to thank those who fought in battle, but also to thank and honor all who have served honorably in the military in any capacity, be it wartime or peacetime. While recognizing the ultimate sacrifice of those killed in battle, Knab hoped to also underscore the fact that all who served have made huge sacrifices for their country.

“Not all veterans have seen war,” Knab told the crowd. “But a common bond that they share is an oath in which they express their willingness to die defending this nation. Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles that America does not have to fight, because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Coast Guard cutter, the Navy aircraft carrier, the Air Force Fighter Squadron, or the Army soldier on patrol.”

“Our country finds these men and women in the many small communities around our country, like our own Village of Sag Harbor,” he continued.

World War II Veteran Robert Riskin speaks in front of the American Legion

World War II Veteran Robert Riskin speaks in front of the American Legion.

Local writer and World War II veteran Robert Riskin, whose officer encouraged him to pursue a writing career, spoke of his visit in September to the World War II monument in Washington, D.C. Riskin’s trip was facilitated by the Honor Flight Network, an organization that honors veterans by transporting them to visit their memorials.

“I was not very excited about going,” admitted Riskin. “And then I thought, ‘Well, it’s free…so what the hell? I’ll try it.’”

Accompanied by Knab, Riskin enjoyed a motorcycle escort, bagpipe serenade and a welcoming reception from Naval Academy plebes on the daylong trip to Washington.

“I almost broke down, it was just such an incredible feeling of love,” he said, adding, “the memorial itself is just about one of the most fantastic things you’ll ever see … the emotions that it brings up are very, very strong.”

After the veterans’ speeches, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. presented a proclamation, “the state’s highest honor,” he noted, to Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride and dockmaster David Thommen commemorating Sag Harbor’s heroic moment in the War of 1812. Two hundred years ago in July 1813, British troops stationed off the Long Island coast attempted to invade and pillage the small seaside village of Sag Harbor, as they had done to countless towns across the island. Greeted by a group of residents and militiamen on shore, the British quickly retreated, recognizing that whatever goods they could plunder were not worth a battle against the spirited community.

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Justice Julia Schiavoni, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride and Sag Harbor Village Board Trustee Ed Deyermond honored David Thommen (second from right) for his work restoring the monument honoring the site of a Revolutionary War fort in Sag Harbor

Local officials honor Village Dockmaster David Thommen (second from right).

“We repelled the British. They never returned again until the British invasion of 1964,” Thiele joked, referring to The Beatles.

The assemblyman spoke of his own childhood playing around the old fort on High Street, but he never knew the story behind it.

“We all know it today and it’s because of the single-handed volunteer efforts of David Thommen,” said Thiele of the village dockmaster, who revitalized the fort – and the community’s knowledge of its own heroism — by dedicating a plaque and raising a flag there last July.

“This is about the veterans from the first militias in 1620 to the returning soldiers today,” said Thommen, accepting the proclamation.

Following the ceremony, North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski gave a presentation to a crowd at the Ferry Road Cemetery on Route 114. Zaykowski successfully restored the gravestones there and, in doing so, unearthed the stories of some of North Haven’s earliest residents.

North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski

North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski at the grave of Revolutionary War Veteran John Payne, Sr.

Zaykowski spoke of the life and lineage of John Payne, Sr., a veteran of both the colonial French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, who died 200 years ago in November 1813 and was laid to rest on Ferry Road. Payne’s gravestone was ineligible, cracked and scattered until Zaykowski’s restoration.

Zaykowski spoke extensively on the history of North Haven, with specific knowledge of lineages, burial techniques and even houses — several of which remain in the village today. His brother-in-law, Philip Reynolds, played period music from the Revolutionary War era on his saxophone.

In 1781, Payne received nine pounds, 19 shillings and one penny for his service in the Revolutionary War, according to Zaykowski.

“I cannot tell you that John Payne was a so-called war hero,” Zaykowski, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, told the crowd. “That’s not important; He served his country, served it well I’m sure.”

In attendance to hear Zaykowski’s talk was Alexandra Binder, who lives on Shelter Island with her fiancé Beau Payne, a direct descendant of John Payne. Eager to learn more of her new family’s extensive local history, Binder was ecstatic to have the aid of Zaykowski, who has traced the Payne’s lineage all the way back to England prior to the colonization of America.

Veterans Day Events Planned in Sag Harbor

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By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

Two hundred years after British troops attempted unsuccessfully to invade the small coastal village during the War of 1812, Sag Harbor will celebrate those who have defended it ever since with several events around town this Veterans Day.

At 9 a.m. Monday, November 11, the annual Veterans Day Parade will head from the Civil War Monument down Main Street and onto Bay Street, with an observance at the American Legion Hall immediately following.

The featured speakers, Roger King, Marty Knab and Robert Riskin, range in age from 28 to 86, but, having served in our armed services, they share an experience few can understand.

After graduating from Pierson High School, King served in the Marine Corps from 2005 to 2009, during which he completed two combat tours in Iraq. In 2012, he became the youngest commander ever appointed to lead Sag Harbor’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9082.

Marty Knab is the Commander of the American Legion Chelberg and Battle Post 388 and an organizer of the Veterans Day commemorations. He served for 20 years in the Coast Guard.

The final veteran speaker is Robert Riskin, 86, who was drafted to World War II when he was 18 and completed basic training, although he was fortunate enough not to see combat firsthand.

Following the speakers, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. will present a proclamation to Mayor Brian Gilbride and Dockmaster David Thommen honoring Sag Harbor’s heroic moment in the War of 1812 in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the battle that took place in Sag Harbor, which was celebrated this July.

According to an official report written by General Abraham Rose, five barges carrying British troops landed in Sag Harbor on July 11, 1813. The barges were positioned off Long Island’s coast with the intent of blocking trade coming out of New York City. Lacking supplies on the stationed barges, the British troops would routinely invade, pillage and burn villages across Long Island.

When the British approached Sag Harbor’s shore, according to General Rose, they were greeted with “a reception so warm and spirited from our militia that they abandoned the operation and retreated.”

Due to the heroism of its residents, Sag Harbor was spared the fate endured by the island’s other villages.

Also on Monday, a different 200-year anniversary will be commemorated. North Haven Village historian and Vietnam veteran Joe Zaykowski will celebrate his restoration of the Ferry Road Cemetery, and the anniversary on which John Payne, Sr. was laid to rest in it.

A veteran of both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, Payne was a resident yeoman (gentleman farmer) in North Haven. His father was among the first settlers of North Haven and his grandson built the hamlet’s first bridge.

“[Payne’s] stone was broken in half and it was quite illegible,” said Zaykowski, adding that due to his restoration, the cemetery is “quite spiffy now.”

Starting at 10 a.m., Zaykowski will give a brief talk on Payne, as well as his connections to those buried around him. Refreshments will be served and period music from the Revolutionary War days will be played.

Payne died on November 1, 1813, so “the timing is really awesome,” said Zaykowski, who was born and raised in Sag Harbor and co-authored a book on the early history of North Haven with his mother, Dorothy Ingersoll Zaykowski.

The celebration will also honor two other North Haven veterans from the period: Joseph Trowel, who was captured and held prisoner during the Revolutionary War, and Constance Havens II, who, along with Payne, is one of only two veterans from the hamlet to fight in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.

“I know the Payne family history and the Trowels and Havens as well as I do my own genealogy,” said Zaykowski, who first became interested in Payne while working on the cemetery restoration.

“Just discovering who’s stone that was over there that was so neglected and forgotten,” he explained, “I thought it would be nice to bring that to the surface again. Being a veteran myself, I thought that would be cool.”

Some Vets Not Benefit Savvy

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By Annette Hinkle


It used to be that when soldiers came home from the war, they knew what programs were out there for them. That was particularly true in the decades after W.W.II, when money for college, disability benefits and medical care through Veterans Administration (VA) facilities were widely available.

While those programs still exist, the truth is, there are many more benefits available today than veterans may realize. And things change quickly — from revised eligibility guidelines to innovative services, staying abreast of what’s current can be time consuming and overwhelming.

That’s why Marty Knab, Commander of the Chelberg and Battle Post 388, American Legion in Sag Harbor, has arranged a forum at the legion for next Wednesday. From healthcare to pension plans and programs for seniors, representatives from various organizations will be on hand to offer information at the federal, state, county and town level that could make a difference in the life of a veteran.

Knab, who served for 20 years in the Coast Guard, understands the need. He once had his own preconceived notion of what veterans benefits meant.

“They’ve had VA healthcare for a long time, but when I was in active duty, I thought for most eligibility you had to have been shot in the war, or lost a leg or arm — which was not the case.”

Knab hopes that all veterans and their families will stop by the legion next Wednesday to see what’s there for them.

“This is not just for legion veterans,” he says. “This is for regular guys who were in the service. Now they’re out and working, with no time to be part of the organization. They don’t realize what the government offers. You have to be in the know.”

Among those coming to Sag Harbor next Wednesday will be JoAnne Anderson, RN, MSN, FNP, the East End Health Coordinator for the Northport VA Medical Center which operates three community based outpatient clinics across Suffolk County, including one at the Westhampton Air Base. Anderson will bring information on veterans healthcare options to the legion, and she notes that on May 2, the Westhampton clinic will relocate to the County Center in Riverhead where it will offer expanded hours and a location easily accessible by public transportation.

“We have enjoyed the liaison on the military base, it’s been a wonderful experience, but we were only able to provide care there three days a week,” she explains, noting that the Riverhead clinic will eventually be open five or six days a week with some evening hours.

Also attending Wednesday’s forum will be Jonathan Spier from the Long Island State Veterans Home who will share information about his facility, which cares for veterans nearing the end of their lives.

“We’re different than the VA which is a federal hospital system,” explains Spier. “ We are a nursing home owned and operated by the state in partnership with the state.”

Spier notes his facility is unique among veterans nursing homes in that it is associated with Stony Brook University medical system.

“We’re a teaching nursing home. We have healthcare students and future health care leaders in our building. We really are full service. Our residents are getting the latest in advancements and cutting edge technology,” says Spier who notes that the vast majority of the facility’s 350 beds are occupied by the World War II generation.

“These guys left service at 19 or 20 and didn’t think about nursing homes or benefits down the road. Our facility is a special place for a special population,” adds Spier who hopes to reach those making the healthcare decisions in the family — often the adult sons and daughters of veterans.

“There are a lot of programs out there veterans don’t know about,” agrees Bob Hopkins, Suffolk County Veterans Service officer who will bring information on a federal and state programs to the legion including death or burial benefits and low income pensions for surviving spouses.

Hopkins notes that among recent changes in programs for younger vets is the education benefit, which has been expanded. He explains that veterans now have 15 years to use the program after leaving the service, instead of four years.

“It covers on the job training, pilot training, books and housing. It’s a great program,” says Hopkins. “It’s nice to see Marty having this. It’s good to get the word out.”

The workshop for veterans, surviving spouses and grown children of aging veterans will be held on Wednesday, April 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Chelberg and Battle Post 388, American Legion on Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information call 725-9759.

Looking for a Few Good Boys

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The New York chapter of the American Legion sponsored summer leadership and citizenship program, Boys State, has boasted at least one Sag Harbor resident at its annual retreat since its founding in 1935.

Until last year, that is.

“We didn’t get anyone that wanted to go,” said Martin Knab, commander of the Sag Harbor American Legion Chelberg & Battle Post this week.

With the help of local Boys State alumni, Knab hopes to change that this year by getting the word out that attending Boys State can open up a world of opportunities for successful candidates.
In addition to spending a week with students from across New York at the State University of New York at Morrisville in June, students are given a crash course in local government, and the program can boost college applications and open up scholarship opportunities, said Knab.

It also allows candidates to be part of an over 70-year-old tradition nationwide that has drawn the likes of former President Bill Clinton, astronaut Neil Armstrong, journalist Tom Brokaw and basketball great Michael Jordan.

Boys State was founded in 1935, and is considered one of the most selective programs in government instruction in the United States. Candidates are selected by their local American Legion Post, and are sent as delegates to state-sponsored conferences where they learn about how local and state governments operate, as well lessons in citizenship and state law.

Delegates from each Boys State across the country are chosen to attend Boys Nation, which takes place in Washington, D.C., and educates students specifically about the functions of the federal government.

Christopher Dent was already interested in government when the American Legion in Sag Harbor selected him for Boys State in 2000. Shortly after the program, Dent said he made the decision to study Political Science at McGill University rather than Engineering.

“Boys State was a memorable experience,” said Dent. “At the core of the program was a mock government, independently established by high school students. While this ‘government’ we created was far from perfect, it taught us about the complexity of working with such a large group of people, and, importantly, the compromises that must be made.”

In addition to morning assemblies featuring government officials, and the creation of the mock city, county and state governments, other activities include presentations on law enforcement, as well as recreational activities like band and chorus and athletics.

Boys State candidates are “chaperoned” by members of the United States Marine Corps who drill them daily, enforce regular physical exercise and military habits such as how to keep one’s bunk clean.

“While this was an intimidating prospect for a 16-year-old kid, it turned out to be one of the best aspects of the program,” said Dent. “The Marines assigned to us were tough, but they were genuinely nice guys, who, while we were teaching ourselves about government, taught us the basics of adult life — getting up early, exercising every day, keeping our spaces neat and self confidence. That might sound pretty basic for teenagers on the verge of heading out on their own, but they were good life lessons taught at just the right time.”

After graduation, Dent worked for The Scientific Association Dedicated to Excellence in Analytical Methods (AOAC) where he was the administrative lead on several government contracts through the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency.

He currently lives in Scotland, fulfilling the dream of his wife to live abroad, and is an independent consultant for AOAC while seeking full time employment in Edinburgh’s government and financial sectors.

For Nicholas McErlean, 21, traveling to Boys State with classmate William Yeni in 2006 was something he will never forget, in particular the 6 a.m. drills, occasionally in the rain.
The rigors of daily drills aside, it was the one-on-one conversations with members of the Marine Corps about their own experiences in combat that stayed with McErlean.
“At the time, I was very interested in pursuing a military career,” said McErlean, who is finishing up his criminal justice degree at Suffolk Community College. “So sitting down and having this conversation meant a lot to me. It was a humbling experience, hearing about serving overseas, watching friends killed in action.”

While the week revolved heavily around these activities, McErlean said it was also the chance to taste the experience of college-life, living in a dorm, meeting new people.
“It really prepared me for college,” said McErlean. “And I made a lot of good friends I am still in touch with.”

As the parent of a Boys State candidate, Dent’s mother, Elizabeth, said the experience was a feather in her son’s cap, but being chosen by the Legion was also an honor, culminating in the opportunity to read The Gettysburg Address after the Sag Harbor Village Memorial Day parade.

For McErlean, reading the address in front of Sag Harbor’s veterans was a privilege, and one he shares with Dent and each Boys State candidate the Legion selects.

This year, Knab hopes to restore that village tradition by attracting new candidates to Boys State and ensuring Sag Harbor continues to have representation at the annual conference, which will be held this year from June 26 to July1.

Interested Pierson High School juniors should contact their guidance counselors, and send a letter of interest to the Post at Chelberg & Battle Post 388, PO Box 541 Sag Harbor, NY 11963.

Celebrating Memorial Day in Sag Harbor

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By Andrew Rudansky

The air remained uncharacteristically still at Marine Park this Monday as several hundred people converged around the World War II monument in silence. 

The Memorial Day Parade procession that strode down Main Street and made its way down Bay Street had arrived at the park for the final ceremony. In past years the parade usually terminates in front of the American Legion headquarters on Bay Street, however this year the route was cut short, ending instead on the more spacious and picturesque grounds of Marine Park.

That wasn’t the only change to the Memorial Day Parade this year, a fourth stop was added to the parade route at the recently renamed Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge. 

At the bridge, wreaths were placed near the obelisk memorial of Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter where the firing squad offered a salute.

Local veteran Bruce Winchell said of the parade, “we try to touch all basis, I think we did pretty much our jobs today…it came out quite well.”

 

Veterans from five wars and several different conflicts stood and sat solemnly as the procession of speeches was given under a massive flag flying at half mast. 

Each veteran was dressed in his or her own military uniforms creating a patchwork of white, blue, green and black garb. The Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Fighters showed up in force all sporting their sharp blue uniforms.

One veteran said, “It was very inspiring, brought me back to the days when I was in Vietnam, to see all the veterans standing around, it was very, very heart throbbing.”

Other community organizations that showed up to honor the veterans included the local Boy and Girl Scout troops, the Pierson school band and several local politicians.   

Gold Star mothers JoAnn Lyles, mother of Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, and Nicolasa Arevalo, mother of SPC Orlando A. Perez, sat somberly in the front row for the ceremony. Arevalo cradled a framed picture of her son in her arms. The two Gold Star Mothers were mentioned several times throughout the speeches that lasted a little more than an hour.  

Orators extolled the volunteer emergency organizations, the veterans in attendance and the brave men and women who lost their lives serving their country.

A roll call of the recently deceased was read aloud, a short prayer led by the American Legion Chaplain followed this.

The Chaplain asked the people in attendance to, “honor the memories of those brave soldiers, sailors, marines, marine merchants, airmen who gave us the supreme sacrifice, so we may experience freedom in a country that is free.”

One of the speakers this Memorial Day reminded the crowd that today was not just a day for veterans, “There are five other young men from Sag Harbor serving in the armed forces at this time.”

After the speeches ended and the service was over the throngs of spectators and parade participants filtered out of the park and into the 70-degree heat of the day.

Winchell wanted to emphasize that the day is meant to honor the departed, “it’s not a veterans day, today is the day for the men who gave their lives.”

 

 

 

George Boziwick

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The World War II Navy man and this year’s Memorial Day guest speaker, on the work of veterans organizations, the meaning of the day and remembering our veterans.

A little background. When and where did you serve during World War II?

I joined the Navy in 1940 and went to radio school in Noroton, Connecticut. I served in Panama with the Navy from July 1941 to December 1944, and then came back to the states and served as a radio technician at NAMU Johnsville, Penn. I was discharged in September 1945. I was at Naval Air Station Cocosolo in the canal zone where I was an Aviation Radio Technician 1st Class, in charge of communications, on the base itself, and taking care of aircraft coming in.

 

What will you be speaking about on Monday?

I’ll be speaking about Memorial Day, just about Memorial Day. Its beginnings and what we’re supposed to be doing.

 

Memorial Day recognizes the sacrifices — especially the ultimate sacrifice — made by our service men and women. What should Memorial Day mean to the people you will be speaking to?

It’s a day of memory and  mourning. We should be visiting the graves of not only the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice, but also all those who served during the war periods.

 

You were involved last year in helping to get the new plaque that lists all the Sag Harbor veterans from World War II for the memorial at Marine Park. How important was that for you to accomplish?

It was most important that all these people be recognized because of their desire to serve their country. It took us about a year-and-a-half to get all 446 names for the plaque.

 

Every year there are fewer World War II veterans with us.

That’s for sure.

 

What’s the best way to keep the memory of their contributions alive?

Pray for them, visit their graves.

 

How have you seen the nature of conflicts change since the time you served?

I think they’ve changed more technically than anything else. World War II was the infancy of radar and LORAN. Today we’ve got guided missiles, and unmanned, drone aircraft.

 

The ceremony on Memorial Day is sponsored by the Sag Harbor Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. How can our military service organizations best serve their membership?

We do serve our members if they become ill, or needy. And, speaking for the Legion, we do a great deal with donations and scholarships. We sponsor six scholarships at Pierson every year at graduation, totaling 14,500. Of course we donate to the food pantry and other organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project and the Cub Scouts. This year we’ll be sponsoring two boys to Boy’s State.

 

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

It means a day of remembering the guys and girls of Sag Harbor who served in WW II.

 

Vets Learn About Health Benefits in Hard Times

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Veterans young and old packed the Sag Harbor American Legion meeting room on Monday night and waited for representatives from the Northport Veterans Hospital to arrive. A few elderly veterans of World War II straightened their American Legion caps atop their heads as they chatted with fellow retired servicemen.
Tony Lambert, vice-chair of the Bridgehampton Citizen’s Advisory Committee and an Iraq war veteran, stood in the back of the room, outfitted in a baseball cap and sweatshirt, swapping stories with a former Marine. Lambert heard of the meeting on WLNG. He stopped by hoping to get his veterans health care network card renewed.
Christopher Stone, of Sag Harbor, came to see if his Veterans Administration benefits would cover some of his dependents’ prescription needs. Mark Wilson, a local gardener and former Navy officer, is currently uninsured and came to inquire about his eligibility for VA benefits.
Marge O’Malley, a community outreach coordinator for the Northport hospital, met individually with every veteran at the meeting. Overall, she said many attendees came to learn if they were eligible for any benefits at all. According to O’Malley, many veterans fail to realize they are eligible for benefits or have received misinformation on eligibility requirements. Other veterans believe they earn too much to qualify for benefits, since there is an income cap of $49,000 a year. With many former veterans losing their jobs or experiencing pay cuts, O’Malley said more veterans are eligible for benefits than before.
This is the case for Wilson. He was previously insured through his wife, but recently went through a divorce. Wilson’s gardening work has been scaled back lately. With less income coming in, he cannot afford even the cheapest health insurance plans, which cost between $300 to $500 a month.
Although O’Mally informed Wilson he is most likely eligible for benefits, a certain part of him believes it is wrong to accept this aid.
“It is a conflict for me … I feel like the benefits should be reserved for the guys who fought in World War II and Korea and Iraq, to the people who were seriously afflicted by wars. I sort of feel like this is something I should channel on my own,” said Wilson, who served in the Navy from 1976 to 1980 when the country wasn’t engaged in active conflicts.
Lambert is already enrolled in the VA health benefits program, but told O’Malley it is difficult for him to travel to Northport for general check-ups, eye exams and prescription pick ups. He is currently employed full time with the Bridgehampton Post Office, but reported it is still a struggle to cover his family’s monthly expenses. He added it is inconvenient to take a day off work to visit Northport’s satellite clinic in Westhampton.
O’Malley informed Lambert that the Northport VA Hospital will establish a full service health care and mental health clinic in Riverhead within the coming year. The clinic will be funded in part by the county and will serve the veterans of Suffolk County. The services provided at the clinic will include psychiatry support, optometry appointments, outpatient services and a pharmacy.
O’Malley reported many Long Island veterans use the VA health benefits to supplement their current health insurance plans, especially for senior veterans who are enrolled in Medicare. At the hospital’s pharmacy, veterans receive significantly discounted rates on their monthly prescriptions. However, these prescriptions must be written by VA doctors, instead of their primary practitioners.
Martin Knab, the first vice commander of the Sag Harbor American Legion, uses his VA health benefits for second opinions from other doctors. Knab already has an insurance plan, which covers himself and his family, but this plan doesn’t pay for second opinions on a diagnosis.
Knab feels fortunate to have another form of health insurance, especially when he sees many local veterans becoming uninsured as they are laid off.
“There are other people in our community who could use these benefits a lot more than me. A lot of veterans have their own businesses and are self-employed or they are hired by big contractors and were laid off. [Most of the time] they don’t have insurance. So when something happens and they end up in the hospital they are facing huge debts,” said Knab.
Helping out struggling local veterans was one reason Knab asked O’Malley to visit the Sag Harbor American Legion.
These are the types of veterans O’Malley hopes to specifically reach out to and help. According to O’Malley, only eleven percent of veterans on Long Island enroll in the VA health benefits program. She will soon send out a letter to more than 2,000 veterans on Long Island informing them, if their income has decreased in the last year, they could be eligible for VA benefits.
Although Northport hospital representatives continue to visit veteran organizations throughout Long Island, Knab believes the hospital does a good job in helping veterans, but the East End veteran community is still underserved because there isn’t a clinic nearby.
“They do a superb job, for they job they do; but there still isn’t a facility available for vets on the East End,” said Knab. Though Knab hopes this problem will be solved when the Riverhead clinic is established.

To learn more about VA benefits or the VA hospital in Northport visit http://www.northport.va.gov/

Above: Vets learn about their eligibility for VA benefits during one-on-one sessions with representatives of the Northport Veterans Hospital.