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Nassau fire department volunteers relish their roles with wounded members of the armed services

Joe O'Grady, chairman and president of the Nassau

Joe O'Grady, chairman and president of the Nassau County Firefighters Operation Wounded Warrior, poses for a photo at the Floral Park fire station on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Credit: Kristy Leibowitz

A group of Nassau County fire department volunteers who help wounded members of the nation's armed forces is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

"I know some of us think 'that could be me,' but we all want to show our appreciation for their sacrifices," said Steven Grogan of Lynbrook, a Vietnam veteran who speaks for a group called the Nassau County Firefighters-Operation Wounded Warrior.

The project, which also includes Emergency Medical Service volunteers, started after the Stewart Manor Fire Department ended up in 2004 with too many gifts for an overseas Marine they wanted to help. So they gave the excess -- personally -- to service members at a naval hospital in Maryland.

A decade later, that southbound convoy of Nassau fire trucks has become an annual December tradition. Today, about 40 of Nassau's 71 fire departments take part in NCFF-OWW activities. Their trips have included Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and military hospitals at Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

A number of Nassau firefighters will be traveling to Camp Lejeune next month to visit wounded Marines and their families. Nassau firefighters say they have helped hundreds of wounded warriors, many from Long Island.

Army Sgt. Eric Edmundson, 34, of New Bern, North Carolina, is visited at his home each year, Grogan said. Edmundson is recovering from a roadside bomb attack in Iraq in 2005.

Edmundson's wife, Stephanie, said Tuesday that her family looks forward to the group's visit each year. "They're friends, like family," she said.

"We owe these wounded men and women more than we can ever give them," said Joe O'Grady, an ex-chief of the Floral Park Fire Department and the NCFF-OWW president. "We firefighters do what we do to honor their service and dedication and thank them for their sacrifice."

Grogan agreed.

"It [the trip] is a moving experience. Every firefighter, in fact, every citizen, should take this trip . . . and see true American heroes who have the greatest attitudes," Grogan said.

The key to all that the firefighters do is fundraising and partnering with other organizations and with the public, they said.

There is the Locust Valley Fire Department's annual pasta dinner; Lynbrook's annual car show; Roslyn's host of a "Roslyn Rocks" oldies night; and the Williston Park Fire Department's pancake breakfast, just to name a few of the fundraisers.

This also is the second year that LIU Post has hosted an art and photography exhibit this month to benefit the group.

In addition, financial support has come from performances by country singer Charlie Daniels and the Marshall Tucker Band.

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