A Woodmere mother, with inspiration from the Piano Man, brought a taste of Long Island hospitality to three hungry sailors on shore in Manhattan this Memorial Day weekend for Fleet Week.
It all started — as many great Long Island tales often do — with a Billy Joel concert.
Abby Oshrain, sitting in the crowd Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, had a crazy idea as the Hicksville-raised singer/songwriter brought members of the armed forces on stage as he sang “Goodnight Saigon,” his haunting and sobering epitaph to the Vietnam War.
Oshrain, 60, told her husband, Richard, that if she saw any sailors walking around Manhattan, she would invite them back to their home on Combs Avenue in Woodmere for dinner.
“I said there’s no way these young guys want to come to our house for dinner,” recalled Richard Oshrain, 68, a periodontist. “They’re in New York. They want to go out to the bars and meet girls.”
Undeterred, Abby Oshrain approached six sailors the next day in front of the New York Public Library with the most unusual of propositions — an offer to cook them a Thanksgiving-style feast as a sign of gratitude for their service.
Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Gall, who coincidentally was among the service members on stage with Billy Joel the night before, leapt at the chance.
“A stranger welcomed us into their home,” said Gall, 47, of Kansas City, Missouri. “It’s such amazing hospitality.”
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob Flores, 24, of Corona California, said he’s used to strangers approaching him to say "thank you for your service" and even offering to buy him a beer.
“But this was a little bit different,” Flores said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
On Sunday, as 2,300 sailors wandered across Manhattan, Gall, Flores and Bobby Louangrath, 24, of Charlotte, North Carolina, all stationed on the USS Mitscher, hopped on the Long Island Rail Road for their first home-cooked meals in months.
The Oshrains, along with their son, Adam, 25, and his girlfriend, Mary Parise, 24, spent the day preparing a feast of turkey, strip steak, brisket, kugel, stuffing, sweet potatoes, grilled vegetables and stuffed mushrooms.
“I was thinking, ‘who knows if these guys are home for Thanksgiving or Easter,’” said Abby Oshrain, who works for a law office. “And I thought it would be nice thing to be with a family and to have an early Thanksgiving.”
Louangrath, a petty officer second class, said the offer was too good to resist. “She said, do you want turkey or steak, and I was like: ‘both,’ ” he said.
Abby Oshrain said with the political divisions splitting the country, she thought it was important for the sailors to know how much their service was appreciated.
“I want them to know that there are people out here who are so grateful for everything they do,” Oshrain said she stirred the rich brisket sauce.
Richard Oshrain, whose parents both served in the Army during World War II, said it’s the least they could do.
“It’s what Memorial Day is all about,” he said.