05/26/14 3:33pm
05/26/2014 3:33 PM
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This woman was not alone as thousands flocked to Calverton National Cemetery on Memorial Day. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

The more than 242,000 interments over the past 36 years at Calverton National Cemetery are the biggest reason so many Long Islanders spend their Memorial Day in Riverhead Town. (more…)

05/26/14 12:40pm
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The annual Memorial Day Parade was held in Riverhead Monday morning. (Credit: Grant Parpan photos)

As the parade of veterans reached the corner of Main Street and Peconic Avenue, the dozens of residents who set up camp at that location for a prime view of the annual event began to clap their hands in tribute.

Then a booming voice rose above the rest of the sounds at the intersection.

“Thank you for your service,” a man yelled.

It is in the spirit of remembering our veterans — the dead and the living – that the Riverhead community lines its streets each Memorial Day for the town’s annual parade. (more…)

04/25/14 6:00am
04/25/2014 6:00 AM

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Legislation signed in December by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that made school tax exemptions for available to certain veterans took effect with little advance notice, making it difficult for school boards tasked with deciding whether their districts would participate in the program to make well-researched and educated decisions.  (more…)

11/11/13 1:43pm
11/11/2013 1:43 PM
American Legion commander Mike Pankowski and Ladies Auxillary vice president Darlene Folkes place the wreaths at the War Memorial Monday morning.

BARBARELLEN KOCH PHOTO | American Legion commander Mike Pankowski and Ladies Auxillary vice president Darlene Folkes place the wreaths at the War Memorial ceremonies Monday morning.

The town’s Veterans Day ceremony was held Monday at 11 a.m. at the War Memorial on the grounds of the Suffolk County Historical Society.

The memorial was first erected in front of the former historical society building at the northwest corner of Main Street and Griffing Avenue and dedicated by Col. Theodore Roosevelt of Oyster Bay in 1920. (Son of Teddy Roosevelt.) Several thousand people attended the 1920 event.

The memorial, made of a granite block, features a bronze plaque that lists the names of 306 men from the Town of Riverhead who served in World War I.

The memorial was moved in 1926 to the current historical society building from its previous location on Griffing Avenue.

Councilman John Dunleavy was the keynote speaker for Mondays ceremony.

Below is a transcript of his speech:

Reverend Clergy, gold star parents and loved ones, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen and my fellow veterans of our country,

Today marks the 94th year that we Americans gather together to commemorate and celebrate – all heroes – past and present, who have worn the uniform of our great country. For it was in 1919, exactly 94 years ago that President Woodrow Wilson, the Senate and Congress set aside this date as a thankful nation pays honored homage to all veterans of all branches of our military … the Army, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and my branch – the U.S. Navy.

This day was not set aside as a “Bargain Day” for shopping centers …. but was set aside for keeping our part of the “Bargain” …. Offering humble salute and thanks to all those who served – whether serving in war or serving in peace.

While each American has the hard earned freedom to commemorate and celebrate Veterans Day each in their own way …. we must never, ever forget the soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors who make that freedom possible. It is our duty, our mission to honor our veterans, who honored us with their service – their sacrifice.

I join with you in thanking the good Lord everyday that since 1776, young men and women have always stepped forward in service to our country. From the War of Independence through World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and in the troubled war torn Middle East, America is blessed with the very best.

In drafting and preparing my remarks for today, Veterans Day, I was continually drawn to the words of Lincoln …. next Tuesday, November 19th, just 8 days from today, will mark the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Lincoln’s words from that cold, cloudy day exactly 150 years ago reach out and touch us today …. permit me to paraphrase Lincoln at Gettysburg by saying …. ‘It is for us the living to be dedicated here to the unfinished work of all veterans’.

In closing, I offer this …. if the great George Washington did not fear to kneel in the snow at Valley Forge to pray for his troops and the future of America …. we must then not fear to kneel in the comfort of today and humbly ask again that …. God Bless America and may God Bless all who have worn the uniform.

Thank you.

John Dunleavy

11/11/13 7:00am

T

When I was a boy and my grandmother was still alive, I can recall how no one in my family was allowed to play “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” around her. Her brother was killed during World War II, my mom would explain, and he had promised in his last letter home after two years overseas that — like Bing Crosby had sung in that hit 1943 tune — he, too, would be home for Christmas.

He was supposed  to get leave that December. Decades upon decades later, my grandmother would still break down in tears whenever she heard the song.

That’s all I ever really knew about my great uncle — until I was much older, and a relative uncovered some forgotten paperwork. What I learned was the story of a great American hero, and of love and sacrifice in a time of utter darkness and desperation.

Charles “Chic” Quinn, a Long Island Rail Road machinist from St. Albans, Queens, was 19 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. A week later, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

According to military records, Corporal Charles D. Quinn was 5 feet, 7 3/4 inches tall with blue eyes, brown hair and a ruddy complexion.

During his almost two years overseas, he took part in several military campaigns against the Japanese in the Pacific, including a 1944 reconnaissance mission in Peleliu, in the island nation of Palau.

THe completed his last mission but suffered wounds at the hands of the Japanese along the way. Five days later, he died on a Navy hospital ship in the arms of a Catholic chaplain. Cpl. Quinn, a baby brother who in battle wore the Presidential Unit Citation, was later posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award for valor in the face of the enemy.

His citation reads: “While carrying out an extremely hazardous reconnaissance mission to obtain vital information, Cpl. Quinn observed a marine officer pinned down by intense enemy rifle and machine-gun fire and imperiled by snipers. Disregarding his own personal safety, he courageously advanced in the face of the hostile fi re and killed the most threatening sniper, thereby saving the officer’s life.

“Although he received wounds during this action which later proved fatal, he steadfastly refused medical attention and completed his reconnaissance, subsequently dispatching a written report to the regimental command post before he was evacuated.”

Yes, Cpl. Quinn never made it home for Christmas. He received a military funeral at sea, according to records. He left behind three sisters; his parents had both already died. Some four months after his death, the priest who held “Chic” as he passed away sent two letters to his surviving family in the U.S. He mailed one letter to my grandmother’s home in St. Albans. The other he sent to my great-aunt Winifred, a Catholic nun then known as Sister Mary Coronata, who lived in Toledo at the time.

Both letters were typed on letterhead from the U.S.S. Samaritan, the ship on which my great-uncle died, but they are devoid of the buttoned-up military speak of the telegrams and citations.

The letter to Toledo, dated Jan. 4, 1945, reads as follows:

My dear Sister Coronata: May our dearest Lord bless you and your work abundantly during this New Year.

I was very pleased to receive your letter concerning our dear little “CHIC.” This is just what he was. During the few days that he was with us I visited him often. He was always so pleased to see a priest. He was such an innocent child and his faith so deeply rooted that I really loved him. When he first came aboard I told him that someone’s good prayers had been heard. I meant that he had not been called on the field, as so many other poor boys. He immediately responded, “Yes Father, my sister, she is a nun.” Having a sister of my own a Dominican, we had something more in common. I could not help but feel for you; for I know how my good sister would feel.

Chic was conscious till the very last moment. He was so attentive to the prayers for the dying; which was the greatest edification to me. When he breathed his last, I actually broke down myself before the doctor and nurse, as I continued to say prayers. Our dearest Lord wanted another little angel for His heavenly choir.

Please continue to pray for me, Sister; and may I ask that you have the children pray for me also. We priests of the service have so much need for prayers than before.

Sincerely in Christ,

Joseph S. McCauley

Catholic Chaplain

Not just on Veterans Day but throughout the year, let us all take time to remember our brave men and women in arms — especially those who never made it home for Christmas.

Michael White, editor

Michael White

Michael White is the editor of The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at mwhite@timesreview.com  or at (631) 298-3200, Ext. 152. A similar version of this column first appeared in this publication in November 2008.

10/15/13 7:00am
10/15/2013 7:00 AM
JOHN NEEELY FILE PHOTO | Calverton National Cemetery.

JOHN NEEELY FILE PHOTO | Calverton National Cemetery.

While large portions of the federal government remain ground to a halt as federal lawmakers stand across the bargaining table from one another, Calverton National Cemetery has been unaffected since the day the so-called “shutdown” began Oct. 1.

But sometime next week, that could change.

If no deal is reached in Washington, D.C., two-thirds of the staff at Calverton National Cemetery, the country’s largest burial ground for veterans, will be furloughed Oct. 22. In that event, the cemetery’s work force would drop from 100 to just over  30, resulting in delayed interments.

While veterans affairs could be considered a nonpartisan issue — especially compared to Obamacare, the issue at the heart of the shutdown — Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said last week that he doesn’t see the logic in passing legislation that would  before a final deal is made.

“There have been a series of bills Republicans have brought to the floor to reopen a slice of the government,” he said in a conference call Friday with members of the media. “What we say is, ‘Let’s reopen all of the government.’

“Should we allow burials to slow down at Calverton? Of course not. But the answer should be to reopen the entire government. Not pick and choose which parts we want to,” Mr. Bishop said.

The cemetery is funded through the National Cemetery Association, which falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The department is funded in two-year cycles — unlike most departments, which are funded year-by-year — so operations at Calverton, and much of the VA, have so far not been impacted by the impasse to the same degree as the rest of the federal government.

The Calverton cemetery conducts approximately 30 to 40 burials per day on its 1,045 acres, about 800 of which need to be maintained on a regular basis.

Kristen Parker, a spokesperson for the NCA, said that in the event that the shutdown hits national cemeteries, the government would “do whatever it can not to delay a burial. And it would likely be a day or two. Not weeks.”

Funeral homes would be responsible for holding the bodies of deceased veterans while they await their final resting place, according to Parker. In addition, she said, relatives of those who died would still be cared for during any delay in the process.

But many veterans have already had enough. Just after the shutdown hit, a group of vets arrived in Washington to find that they had to remove barricades at the World War II memorial, which had been shut down. And last weekend, Reuters reported that veterans groups took it one step further, removing the barricades and placing them on the lawn of the White House.

“I don’t even know if the government would feel bad [if burials were delayed],” said Frank Bania, who runs Boots on the Ground NY, a veterans group that organizes PTSD support groups, motorcycle cavalcades and other efforts to help veterans.

The former commander of Riverhead VFW Post 2476, Joe Edler, said, “I have a funny feeling this should be settled fast, or else I think they’re going to hurt a lot of veterans.”

If no deal is reached by the end of the month, Mr. Bishop said, the country may not be able to pay out $12 billion in active duty and veterans benefits.

jpinciaro@timesreview.com