By Janee Law
It was a packed house at the Dix Hills branch of the Half Hollow Hills Community Library on Saturday as dozens of veterans and their families gathered for the second annual Veterans Testimonial Project, a ceremony that honors local veterans for their service.
The Half Hollow Hills Library has arranged a video compilation of 12 different veterans telling stories of time they spent serving in either World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War or during peacetime. The project, which was assembled on a DVD, will be archived for the Veterans History Project at The Library of Congress.
“Now our veteran’s military history will be a permanent part of our country’s national library,” said Edna Susman, librarian and program coordinator for the project. “It has been such an honor to meet our local veterans and very moving to hear each and every one of their stories and memories.”
While last year’s ceremony, which drew 25 veterans, consisted of veterans from the Dix Hills and Melville area, Susman said the ceremony is branching out to have veterans from other areas participate in the project.
County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) attended this year’s ceremony as keynote speaker, while Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-South Huntington) and Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland also presented speeches honoring the local veterans.
“Our veterans are literally the best of our community because they have continued their service to all of us,” Stern said. “We know that the stories are meaningful not just to [our veterans] personally, but to all of us throughout our country as well.”
He added, “The fact that all of us and every generation, and certainly those of us who have young children, have the ongoing responsibility as American citizens to teach our children to lead by example, to reflect the best of what [our veterans] have so bravely fought for.”
At Saturday’s ceremony, each of the 12 veterans received a certificate of the New York State Assembly Citation, and a New York State pin, with the state seal on it.
The veterans who were participated in the project were: Joseph Abbondondelo (Army, World War II); Robert A. Frank (Air Force, World War II); Friedel J. Grashoff (Army, Vietnam); Howard M. Kaplan (Navy, Korea); Morton Laurence (Army, Korea); William E. Lauter (Navy, World War II); Louis Peretz (Army, World War II); Harold Reiner (Air Force, World War II); Lawrence J. Schroeder (Navy, Korea); Harold S. Stulbaum (Army, Korea); Herbert R. Tuckman (Navy, 1955-1957); and Gerald H. Weintraub (Army National Guard, 1957-1963).
The ceremony also consisted of a flag ceremony by Charles Armstrong and members of the American Legion Post 1244 in Greenlawn; speeches of appreciation from a teacher and students of Half Hollow Hills West High School; and musical performances by Rosemarie Kluepfel and Ed Canova, who served in the Vietnam War. The ceremony completed with a trumpet performance of “Taps” by WWII veteran William Thomas Jr., 90.
“It’s an honor to partake in the ceremony. I thought it was amazing,” Thomas, of East Northport, said. Thomas, who was a WWII B-17 pilot in the U.S. Army Corps, added, “Playing ‘Taps,’ to me, is an honor. It brings back so many memories of my service in the military.”
Videos of the testimonials can be checked out of the Half Hollow Hills Community Library, or can be viewed online at hhhlibrary.org.
“That’s what libraries have is information and history,” Susman, of Kings Park, said. “We need to keep this history so that the kids know about it.”
Local veterans interested in participating in the project can call Edna Susman at 631-498-1260.