Small American flags led to the communal hall in Michael J. Tully Park, where over 200 veterans gathered that day for breakfast, sharing food, conversation and song.
The veterans served across numerous branches – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard – and on numerous fronts, whether it was in World War II, the Vietnam War or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But what they all shared in common was that they were veterans gathered at the Town of North Hempstead’s seventh annual “Thank you to our Veterans” Breakfast Conference, where public officials expressed gratitude for their service and shared a host of services they can use.
“There are not enough ways that we can thank them,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said before the gathered veterans and officials.
Former Congressman Steve Israel, the keynote speaker, noted that many people across the political spectrum feel that they are in the darkest of times. But he recalled various periods in history like America’s fight for independence and World War II, as well as his own interactions with soldiers fighting overseas.
“Every triumph we have gained, we have gained from dark places,” Israel said, adding that he has “nothing but optimism” for the future.
Each veteran rose to the sounds of their service branch’s medley, clapping along or singing to it. They also held their hands to their hearts or firm in a salute for the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, as well as bowed their heads in silence to remember those who died fighting for the country.
One of the veterans present was illustrator John S. Fackre, who served in Vietnam logging data to the sound of machine gun and mortar fire in the distance. He said that, in general, veterans getting recognition matters – especially since, for many years, Vietnam veterans were not recognized.
“Now everybody’s important,” Fackre, wearing a 50th anniversary commendation medal, said in an interview. “It’s a very healing thing, especially for us Vietnam vets.”
But, he added, there’s still more to be done and that “you got to keep moving forward.”
Also present were representatives from the Northport VA Medical Center, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, who sponsored the event, Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook, Project Independence, Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso’s office, the Veterans Legal Assistance Project at Hofstra University, the Nassau County Veterans Services Agency and the PFC Peer Support Project.
For a full list of services and organizations serving North Hempstead veterans, visit the town website or call 311.