Veterans and public officials gather at Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook for a Memorial Day ceremony.  Credit: Howard Simmons

Inside the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, Joseph Ingino saluted the U.S. flag and thought about friends he knew at the facility and others who perished during the Vietnam War.

“I sent a prayer that I really wanted to be here today,” said Ingino, 74, a native of Hicksville who resides at the facility, wearing a Vietnam veterans hat. “This is like a somber day.”

On Friday, officials held a Memorial Day ceremony at the veterans' home on Patriots Road, the first such ceremony since the coronavirus pandemic prevented the event from being held. Nearly three dozen people were in attendance.

When the pandemic hit Long Island, the 350-bed facility had, at one point, the highest number of reported COVID-19 deaths of any Island nursing home, Newsday previously reported in April 2020. The veterans' home, because of a state Department of Health mandate at the time, barred visits due to COVID-19, which led people to protest outside in October 2020 to ask that restrictions be lifted so that they could see their loved ones. The restrictions have since been rescinded.

The facility, which opened in October 1991 and also operates a 40-registrant medical model adult day health care program for honorably discharged veterans, has provided care to more than 15,000 veterans on the Island.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 61,090 veterans live in Suffolk County, while 43,255 reside in Nassau County and 705,924 veterans live in New York State. 

Fred Sganga, executive director of the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, said working at the facility has “been a long 26 months for the employees, the volunteers, the medical staff and our residents who live here.” 

“But we have never failed to meet the mission, which is to take care of America’s heroes,” Sganga said. “I, as a proud American, recognize that my personal freedoms to do a whole bunch of things are all based upon the military service of the brave women and men who I have the high honor of caring for here at the Long Island State Veterans Home.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who attended the event and is an Army veteran, told the veterans in the room they have “picked up the baton of service from the Revolutionary War, right up until the wars in Iraq [and] Afghanistan. 

“You are heroes in our community,” Bellone said.

As part of the ceremony, Terry Cramond helped lay a wreath outside the facility honoring veterans who lost their lives. A West Babylon native, Cramond, 75, is a Vietnam veteran.

“I’m proud to have served my country,” Cramond, a resident of the facility, said. “I’m honored to be here [and] have some recognition.”

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