Wearing his U.S. Army uniform adorned with a commanding officer symbol, Gary Vertichio was thrilled to spend his Sunday morning being served breakfast by U.S. Naval Sea Cadets.
“I am having a hard time containing how great it is to see the cadets serving the breakfast,” the Sayville resident, 70, said. “They are exceptional.”
Vertichio, a Vietnam veteran, was one of the 150 veterans being served a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage and orange juice at the first Breakfast for Veterans hosted by Applebee’s in Patchogue and sponsored by the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps -- Lieutenant Michael Murphy Division.
As the lieutenant junior grade for the cadets organization, Vertichio was happy to see the youth committed to service. “Every single cadet is a super achiever. They are the best,” he said.
The event raised $4,500 and proceeds benefit the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps. The money will fund a trip for the cadets to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan and will pay for transportation for cadets to travel back and forth to visit the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook.
The U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps is a national education organization for youth ages 13 to 17 under the authority of the Department of the Navy funded by the U.S. Congress. The local division is named after Michael Murphy, a graduate of Patchogue – Medford High School who served in the U.S. Navy and was killed in Afghanistan in 2005. The movie “Lone Survivor,” coming out in January, is based on the Navy SEAL mission "Operation Red Wing," during which Murphy was killed.
Islip High School junior Nicholas Lange said he felt honored to serve the veterans on Sunday.
“The veterans have done so much for this country,” said Lange, 16. “My grandfather served in the Korean War and two of my uncles served in the Vietnam War. If we can make the veterans’ day brighter by serving them breakfast, then we should be open and happy to do it.”
U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps Operations Officer Tom Haskell said he was excited to watch the older and younger generations come together.
“This breakfast is important because the young cadets can show appreciation to the veterans. It is a great opportunity for the young cadets to talk to the veterans who served,” he said.
Haskell said he has been proud to watch the young cadets eagerly participate with community services such as blood drives, parades and superstorm Sandy clean up.
“The program is designed to teach them self-confidence and respect,” he said.
The St. Joseph College a cappella group Sharps sang “God Bless America” and “Thank You Soldier” during the breakfast.
St. John the Baptist High School sophomore Ted Denlea, 16, said spending his Sunday morning serving the veterans was a way to say "thank you."
“We are just giving back for all they did for us. It feels great,” he said.
The Applebee’s located at 499 N. Service Road in Patchogue will serve free breakfast to veterans Monday from 11 a.m. until closing at 1 a.m. All Applebee’s locations are also offering a free entree to veterans Monday.