Just days before America will remember the Sept. 11 attacks,
the Northport community came together Sunday to unveil a new memorial dedicated to those who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
Henry Tobin, Northport’s deputy mayor, was the driving force behind the creation of the plaque, which honors the service and sacrifices of the local men and women who have served in America’s longest war.
East Northport’s Mario Buonpane, 81, a Korean War veteran, member of Northport American Legion Post 694 and Chairman of the Veteran’s Advisory Board for the Town of Huntington, led the ceremony, which included the Northport American Legion Post 694, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1469, Marine Corps League and the United States Coast Guard based in Eatons Neck.
U.S. Army Captain Thomas J. Kehoe Jr. delivered the first address, recognizing Northport’s longtime support of its military men and women.
“Having the support of community is essential - knowing that back home not only are mom and dad pulling for you, but your high school football coach, priest, rabbi, boy scout troop leader and neighbors,” he said. “This support is crucial. It is having this support that gets you through the toughest days when you find yourself on very little sleep, taking cover from mortar rounds.”
Kehoe Jr. remembered those members of the community who lost their lives in battle over the last decade including John W. Engeman, who served for more than 28 years before he was killed in May 2006. He also recognized Nathan B. Bruckenthal, a petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, who lost his life while patrolling Persian Gulf in Iraq in 2004. Bruckenthal was the first member of U.S. Coast Guard to give his life in battle since the Vietnam War. Marine Cpl. Christopher G. Scherer, who died in July 2007 while serving in Iraq, was also memorialized.
“Men like John, Nate and Chris, they’re why we’re here today,” Kehoe Jr. said.
Village Trustee Damon McMullen, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard, said that the memorial is of particular significance to him because his son, Damon, as well of two of his nephews, who were both injured in battle, gave their service in these wars.
“It is my hope that in a year’s time, when the names of those who served are added to this stone, that there are no more wars or conflicts that our community needs to dedicate a monument to,” he said.
U.S. Congressman Steve Israel gave the last speech, stating that memorials such as the one dedicated on Sunday, are of upmost importance because “Dying for freedom is not the worst thing in the world. Being forgotten for dying for freedom is.”
Captain U.S. Army, Iraq service, Thomas J. Kehoe Jr., Corporal U.S. Army, Iraq service, Damon McMullen and Corporal U.S. Marines, Afghanistan expedition force, Michael J. Scmitt Jr. unveiled the new memorial, which reads:
"The people of Northport, NY gratefully recognize and acknowledge the service and sacrifices of our friends and neighbors who served our country in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars."
Michael J. Schmitt Senior was also scheduled to participate in the unveiling, but he was called back into service a few days ago, Buonpane announced.
The bronze plaque was a donation from the Cow Harbor Race and the Northport Chamber of Commerce provided the installation. Cook Industries, owned by Town Councilman Eugene Cook, donated the stone for the memorial.