When Al Lahood graduated high school, he said knew he wanted more than spending his next four years in more classes. He craved adventure, and the Army was his answer.
“I didn’t want to sit behind a desk after high school so I joined to see the world and have an adventure,” said Lahood, 48, of Merrick.
Since 1982, Lahood has served in Germany, Haiti, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and at several other bases throughout the world. He said he doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
“Things like building roads, schools and bridges in Haiti in 1995 and 1996 are what have kept me in the military,” said Lahood.
The military even led Lahood to meet his wife Laura in 1982 when he was a private on active duty in Wurzburg, Germany. She was working in the chaplain’s office as a youth minister.
On Sunday, Lahood and his wife brought their 11-year-old triplets Madeline, Catherine and Teresa, to the Merrick American Legion Post 1282 for a barbecue.
The Merrick American Legion, which has about 175 members, participates in events throughout the year to honor veterans and support those currently still serving in the military.
“What’s important is for these veterans to see that they are not forgotten,” said Vincent J. Gabriele, 85, of North Merrick, who served in the Navy between 1945 and 1946 on the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt during WWII.
The organization also raises money to send packages to soldiers in Iraq as well as to create lap robes for veterans in nursing homes.
“Our membership and participation in the community have really blossomed in the last 10 years,” said Gabriele.
Every year, the Mobil gas station on Merrick Road in North Merrick donates 1.5 cents for every gallon they sell in a particular month to the American Legion. The American Legion members use this money to give sewing supplies to a knitting club to make the lap robes.
“We are trying to educate people on what it means to be a veteran,” said Robert Riordan, 82, of Merrick, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “We are expressing our commitment to this country.”
About 15 veterans and their families enjoyed hot dogs and hamburgers as they shared war stories and showed each other photo albums of their families.
Robert C. Wieboldt, 92, of Levittown is the oldest member of the Merrick American Legion and donned an American flag shirt and a patriotic cap.
“These events create a camaraderie that’s very beneficial for a veteran,” said Wieboldt, who served in the Army between 1943 and 1946. “The freedoms that we have are because of these people. America first, that’s what I always say.”