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Homeless veterans treated to a night out in Jericho
John Byrne would have spent Wednesday night alone in his room at The Salvation Army residence of the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Instead, he was among the 22 homeless veterans transported from the Northport VA for a free dinner, along with a comedy and magic show, at The Milleridge Inn in Jericho.
“I had a bad run and it was just too much to afford to live on my own,” said Byrne, 64, who served in the Army between 1966-67 and now doesn’t have a permanent residence. “I’m living at the VA to help kickstart my life again. When someone is down on his luck, this is the perfect chance to unwind, eat some food and laugh.”
Mother-and-son clown team Carol and Garrett Klein founded the nonprofit Our Heroes Night Out, which began the annual dinner, now in its third year. Instead of wearing their usual patchy overalls and handing out balloons, the duo came dressed in formal attire.
“It’s something that we started doing to honor our veterans,” said Carol Klein, of Levittown, who doubles as MisMatch the Magical Clown. “I don’t think anyone should be homeless, let alone veterans.”
Her son Garrett Klein, known as YooHoo the Clown, started performing at age 10, and co-founded the nonprofit to provide homeless veterans with an escape to entertainment.
“These guys have lost their way. We just felt that they deserve some recognition and for us to show we’re appreciative of their sacrifices,” said Klein, 29, of Levittown. “It’s about giving them smiles for the night, even if it’s only for the three hours that they’re here they forget about their problems.”
Linda Bartolomeo was one of seven players acting out a comedic murder mystery about two rival Italian families battling to resolve their differences. The crew drew laughs from the veterans for more than an hour.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing and more people should do more for them,” said Bartolomeo, 57, of Mastic Beach, who has been performing with Seaford-based Knock’em Dead Comedy for six years. “I would gladly come back next year.”
Frankie Pace, of Port Jefferson, also performed comedic acts, just before Phil Levy, of East Northport, did magic tricks using a deck of cards, a rope and an oversized ring.
Raymond Mohrman, who served in the Army in Italy between 1969-71, has lived at the Northport VA since July 7 due to his problem with alcohol abuse, he said.
“Tonight was very enjoyable. There was really no rules and we all got involved in the murder mystery. It was good for everyone,” said Mohrman, 62, of Middle Island.
Byrne said even though he’s only been living at the medical center since June, he and the other veterans had been looking forward to the dinner and the chance to get away for the night.
“It’s very embarrassing to be in the state that I’m in. We all want to be self-sufficient, but some of us just need a little bit of help,” Byrne said smiling. “We’re all deeply grateful for this.”
Above: Veteran Raymond Mohrman, 62, of Middle Island, danced with Linda Bartolomeo, 57, of Mastic Beach, during her comedy skit at the Our Heroes Night Out event at The Milleridge Inn in Jericho. Dinner, comedy and a magic show was provided to homeless veterans staying at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center. (Aug. 22, 2012)