To conclude Veterans Awareness Week, SJC Long Island held the annual Veterans Day Celebration today during common hour in the McGann Conference Center.
Veterans Day was first celebrated on Nov. 11, 1954, a month after President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day proclamation. Prior to 1954, Nov. 11 was designated as Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.
“Nov. 11 this year is particularly significant because it marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that brought the Great War to an end,” veteran of the U.S. Army Ralph Nofi, assistant professor of business and marketing, said. “The sacrifices of the members of our military in that war continue today, on and off the battlefield, as our people in service serve our country. And so it is important that we always remember them, particularly on this day. Today at the College, we are paying tribute to all who have been in the military service of our country, especially the many in our college community who are veterans — students, staff and faculty — as well as the many veterans we have from our local community.”
“My hero has no name. My hero has no skin color,” Student Veterans Association (SVA) President Michael Esposito, a petty officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves, said to the audience. “My hero’s average age when enlisted was about 20 and a half years old. My hero is hiking the mountains of a foreign land with a 30-pound teflon vest, 50-pound rucksack, rifle across his chest and a dip in his lip. My hero’s birthday? July 4, 1776.
“My hero knows when to take a life or to save one,” Esposito, a junior studying psychology, continued. “My hero left the comfort, safety and love of his home to protect the freedoms we enjoy today. And he would do it any day if those freedoms were ever threatened. My hero wears an American flag on his chest, and those stars and stripes never retreat. Some of my heroes sit in the rows in front of you today. I thank you and your country thanks you for the service you have given us.”
“After World War I, there was a poem written about Flanders Fields and the poppies, and that encouraged veteran organizations to adopt the poppy as their flower — a symbol,” Rogers said.
The VFW issued Buddy Poppies in 1922 before the first Memorial Day. In 1923, disabled veterans began making the poppies and distributing them.
“The poppy program is important because it’s more than just a symbol — something that we wear,” Rogers said. “Each one of you as you came in today received a Buddy Poppy. Besides just being made by disabled veterans to give out to people, the Buddy Poppies are used as a way to bring in income to disabled veterans and those in need.”
Rogers explained that this year, the Patchogue VFW Post alone has helped a veteran who was having trouble paying his bills, and they sent money to the family of Sgt. Collins, a local recruiter that passed away, to help them during this difficult time.
“Right here in Suffolk County, we have the largest population of veterans in New York, and the second largest in the whole country,” Rogers said. “Over 160,000 veterans live right here in Suffolk County, and one third of them are either homeless or living below the poverty line. About one third are suffering from severe PTSD. About one-eighth of them are addicted to drugs or alcohol due to PTSD and PTSD-related symptoms.
“And so we use the Poppy Program as a way to help those in need. So when you see someone out there with the Buddy Poppy, contribute to them because that money really goes to where it’s needed. And always take the poppy when you pay for it. For every poppy we don’t give out, that’s one less poppy that we order, and that’s less money that the veterans get next time.”
A Symbol of Gratitude
Veterans and service members who attended the ceremony received the 2018 Student Veterans of America (SVA) Challenge Coin as a symbol of gratitude for their continued service for the people of the United States.
“I thank our great veterans for sharing your sacrifice and your story with this community,” said Alan Vitters, Ph.D., assistant professor of business, marketing, accounting and health care management, and a retired U.S. Army colonel with 30 years of service in the armed forces.