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World War II veteran's house renovated to make it accessible after he breaks hip

Frank Agoglia, a D-Day veteran, was welcomed at his retrofitted home in Deer Park by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Make It Count Foundation on Monday. Agoglia fell in the supermarket while out with his daughter Susan and fractured his hip. (Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware)

Frank Agoglia survived a horrific World War II D-Day plane crash that killed many of his Army brothers. He then spent the next month braving mortar fire and flying shrapnel. And when he returned home, Agoglia served 33 years with the NYPD, retiring as a detective in 1980.

But when Agoglia, 95, broke his hip last August in a fall at a supermarket, he started to doubt how he would get in and out of his steeply sloped Deer Park home. And seemingly basic tasks, such as getting in and out of the shower, started to feel daunting.

That's where the Make It Count Foundation, a West Islip nonprofit that supports veterans and their families, stepped in.

The group, which was connected to Agoglia’s family through the Suffolk County Veterans Services Agency, retrofitted the home free of charge, expanding the entrance to the bathroom and gutting the interior to make it accessible. Foundation volunteers also installed a garage door opener for easier access into the Andover Drive home. 

"It's amazing," Agoglia said Monday as camera crews hurried in and out of his split-level ranch home for a news conference unveiling the construction. "I appreciate all the work that everyone has done."

The project was the 35th home on Long Island, primarily in Suffolk, retrofitted by the Make It Count Foundation. The group uses a combination of private funds and public grants, including proceeds from the Suffolk County Marathon, to make home repairs for veterans.

The renovations to Agoglia's home, which would typically run up to $20,000, began three weeks ago while he was in an inpatient rehabilitation center in West Islip recouping from surgery to repair his fractured hip, said Jon Reese, chief executive and founder of the foundation. The work was completed before Agoglia's return home on Oct. 1.

"We can never do enough as private citizens," Reese said. "This is just a way for all of us who didn't serve to serve. Anything we can do. The need is great, certainly in Suffolk County with such a high population of veterans." 

Susan Pombano said the fall was a big blow for her father, a fiercely independent man who travels on his own by bus to doctor appointments.

"For a man who landed in Normandy and fought on and has lived a very independent life, this has been a big setback," she said, adding that chair lifts for navigating stairs in the house will be installed by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the coming days.

Agoglia, along with his five brothers, served in World War II. All returned home to Brooklyn safely.

Frank Agoglia was assigned to the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, attached to the 82nd Airborne Division that was part of the D-Day invasion of Normandy's beaches on June 6, 1944.

During the invasion's early moments, Agoglia's wooden Airspeed Horsa glider, carrying 26 troops, clipped an embankment and split in two as it tried to land near the French town of Sainte-Mère-Église behind enemy lines.

The crash killed several of Agoglia's fellow troops. Those who survived continued fighting for a month before they were evacuated and sent to a mission in Holland, assigned to secure a bridge that would eventually allow quick entry into Germany. 

In total, 160,000 allied troops, facing withering German gunfire, stormed Normandy's beaches during the D-Day assault. In all,  over 4,000 were killed by day's end but the all-out assault on 50 miles of heavily fortified French coastline began the liberation of German-occupied Western Europe. 

Suffolk County Steve Bellone called Agoglia an "American hero" who bravely served the country, putting his life on the line to protect American freedom and democracy.

"It's because of individuals like Frank that we have the country we have today and that the world is as safe as it is today," Bellone said. "And the reason there is as much freedom as there is today is because of American veterans like Frank Agoglia."

The home repairs, Agoglia said, are a game-changer that will allow him to become more mobile and spend additional time with his four children, 17 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

"This has changed everything for me," he said. 

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