Northport VA Medical Center
50th Commemoration of The Vietnam War
On May 7, 2016, the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War took place at the Northport VA Medical Center. The purpose of the ceremony was to give thanks and recognition to all the men and women who served in the Vietnam War; especially considering the fact that most of the veterans after returning home were treated with little gratitude and much disrespect upon their return home.
The ceremony began with the Presentation of Colors thanks to the NYC Joint Services Color Guard. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Ms. Joan Furey, a veteran of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps who served in Vietnam and then devoted her life’s work to veterans’ care, including serving as the first Director of the National Center for Women Veterans. The National Anthem was then sung by the Northport High School Tour Choir members. After this, Reverend Monsignor Charles Fink, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, provided the opening Invocation.
During his invocation speech, he read a poem, “Bury Me with Soldiers,” that he had written in which he emphasized the nobility, sacrifice and service of the men and women who fought for freedom. A line in the poem read: “Bury me with men like them, till someone else does more.”
After the Invocation, Mr. Philip C. Moschitta, Northport VA Medical Center Director, spoke to welcome everyone to the ceremony. During his speech, he thanked all veterans for their service and acknowledged all the people who helped put together the ceremony of commemoration. He also thanked the staff and volunteers for their continued service to the veteran community, the musical guests, and the Color Guard. Moschitta then acknowledged members of congress for their support of veterans and their families as he introduced the Honorable Steve Israel, United States House of Representatives.
Israel used a lighthearted and friendly tone to start his speech as he thanked everyone involved in the ceremony. He began by making the audience chuckle at his jokes about the NY Mets. However, as his speech continued, he made it very clear how much respect he had for veterans. He called attention to how poorly Vietnam veterans were treated when they returned home from war and promised that he would always work to make sure that nothing like that ever happened again; “No American has the right to forget the sacrifices of men and women around the world.”
Israel also shared some stories of his visits with soldiers and told a few anecdotes about how the VA Hospital has helped serve veterans over the years; by helping them get financial assistance to helping someone with their battle with PTSD.
He also stressed the importance of the memorials and monuments we build and the recognition we give our give veterans and soldiers. He illustrated this point by quoting a veteran who was asked if these memorials were actually important: “Dying for freedom isn’t the worst thing in the world. Being forgotten for dying for freedom is the worst thing in the world.”
Israel then turned over the podium to Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Executive. During his speech, Bellone expressed much gratitude for everything veterans have done for us. He also said that the treatment our Vietnam veterans endured was a “shameful period of history.” He closed by saying what the Vietnam veterans went through “taught our country” and that no one should ever dishonor our veterans.
Steven Castleton of the Department of Defense and Vietnam War Commemorative Partner spoke. He too thanked the Vietnam veterans and their families for their sacrifices for the country and promised, “You will no longer be a forgotten generation. Welcome home.”
Mr. Joseph Ingino, President of Vietnam Veterans of America from a chapter in Nassau County, made his remarks. Again, thanking the veterans and guests present at the ceremony. He also gave special thanks to Mr. Richard Kitson, President of Vietnam Veterans of America from a Suffolk County chapter and Chief of Northport VAMC Voluntary Service, for his advocacy for veterans.
Then Kitson took the podium. He acknowledged all the Vietnam veterans with a warm, “Welcome home.”
Kitson spoke of his father and grandfather who had served in the military before him, crediting them as the motivating factor of joining the military himself, as well as his brother who tragically passed away at 19 years old while in combat in Vietnam. He also gave special thanks to the nurses, “God bless you!” He remarked how he was happy that after such poor and ungrateful treatment of Vietnam veterans when they returned home, that they were finally getting recognition. He then closed his speech by saying, “I want to give thanks to all who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
During the Presentation of Commemorative Pins and Presidential Proclamations, the West Point Band Hellcats and Northport High School Tour Choir members performed and handshakes and hugs were exchanged between the 1,500 veterans and 1,000 family members present. Then a memorial wreath was presented by VVA Presidents, Ingino and Kitson, at the Vietnam War Monument (Wall of Wars Memorial) followed by a moment of silence.
Rabbi Paul Swerdlow, U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran and Northport VAMC Chaplain Service, provided the closing benediction. After that, “God Bless America” was sung by the choir and the ceremony came to a close.