By Carl Corry
In an event that turned out to be partly a tribute to Mario Buonpane, the late longtime chairman of the town’s Veterans Advisory Board, who died in September, more than a hundred people gathered Sunday to celebrate the service of the nation’s veterans at Huntington Town Hall’s Veterans Memorial Plaza.
The event was led by current Veterans Advisory Board chairman William Ober, who recognized Buonpane’s contributions, including the development of the veterans plaza and the golf course on the grounds of the Northport VA Medical Center.
Supervisor Frank Petrone said Buonpane was known for his kind heart “and his ability to twist your arm” to advance the causes of veterans in the community.
Councilwoman Susan Berland, visibly choked up, recalled how Buonpane would greet her with an, “Ah, a ray of sunshine. Now my day can begin.”
“Mario, we miss you. We love you,” Berland said.
Fred Amore, commander of VFW Post 9263 in East Northport, reminded attendees of the “high cost of freedom” and the sacrifices made by veterans.
“We honor all who have put their lives on the lines for freedom, and we honor and salute all living veterans,” he said.
Petrone added that the ceremony was meant to in part remind young people of veterans’ service to the country. And with the event coming just a few days after local elections, he said it was also a time for adults to reflect on what it means to be a citizen.
“I don’t usually do this,” said Petrone, who called the voter turnout “the lowest that any of us can remember” as “pathetic and unfortunate.”
“In honor of our veterans, we should go out to vote. Let’s make sure to go out to vote next year.”
The ceremony, which was held amid a Field of Honor – an assembly of flags organized by the Kiwanis Club of Huntington – included a laying of wreaths in honor of each branch of the military and performances of the national anthem and “God Bless America” by the Long Island Children’s Choir.
Councilwoman Tracey Edwards said that while memorials are important, “it is critical that veterans have a home, are healthy and have a job” when they come home.
“The most importance thing is that the veterans’ service is not forgotten,” added Ober on the significance of Veterans Day. “It is a time to reflect on the contribution that our veterans made to our country.”