Longwood alumni honored for military service

Gail Bailey, center, president of monument committee, stands Gail Bailey, center, president of monument committee, stands with committee members, Harold Bachmann, right, and Paul InFranco, inside Bartlett Park in Middle Island. (June 8, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday

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Jeffrey Wiener put his country before family. So did Matthew Evko.

They are among the more than 230 former Longwood district students whose names are to be unveiled Saturday on the latest monument to community members who have served in the nation's military.

"I'm amazed at how Longwood steps up and comes to the defense of America," said Gail Lynch-Bailey, a member of The Longwood Alliance, which has organized the ceremony at Bartlett Pond Park in Brookhaven. "There isn't a military draft, so these veterans sacrificed their family for their country."

Each of the former students listed on the new monument participated in the Persian Gulf War or the global war on terror. The monument will be the seventh placed at the park, in a 15-year project conducted in conjunction with local social studies students.

Collectively, the granite and stone monuments list more than 800 names of those from the Longwood area who have served in wars since the American Revolution. "We pray this is the last one," Lynch-Bailey said.

The World War II monument was the first, erected in 2007. Since then, alliance fundraising efforts and a town grant of about $100,000 have helped pay for the remaining projects.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) are expected to attend the dedication, along with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Booklets for each monument have been compiled in the last 15 years by classes of middle school students.

"It was amazing learning about them; how they were scared being in the war," said Kaitlin Schaaf, 13, who worked on the latest project. "Some talked about how they were happy to be home."

Some of the students who helped with the first monument have joined the military and are being written about by current students.

In 2008, honoree Evko was an Army military police officer stationed in Baghdad, where he provided security and training to Iraqi police. "I don't know many schools honoring veterans," said Evko, 24, of Coram, now a reservist. "It shows that they care."

Wiener, 32, a Navy hospital corpsman from Lynbrook, enlisted in the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He died with three others in 2005 in an ambush bombing in Haditha.

Wiener's wife, Maria, and the couple's two children are expected to help unveil the monument, along with Virginia Eagle, whose late husband, James, inspired the project when he told a group of middle school students how he survived World War II.

Paul Infranco, a Longwood Junior High School social studies teacher, has been a part of the project since its inception. He said his students have spent two years working on the latest booklet. "It's a wonderful feeling knowing the kids have done this kind of work, that this information will be preserved . . . that people will have a place to go to at the local library and see this information," he said.

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