A Port Jefferson veterans’ memorial updated to recognize the sacrifices made by the latest generations of American service members was unveiled today during a Veterans Day commemoration ceremony hosted by the American Legion Wilson Rich Post No. 432. The unveiling comes in advance of Monday’s holiday and completes renovations for the third of four memorial sites located in Port Jefferson, Setauket and Stony Brook identified for upgrades in order to honor those who served during the Cold War, Granada/Lebanon and Panama, the Gulf Wars and in the Global War on Terror.
In the days prior to Veterans Day last fall, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts located in Setauket, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson Station and the Long Island State Veterans Home announced a three phased effort to expand memorials located in Stony Brook Village, on the Setauket Village Green, at the Setauket Veterans Memorial Park and along the Port Jefferson harbor. Phase I of the project, which focused on the Stony Brook and Setauket Village Green sites was completed in time for the 2019 Memorial Day commemorations in those hamlets honoring those who never returned home from the battlefront. Phase II, which renovated the Port Jefferson harbor memorial and included repairs of the site’s stonework was completed this week and in time for Veterans Day 2019. The final phase will update the Setauket Veterans Memorial Park located along Main Street. These improvements are scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day 2020.
The idea to renovate the memorials, many of which had not been changed in decades, was suggested to Legislator Hahn by veteran Jack Gozdziewski, a member of American Legion Post 432 and VFW Post 3054 during the Memorial Day ceremonies in 2018. Legislator Hahn then met with Gozdziewski and local post commanders to tour all the memorials and began planning the project together.
Dedication of the updated memorial in Port Jefferson was accompanied by the complete replacement of the site’s existing stonework that, over the years, has been damaged by nature and time. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright secured funding from her Council District 1 Parks Budget to make these update and other related work in advance of the installation of the new memorials. The Town of Brookhaven, owns and maintains the memorial site in Port Jefferson.
“This week, we as a nation will pause to reflect upon the sacrifices of all veterans who served our nation for us to freely live our lives,” said Legislator Hahn, a Veteran Memorial Committee member. “All current and former service members deserve the recognition they have earned. Many returning veterans have served along-side those who have given their lives and through this this effort, our community’s gratitude for their service has now firmly been set in stone.”
According to Bill Wolf, Commander of the American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432 in Port Jefferson, "The mission to update these monuments is overdue, but with the continued support and generosity of our neighbors, this mission will be completed this spring, giving all of our veterans the recognition they deserve."
The project’s approximate $35,000 cost will be largely paid for through donations and sponsorships made to the Veterans Memorial Fund. To date, Realty Three LLC/Ridgeway Plaza LLC, the Acker Family Foundation and a Suffolk County Grant Secured by Legislator Kara Hahn have become “Purple Heart” sponsors; the Long Island State Veterans Home and The American Legion Harbor Post 417 in Stony Brook have become “Defense Superior Service Medal” sponsors; and, the Ardolino Group, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336, IU Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 7, Lois Coners Racanelli and Friends of Kara Hahn became “Meritorious Service Medal” sponsors.
Donations are still being accepted for second phase costs. Checks should be made payable and mailed to Veterans Memorial Fund, PO Box 986, Port Jefferson Station, NY, 11776 or can be hand delivered to the attention of Ed Kiernan at American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432, 1450 Hallock Avenue, Port Jefferson Station.
For more information about “Operation Remember” and sponsorship opportunities still available, please visit http://americanlegionwilsonritchpost432.org/index.php?id=101.
“It is because of those who were, and those who continue to be willing to protect freedom at any cost that we are truly free,” Legislator Hahn concluded. “And our gratitude for their sacrifice begins at recognizing all who served that calling.”