On Wednesday evening the Kings Park Civic Association and San Remo Civic Association joined forces and hosted an event to honor local veterans of war at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall on Church Street.
Kings Park and Smithtown veterans attended including representatives of the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Nissequogue Post, the Kings Park American Legion Post and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Suffolk County Police Memorial Post.
Assemblyman Michael J. Fitzpatrick was invited to address the crowd of about sixty and said that his father, former Smithtown supervisor Paul Fitzpatrick, was an Army man and served in WWI in Japan.
“He was quite a ball player and he got drafted by five major league baseball clubs when he got out of the war, however, his father insisted he went to college,” said Fitzpatrick. The senior Fitzpatrick went to the University of Pennsylvania on the G.I. Bill and went on to have a successful career in finance and politics.
Community activist Kevin O’Hare was in Vietnam in 1966-67 with the 25th Infantry where he was a real-life "Good Morning Vietnam" D.J. and entertained his fellow soldiers.
“I even got to do the Bob Hope show, that was amazing,” shared O’Hare.
The Veterans that filled the seats of the V.F.W. hall represented many of our country’s wars and conflicts including: WWII, Korean, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the most recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Lifetime resident and last year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshall Mattie O’Reilly enlisted at Camp Upton on November 12, 1942 with his boyhood friend Frank Foley and shared his thoughts on our country’s present conflicts.
“They shouldn’t be over there, they are dying for nothing – it’s a civil war and you can’t win it,” said O’Reilly.
O’Reilly sat with friends Carl Petersen who was a Navy man in Korea, Stephen Young who was stationed in the South West Pacific in WWII for the Navy and Gil Harris, also a Navy man who served during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“There’s no uniform, we don’t know who the enemy is, it could be a woman pushing a baby carriage with a bomb in it,” said Harris.
Peterson’s son, a Navy commander and psychiatrist says although Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was something our country faced in other conflicts, the number of new veterans suffering is staggering.
“I think America has overreached its power with these wars – I think it’s also the cause of our economic downturn,” he added.
However, all the men gave the highest praise for our nation’s new generation of soldiers before the ceremony began.
Kings Park Civic Association President, Sean Lehmann and San Remo Civic President, Lorna Paine said a few words along with Fitzpatrick.
“It’s important we come out to honor and support our veterans, most of them went into the service as teenagers – they lined up to serve,” said Fitzpatrick.
“It’s incumbent upon us to say thanks,” he said.