By Danny Schrafel
Talk to Cow Harbor Warriors President Rocco Donnino, and you’ll learn the number 22 has many meanings to him when it came to the second Cow Harbor Warriors weekend ahead of the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
At first blush, it’s a practical number. The Cow Harbor Warriors raised money for 22 weekends to support the Warrior Weekend, which kicked off Friday with a welcoming parade down Main Street in Northport Village.
That fundraising allowed the organization to host 22 wounded warriors from the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres of war, as well as their families, for two days of tribute, sports and celebration. Many of the tri-state area vets came from Long Island, which Donnino said was a credit to collaboration with the Northport VA Medical Center, the Semper Fi Fund and Paws of War, the weekend’s beneficiaries.
More starkly, the number 22 is how many veterans are estimated to take their own lives every day since serving overseas. While some come home with physical wounds visible to the naked eye, the wounds that can’t be seen are just as deadly, and Donnino said organizers wanted to stress a message of “hope, prevention and recovery” for veterans.
“Many of those suicides are because of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and TBI [traumatic brain injury] because of these wars,” Donnino said, noting that as many as half of the 2.6 million veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) are diagnosed with PTSD. “We’ve already seen that there have been more suicides in the OIF/OEF veterans community coming home than have been killed in action… That’s a staggering figure.”
Four hundred runners participated in the Capt. Joseph J. Boccia Jr. USMC 4-Mile Warrior Run, while nine foursomes teed off for the Driving for the Brave golf tournament at Crab Meadow Beach. Dozens more took part in the DC3 Nathan B. Bruckenthal USCG Fishing for Freedom tournament. After the events concluded, many converged for adaptive water sports and the Corporal Christopher Scherer USMC Beach Bum boot camp for children.
Not only do the festivities benefit the soldiers, they help their families, too, Donnino explained.
“They really sacrificed as well. I can’t tell you how many times a warrior came up to me and said, ‘What you guys are doing for our kids so I can go out and do these activities is phenomenal,’” Donnino said.
Winding up the weekend under a tent for a surf-and-turf clam bake with Crab Meadow Beach as the backdrop, the celebration of service came to an end amidst food, fun and music.
“I kind of look at as: the parade is the appreciation, the recreation was today, and now is the celebration,” Donnino said.