Photo: Memorials honoring those who served during the nation’s most recent conflicts were unveiled during a Veterans Day ceremony held in Setauket on Wednesday, November 11, 2020.
Updated memorials recognizing sacrifices made by the latest generations of American service members in the Cold War, Granada/Lebanon and Panama, the Gulf War and the Global War on Terror were unveiled today during a socially distant Veterans Day commemoration ceremony at Setauket Veterans Memorial Park. The unveiling came on the holiday honoring American veterans and marks the completion of a two-year campaign to update four memorial sites located in Port Jefferson, Setauket and Stony Brook. In many cases, the sites selected for upgrades had not been renovated in decades, and no longer adequately reflected the theaters in which the region’s veterans served.
The idea to renovate the memorials was suggested to Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn by veteran Jack Gozdziewski, a member of American Legion Post 432 and VFW Post 3054 during a 2018 Memorial Day ceremony. Following that meeting, Legislator Hahn met with Gozdziewski, commanders of local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts located in Setauket, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson Station and the Long Island State Veterans Home to begin planning the project. In advance of Veterans Day 2018, the coalition announced the launch of 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 unveiled on Veterans Day 2019. The final phase, which refurbished and added acknowledgements of conflicts following the Korean War at the Setauket Veterans Memorial park site, was planned to be complete before Memorial Day 2020, but was delayed to today because of the pandemic.
“Despite the challenges, I am pleased today to announce we’ve completed our mission,” said Legislator Hahn, a Veteran Memorial Committee member. “All current and former service members deserve the recognition they have earned and in achieving this objective, our community’s gratitude for the all of their service and sacrifices has now firmly been set in stone.”
To fund the project’s approximate $35,000 cost, the Veterans Memorial Committee sought donations and sponsorships from the greater community; the committee even created a tiered contribution recognition program inspired by military commendations. Through grants secured by Legislator Hahn, Suffolk County became a “Medal of Honor” sponsor, while Charles Lefkowitz Realty Three LLC, the Acker Family Foundation were “Purple Heart” sponsors; Island Federal Credit Union, the Long Island State Veterans Home and The American Legion Harbor Post 417 in Stony Brook became “Defense Superior Service Medal” sponsors; and, the Ardolino Group, Bryant Funeral Home, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336, Friends of Kara Hahn, IU Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 7, Lois Coners Racanelli and the Three Village Kiwanis Club were “Meritorious Service Medal” sponsors. Pavers in recognition of those community members who provided large donations or sponsorships will also be installed.
The War Memorial Fund Committee Members included, Valerie Cartright, Brian Denzler, Carleton “Hub” Edwards, Jack Gozdziewski, Kara Hahn, Ed Kiernan, Robert Mandel, Jonathan Spier, Tim Still, Alyssa Turano, Jay Veronko, and Bill Wolf.
“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 on this Veteran’s Day our gratitude for their sacrifice begins at recognizing all who served that calling.”