HUNTINGTON BAY, New York, September 11
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Veterans from all over Long Island flooded the Huntington Yacht Club on Sunday to participate in the club’s 6th Annual Veterans Appreciation Day. In collaboration with the Northport Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) halls of Long Island, more than 100 former members of the armed forces were welcomed to a tour of Huntington Harbor and the surrounding waters of the North Shore.
“I believe [that] of all the parties I’ve handled and [run] at the [Huntington Yacht Club]… that this is the most rewarding and best function for the club and its members,” Marty Egeland, organizer of the day and past commodore of the club, said. “The veterans are grateful, but from a member: Don’t thank us, we thank you.”
Yacht club members offered up their boats, time and money to support the day that consisted of a continental breakfast, a welcome from Commodore Jim Kelly, three hours of sailing, a dedication ceremony and buffet lunch.
“It’s a big operation, it’s not just, ‘Oh! Let’s pile [the veterans] in a boat,” said Joe Rossbotham, a member of the Huntington Yacht Club whose boat was used during the day. “We want people coming together and doing things that they love to do; that’s the bottom line.”
Once stomachs were full, the volunteers sorted out the boats to give veterans like Donna Zephrine – who served two Army tours in Iraq and now lives in Bay Shore – their first glimpse of Huntington from a new perspective.
“I heard from a couple of the other veterans who came last year that it’s beautiful [on the water] and that you can’t miss it,” Zephrine, who attended the event with her sister, said. “I think it’s very nice that [the Huntington Yacht Club] acknowledges veterans and have [a day for it].”
Joseph Pugni – an Army veteran from Setauket – was invited to the club by a friend who is also a veteran. Pugni accepted so that he “could have a nice day out.”
“From the water, it’s beautiful out there,” he said.
For the Northport VA, which helps spread the world to veterans each year about the event, the day has become one of their “most important events of the year,” Debra Bader, a registered nurse at the center’s Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, said.
“The veterans in our program talk about it all year long,” Bader said. “It’s a very special day… I couldn’t imagine not holding the event.”
The day has become so special, in fact, that some are already looking forward to next time.
“It was a fantastic time, just beautiful,” Denise Williams, certified peer support specialist for the Northport VA and an Army veteran herself, said. “We’re so ready to go back next year.”
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Long Islander (Thursday, September 11, 2014; A13)