Thank You for Making the Holidays Brighter for Our Veterans

The chill in the air on December 2nd was no competition for the warmth in the hearts of all who participated in the fundraising, shopping, and wrapping of gifts for the veterans at the Northport VA Medical Center.  The request made by the Manhasset American Legion Auxiliary to “Make the Holidays Brighter for Our Veterans” was answered overwhelmingly by our youth, our community, and our friends.  Thanks to the Manhasset Press for spreading the word, not once but twice.

Two of our Boy Scouts, Matthew Moschitta and Steven Murphy, volunteered to serve as liaisons to Raindew.  They were met with enthusiastic support from the store’s managers who permitted the Scouts to set up a table and encourage Raindew’s patrons to donate to the support effort for our veterans.  Matt and Steven scheduled Boy Scouts for the table throughout the day and received very generous donations from shoppers.  Raindew has always been an energetic supporter of veteran causes presented to them by the American Legion Auxiliary.  The kind cooperation and support shown by Raindew’s owners and the many discounts applied to purchases for our veterans are very much appreciated.

Kaitlyn Clarke rallied her Girl Scout Troop and joined the boys at Raindew.  Kaitlyn also approached the management of Modell’s and was successful in obtaining discount coupons that were good for a month of shopping.  Five percent of the purchases are being returned to the American Legion Auxiliary and will be used for additional items for veterans.

Daniel Cataldo, also a Boy Scout, served as the lead in advertising the event throughout town.  His announcements appeared in stores, his posters outside American Legion Post 304 explained the “Wish List,” and his flyers were distributed to shoppers at Raindew.

Jacqueline Siffer, a Manhasset High School senior and an Empire Girls State citizen from the American Legion Auxiliary, approached some faculty members and received support from the French and Social Studies Honor Societies as well as from the Advanced Placement classes.

While collections were being made at Raindew, donors also stopped by the American Legion Post with items and monetary gifts.  Care to Knit donated 58 handmade blankets and the Columbiettes of St. Mary’s donated 50 handmade Christmas trees for veterans’ rooms.  Because of a prior donation from the Columbiettes, the American Legion Auxiliary was able to purchase additional “Wish List” items – two DVD players and a CD player to be used in the dementia clinics.  Thank you to PC Richard for their welcome discount.  The Al & Peggy DeMatteis Foundation donated $200 and the Ace in the Hole Foundation donated $500, both of which enabled the purchase of additional items for the gift bags.  Members of the Manhasset community dropped off hundreds of items and made generous monetary donations.

A great deal of sorting and wrapping was also taking place at the American Legion Post.  Led by Pat O’Brien and Elizabeth Parrella, the President and Vice President of the American Legion Auxiliary, many elves insured that the gifts received would be beautiful holiday surprises for the veterans.  Manhasset Girl Scouts and Herricks Daisy Troop 1605 donated homemade cards.  Reindeer previously made by our youthful volunteers were placed as decorations on the gift bags, hours were spent making and writing cards, and two days were spent wrapping the gifts.  In between, Umberto’s of Manhasset provided relief by graciously supplying pizzas for the many volunteers.

By nightfall on December 3rd, 204 individual gift bags had been created for our veterans.  In addition, there were numerous bags of decorations, CDs, DVRs, and miscellaneous items for Northport.  On December 6th a caravan of SUVs, with very little space for anything other than the driver, made its way to the Northport VA Medical Center driven by Linda and Martin Clarke, Pat and Donald O’Brien, and Oona Walter.  The reception was amazing.  Donations for the veterans were down this year because of the many natural disasters throughout the country.  The fear was that there would not be enough gifts for those at the VA.  That fear was allayed when the SUVs appeared filled with gifts.

The generosity and patriotism that exist within the Manhasset community and among our friends seem to know no bounds.  The wholehearted embrace of this effort serves as a wonderful lesson to our children of the importance of giving back to those who served our country.  There are no words that would adequately express the gratitude that the American Legion Auxiliary has for those who gave so much this year to those who sacrificed for our freedoms.  Perhaps the words of the Santa who delivered the gifts from the Manhasset community and its friends can best sum it up.  When he returned to the Office of the Chief of Voluntary Services, Santa said, “Today we put a smile on the face of every veteran living at the Northport VA Medical Center.”  What a beautiful way to end 2017!

         Cards by Girl Scouts and Daisies

 

Collection at Raindew

    

So much to sort, wrap and write

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                    

So many workers

           

 

So many gifts

  

Delivery Day

                          

God Bless America and our Veterans

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Wreaths Across America

Wreaths Across America was a spectacular event this year that started long before Saturday, December 16.  Harry Rathsam has been the Volunteer Coordinator for Long Island National Cemetery since the beginning of the program in 2006.  It happened quite accidentally when he called for more information about Wreaths Across America which was scheduled to take place in five days.  He was told that there was no one responsible for one of the largest veterans’ cemeteries in the country.  Harry stepped up and grew the program from that day.

In 2006 about 20 people gathered to place 5 wreaths on the graves of some of our nation’s heroes.  When the Manhasset American Legion Auxiliary began to participate, the number of wreaths had grown to about 125 with about 75 participants.  Gradually, the numbers began to increase and more groups, including Manhasset’s Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, participated.  Last year, in icy and rainy weather, approximately 200 participants placed 3,000 wreaths.  Harry then set a goal of 5,000 wreaths for 2017.  This sounds like a tremendous number until you research the size of Long Island National and realize that it contains approximately 340,000 grave sites.  After he set this goal, Harry was approached by the Wreaths Across America organization and was interviewed by a staff member on the 72nd day before Wreaths Across America 2017.  His interview can be seen on Facebook.

Following the interview, wonderful things began to happen.  By December 8th more than 450 volunteers were registered to help at Wreaths Across America on December 16th.  Then Harry received information that more than 25,000 wreaths were scheduled for Long Island National Cemetery.  Amazingly, this number changed on December 15th, the day before the event.  There were 45,000 wreaths arriving at Long Island National Cemetery!  In addition, a banquet was planned for that evening at the Long Island Marriott.  Pat O’Brien and Elizabeth Parrella, the President and Vice President of the Manhasset American Legion Auxiliary, along with American Legion member, Donald O’Brien, were privileged to attend.  A representative of Wreaths Across America served as the emcee for the evening and introduced some of the many corporations and trucking companies that so generously volunteer to assist in the distribution of wreaths.  The professional drivers scheduled for the following morning also attended.  The keynote speaker was General Raymond Fox and other speakers included a Gold Star Mother, Emily Torres, who said she would gladly tell us about her son, if you asked how he lived, not how he died.  Active military personnel were also in attendance.  One thing that was very clear throughout the evening was that those present proudly lived this year’s Wreaths Across America theme, “I’m an American.  Yes, I am!”

The next morning temperatures hovered around the freezing mark but did not stop the enthusiasm of the approximately 800 volunteers who came to honor some of the nation’s heroes.  Cheers arose among the crowd as the nine tractor trailers entered the cemetery with the wreaths.  In that crowd were Pat and Donald O’Brien, Elizabeth Parrella, Carol-Anne Condon and parents of Boy Scouts from Troop 97, Ann Marie Moschitta, Linda and Martin Clarke, Elizabeth Miller, Selva Venkatesan, Anja D’Angelo and Michael Dea.  They brought their sons, Matthew, Martin, Steven, Sharath, Bharath, James, and Andrew to teach them about remembering and honoring those who have served in the military and, in too many instances, have died for the freedoms so often taken for granted.

At noon Harry Rathsam conducted the service and again reminded everyone of the importance of remembering our fallen U.S. veterans, honoring those who serve, and teaching our children the value of freedom.  Harry again quoted President Ronald Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”  He also reminded everyone to speak the name of the veteran when placing a wreath at a grave-site.  He mentioned a basic tenet of Wreaths Across America, “A person dies twice: once when they take their final breath, and later, the last time their name is spoken.”  As is the custom, those attending were given the opportunity to share the name of those who had served or were serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Then the privilege of emptying the trucks and laying the wreaths began.  Each wreath was marked with a tag reading, “Today I placed a wreath on the grave of an American Hero.”  While walking through the cemetery, the names of those heroes who served could be heard clearly as the volunteers remembered them before placing a wreath.  Two such heroes were Andrew A. Nudge, Jr. and Rexford Lloyd Green, both of whom had been killed in action during World War II.  Their names appear on the WW II website, so they will be remembered.  Many others are only remembered through the placing of a wreath.

By 2:30 pm all the wreaths had been placed and the trucks were back on the road along with the many volunteers who had so enthusiastically participated in what is always a very emotional event.  But 45,000 wreaths are only enough to honor less than 15 percent of the veterans at Long Island National Cemetery.  Please help make 2018 an even bigger event by your presence and your wreath donations.  To learn more about Wreaths Across America or to become a donor, visit the website at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/.  For information about other programs supported by the American Legion Auxiliary, please contact Pat O’Brien at 516-850-5702 or patobrien17@msn.com.

    

President Pat O’Brien, Vice President and Treasurer Elizabeth Parrella and Legionnaire Donald O’Brien attended the Wreaths Across America Dinner

The Boy Scouts joined the American Legion Auxiliary at Wreaths Across America

Pat and Donald O’Brien and Pat O’Brien and Carol-Anne Condon

Before

Elizabeth emptied trucks

Martin carried wreaths for placement

   

Liz and Steven place a wreath

 

                                                                       After

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Holiday Luncheon

Members of the Manhasset American Legion Auxiliary were joined by several friends at the annual holiday luncheon on December 15th at the Jolly Fisherman in Roslyn.  Members donated mittens, scarves and hats to the children of veterans at the Northport VA Medical Center.  All were purchased in advance by Anne Hedberg, our Corresponding Secretary, and packaged for the children.  The Columbiettes also had available their beautiful handmade Christmas trees.  Good food, good cheer and fun permeated the room amid the discussions of the needs of our struggling veterans and their families.

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Stand Down

On November 21st, a Stand Down was held at the Freeport Armory to assist homeless and struggling veterans.  Members of the Manhasset American Legion Auxiliary attended and were joined by members of the St. Mary’s Columbiettes.  Prior to the Stand Down, our Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts assisted us in the collection of new clothing that was distributed to the veterans at the Stand Down.

Vice President and Treasurer, Elizabeth Parrella, and President, Pat O’Brien, helped veterans select clothing

The Columbiettes were pleased to meet a veteran accompanied by a service dog from America’s VetDogs in Smithtown.  The Columbiettes had recently made a generous donation to the organization and were proud to meet a veteran willing to explain the positive impact the service dog had on his life.

Past Nassau County American Legion Auxiliary President, Mary Hansen-Sterger, and Pat O’Brien assisting veterans

Junior Past County American Legion Auxiliary President, Sonja Neal, and Nona Samuels assisting veterans.

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Veterans Day

The American Legion held its annual Veterans Day Parade on Plandome Road and marched to Mary Jane Davies Park for the ceremony.  Manhasset residents and the American Legion Auxiliary attended the service and then joined the American Legion at the Post where Girl Scouts presented homemade cookies to the veterans.

           

     

  

 

  

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Oktoberfest

An enjoyable evening was had by all on October 7th when we celebrated our annual Oktoberfest.

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September Meeting

On Wednesday, September 20, Manhasset American Legion Auxiliary Unit 304 held its monthly meeting.  It began with a tribute to two very long-standing members who passed away recently, Kahdi Miller and June Mackey.  Kahdi was a member for 21 years and June for 50 years.  As is the custom, the Charter of the Unit was draped in black to signify the deep loss of two vital members and a small service was held to recognize their work and pray for their eternal peace.

The meeting featured presentations by three students from our Manhasset high schools who were sponsored for the Auxiliary’s Empire Girls State program by Manhasset Unit 304.  The girls attended this program in the early summer, at the conclusion of their junior year of high school.  Katie Barnes and Jacqueline Siffer of Manhasset High School and Isabel Vasquez of St. Mary’s High School each spoke of what they considered to be a life-changing experience.  All of them spoke highly of this program, which through both lectures and hands-on workshops teaches girls about our two-party system, the legislative process, civic responsibility, respect for the flag and patriotism.

The three citizens of this fictitious 51st state, who coincidentally were all assigned to the “Federalist” party, ran for various offices, which required speaking before increasingly larger audiences.  They mentioned the level of self-confidence this helped them achieve and the desire they now have to participate positively in government at different levels.  Katie Barnes served on the Criminal Justice Committee and was elected County Judge for her county.  She helped to draft an immigration bill, and she also learned about the judicial process.  Jacqueline Siffer served on the Platform Committee, which established the party’s platform and areas of focus, and was elected to the State Senate.  She also was selected to be her county’s candidate for Governor.  She relinquished that opportunity when she was chosen to be Majority Speaker of the State Senate.  Isabel Vasquez served on the Platform Committee and ran for Attorney General.

The three students mentioned that Empire Girls State was a very collaborative environment, in which they helped their roommates and others on their campaigns, even if they were from a different political “party.”  They met girls from all over New York – from the Thousand Islands to Brooklyn – and have kept in touch with them through social media.  The students also noted how much they enjoyed and benefited from guest speakers at the program, including some of our female representatives in the New York state legislature and Congress, as well as female veterans.  All three Manhasset students greatly appreciated the opportunity to participate in this unique program and plan to share what they learned with classmates during their senior year of high school.

At the conclusion of their presentations, Unit President Patricia O’Brien commended them and also urged them to continue learning about our nation and its issues, to educate themselves before they mark their future ballots and to vote at every opportunity, regardless of how small the election.

The Father William A. Daly Columbiettes of the Church of St. Mary also attended.  Many residents will recall that the Columbiettes created beautiful patriotic bracelets that they sold throughout the community.  At the meeting Alma Garcia, President of the Columbiettes, presented a check for $750 to Unit 304.  This donation represents the proceeds from the bracelets and will be used by the American Legion Auxiliary to assist Veterans in need.  Many hours of devoted work were dedicated to the creation and sale of the large number of bracelets that resulted in such a charitable gift.  Members of Unit 304 were filled with surprise, joy, and gratitude.  Veterans on Long Island will be the recipients of this generosity.

The meeting ended with a celebration of everyone’s Birthday.  The cake was cut by two special celebrants, Mary Keogh, who celebrated her 90th Birthday that same day, and Florence Parrella, whose 93rd Birthday followed on Saturday.  Congratulations to all!

President Pat O’Brien, Isabel Vasquez of St. Mary’s High School, Vice President and Treasurer Elizabeth Parrella, Jacqueline Siffer and Katie Barnes of Manhasset High School.

 

Alma Garcia, President of the St. Mary’s Columbiettes, and some additional members present a check to Pat O’Brien and Elizabeth Parrella for veteran projects.

Mary Keogh (background) and Florence Parrella (foreground) cut the cake in celebration of all member Birthdays.

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Poppy Drive

We thank all who helped to make this year’s Poppy Drive a success.  All proceeds from poppy donations are used to assist our veterans and our active military.

Vice President and Treasurer, Elizabeth Parrella, distributing poppies before the Memorial Day Parade

Chaplain, Florence Parrella, could be seen throughout Manhasset distributing poppies.

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Memorial Day Parade

The Memorial Day Parade which is sponsored by the American Legion annually in Manhasset took place as scheduled.  Following the Parade, a memorial service was held, wreaths were placed at monuments, the names of those veterans who have died during the year were read, and awards were given to high school students.  A celebration followed at the American Legion Hall for all American Legion and Auxiliary members and their families, for our active service personnel and for community members.

         

Junior Auxiliary member Lauren Moschitta served as our Poppy Queen in this year’s Memorial Day Parade

 

Left to Right: Americanism Award winners Olivia Tatarian (MHS) and Ciara Warner (St. Mary’s); Poppy Queen Lauren Moschitta (Junior Auxiliary member); President Pat O’Brien; Empire Girls State citizens Isabel Vasquez (St. Mary’s) and Katie Barnes and Jacqueline Siffer (MHS); Vice President and Treasurer Elizabeth Parrella

 

Left to Right: President Pat O’Brien, School Award winner Dylan Desir, Ciara Warner,Americanism Award winner, both of St. Mary’s High School, Vice President and Treasurer Elizabeth Parrella

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Services at Long Island National Cemetery

Pat O’Brien (President) and Elizabeth Parrella (Vice President and Treasurer) of Unit 304 participated in the Memorial Day Services at the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale.  The service is always a beautiful and emotional event but this year was made even more special when the Thunderbirds from the US Air Force flew over the cemetery.

Left to Right: Sonja Neal, Nassau County American Legion Auxiliary President; Pat O’Brien; Rosanne Spinner, Nassau County American Legion Auxiliary Sergeant-at-Arms; Karen Schenck, Unit 336 President and Color Guard, Nona Samuels, Nassau County American Legion Auxiliary Secretary and Color Guard; Mary Hansen-Sterger, Past County President and Color Guard; Elizabeth Parrella; Joyce Booth, Nassau County American Legion Auxiliary Color Guard

 

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