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Sandy Casts Shadow on Veterans Day Ceremony

Long Beach’s Veterans Day ceremony, held on Monday two weeks after Hurricane Sandy ripped through the city, was almost an afterthought this year. But the event came together in the last few days, in the midst of the city’s recovery.

Members of the Long Beach Fire Department at Monday's Veterans Day Ceremony.
Members of the Long Beach Fire Department at Monday's Veterans Day Ceremony.
Story and Photos by Joley Welkowitz. 

Long Beach’s Veterans Day ceremony, held on Monday two weeks after Hurricane Sandy ripped through the city, was almost an afterthought this year. But the event came together in the last few days, in the midst of the city’s recovery. 

Vietnam veteran Richard O’Donnell, a member of Long Beach’s VFW Post 1384, was one of about 150 people who gathered for the event outside Long Beach Police Department headquarters, despite that his West End home is inhabitable. 

“It is a disaster; the foundation of my home fell into the basement and my bicycle is my new car,” he said. 

A fellow Vietnam veteran, Joe Jeffers, grew up in the Long Beach and still has many family members that live in the city that lost their homes. About the help the National Guard and other military personnel provided in Long Beach after its residents were devastated by the storm, Jeffers said: “I hope that this makes people appreciate veterans and people in uniform more.” 

City Manager Jack Schnirman spoke about veterans and how grateful the city is to have them. “Thank you to veterans in all uniforms, many of whom rushed to our aid,” he said. 

At the ceremony, VFW Commander Dan MacPhee talked about how he and many other Long Beach residents have displayed their American flags to show their patriotism since the storm.     

Steve Abramson’s family has been Long Beach residents since 1926.  Abramson was in the Navy and stationed in Vietnam from 1968-1969. His home in Long Beach was condemned and he was displaced to Rockville Centre. He said he hopes to return to the city one day. “I want to come back as soon as my house can be rebuilt,” he said. 

Abramson said that Monday’s ceremony was different from past Veterans Day events.  

“It has displaced a lot of people and a lot of the veterans are wiped out and scattered around,” he said. “We are making the best of the situation we are in right now.” 

Hurricane Sandy compromised the floor at the VFW on West Park Avenue, and other parts of the building need to be repaired, the building remains open. According to the lodge’s Facebook page, the Ancient Order of Hibernians is using the post to distribute cleaning supplies and clothing.  

The kindness from other communities had poured in to the New York metro area. The “Spirit of Louisiana,” a fire truck, was sent to Long Beach in time for the Veterans Day ceremony. After Sept. 11, 2001, the people ofLouisiana raised money to replace a lost fire truck in New York City with this truck. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit, the FDNY sent the truck to Louisiana to assist with the recovery effort there. Louisiana sent the truck to Long Beach after its fire department lost some of its trucks and equipment in Hurricane Sandy. 

City Council President Len Torres closed the ceremony with some thoughts about the family of veterans and the men and women in the US military, which he said represent about one percent of our nation’s population. 

“That one percent protects the 99 percent and we need to appreciate and do something for that one percent,” he said. 

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