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Northport to honor veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan
At Northport’s most recent Memorial Day parade, it occurred to Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin and other officials that the proudly displayed plaques at the harbor acknowledged all wars but the two most recent. They decided to change that.
In a ceremony to honor the service and sacrifices of those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Northport American Legion Post 694 and village officials will unveil a memorial plaque on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the end of Main Street at the harbor.
“I felt it was time to put up a memorial for those who gave their services in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Tobin, chairman of the organizing committee in charge of planning the ceremony. “We wanted the dedication to be as close to Sept. 11 as possible.”
The ceremony will include a presentation of colors by the Boy Scouts of America troop 410, the Northport American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1469, Marine Corps League and the United States Coast Guard based in Eatons Neck.
The new memorial is in line with Northport’s history as a community that embraces its veterans.
Village Trustee Damon McMullen, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard in the 1970s and was involved in search and rescue efforts in Montauk, said the community’s support has always been noticeable.
“It’s important as these wars are winding down that we recognize what these men and women did for their country, so I thought this was an excellent idea,” said McMullen, a lifelong resident of Northport. “Honestly, I haven’t met anyone in this community who hasn’t been supportive of our vets.”
Northport High School’s Northport Chorale will sing “The Star Spangled Banner,” following the Pledge of Allegiance and later perform “America, the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.” After officials make their remarks, a reception at the Northport Fire Department will follow.
When McMullen’s son Damon served a tour in 2004 in Iraq with the 69th New York Fighting Irish brigade, he began a Troop Fund to send supplies to his son’s brigade and later his nephew’s.
“Northport raised $3,500 to send his unit a welder to weld armor onto their Humvees, which helped protect them,” he said. “And at one point we raised enough to send over protective combat goggles, which ultimately helped save my nephew’s life.”
Over the last decade, McMullen said that fund has enabled him to send nearly $500,000 worth of supplies to troops overseas.
McMullen also said that having the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center in their neighborhood has benefited the community, increasing support for local veterans.
“Since the VA formed it has always be very active in supporting veterans here in Northport,” he said. “Having it in your community really does bring it closer to home in the sense that there are veterans that need help right here.”
East Northport’s Mario Buonpane, 81, a Korean War veteran, said not only has the community of Northport and Huntington shown kindness toward veterans, but veterans also try to return the kindness they received by doing their part for their community.
Buonpane spends his time at the Northport VA visiting injured veterans. His post also started the annual Veterans Cup Golf Tournament at the center, raising a total of $100,000 since 1997, enabling veterans to attend national recreation events.
“This plaque will bring even more pride to the community than before,” said Buonpane, chairman of the Huntington Veteran’s Advisory Board and past commander of the Northport American Legion. “I’m so proud to be a part of this community.”