Dream to honor vets comes true posthumously
George Cressy spent most of his adult life trying to forget the Vietnam War, then spent his last years trying to make sure that nobody forgot.
So after working to help get a Vietnam War memorial built at Bald Hill, in Farmingville, it irked him that motorists would speed past on the Long Island Expressway a mile south, not even knowing that the monument was there.
"It frustrated him that he would see a sign for a Hooters or a skateboard park, but couldn't get a sign put up on the expressway for the memorial," said his daughter, Katie Cressy-Heaviside.
PHOTOS: Veterans Day on Long Island
Tuesday, the Northport resident did what her father had been unable to before he died last year of kidney disease.
A facsimile of road signs noting the memorial's presence -- signs she persuaded the state Department of Transportation to bend rules to allow -- was unveiled during a ceremony at the W.H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge.
"By the end, he didn't have the strength to keep calling and keep after it," said Cressy-Heaviside, 36. "I told him I would do it for him."
The signs are to be erected within the next several days near the eastbound and westbound ramps of the expressway's Exit 63.
Bethpage Federal Credit Union is picking up the cost of erecting and maintaining them.
The memorial, a needle-nosed obelisk topped in red, white and blue on County Road 83, was built in 1991 with $1.3 million in private donations.
But until this year, the DOT had refused to allow road signs directing motorists to the memorial, citing a requirement that attractions must have bathrooms in order to qualify.
Cressy, a paratrooper with the Army's 3/8 Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, led a platoon of soldiers during a three-day battle in November 1967.
It was almost 30 years before he allowed himself to describe the carnage, which he did in a 1996 remembrance published by Newsday.
"Most of his face was missing," he wrote of one of several of his men who were gravely wounded in the hillside battle. "It was a merciful God that never allowed him to regain consciousness. He died in less than a minute. We very carefully laid him down and covered him."
His daughter said he would have felt a sense of accomplishment, knowing that men who fought alongside him would not be forgotten.