Celebrating Those Who Served


A Farmingdale Vets Reunion

In 2004, President George W. Bush dedicated the World War II Memorial to honor “The Greatest Generation,” 59 years after the end of WWII.

Veterans gathered at the American Airpower Museum in recognition of their Honor Flight. (Photo credit: Lauren Feldman)

Around that time, Earl Morse and Jeff Miller realized that many World War II veterans would never have the opportunity to visit the memorial that was erected in their honor. Many, due to age or financial resources or knowledge or strength, would not be able to complete a conventional trip to Washington D.C. And so a program was developed which would enable veterans to be honored for their service and sacrifice. Only one year later, in 2005, the Honor Flight Program was inaugurated.

The program was designed to honor fellow Long Islanders who helped to preserve our freedom, by providing them with a free trip to visit their memorial. Honor Flight began as a program solely for World War II veterans, but slowly, many “hubs” began taking Korean War, Vietnam War and other conflict veterans to Washington D.C. The program has now flown over 250,000 veterans to see their memorials.

In partnership with Honor Flight, Farmingdale’s American Airpower Museum recently co-hosted a patriotic reunion of 37 Vietnam War, 2 World War II and 5 Korean War veterans, who descended upon D.C. back in April. Veterans were presented with a certificate from Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, as well as a scrapbook from their flight. As each was presented, Honor Flight volunteer Jeff Rosenking read letters written by the veterans — or a loved one — recalling their experiences during their time serving the country.

Allan Mallenbaum

Allen Mallenbaum, of Plainview.

Mr. Mallenbaum, a resident of Plainview, served in the Korean War from 1954 to 1956. “In 1954 I was a graduate student not worried about my deferment from military service,” his letter read. “But my local Draft Board had a different idea.” While he could have rebutted his draft notice, Mallenbaum agreed to enter the service and was sent to learn to maintain and repair chemical corps equipment at Fort McClellan in Alabama. After a short while, he was transferred to perform a variety of tasks in New York City. He says, “I was one of hundreds of thousands of interchangeable pieces in a vast military machine. I did whatever I was told to the best of my ability… and don’t regret it at all. I learned a great deal about our nation and the people in it, something that my college education was not equipped to teach.”

Joseph Iavaroni
Mr. Iavaroni, of Seaford, served in the Korean War from 1951 to 1955. “I enlisted to help the war effort and opted for USAF for flying duties.” In 1952, he was assigned to 6003 base flight Far East Air Force (FEAF) in Tokyo. He recalls celebrating when the war was declared officially over, but notes he “thought of those who couldn’t celebrate.” Mr. Iavaroni ended his enlistment in April of 1955 and returned home to New York with many fond memories. Among the awards he received were the Korean Service Medal for duties in a combat zone, the UN Korean Medal, the National Defense Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

Robert Magrino, of Seaford.

Robert Magrino
Mr. Magrino, of Seaford, served in the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1968. Magrino was drafted in the mid-’60s and brought to New York City. “My first days were a bit confusing,” he recalls. “I was nervous and things were moving very quickly.” He was awarded an MOS 52F20 “Electrician” after completing basic training, and reported to Fort Stewart in Georgia. He got along with his unit and is still friends with some of the men to this day. He recalls missing his mother’s cooking, and that he lost over 20 lbs in 2 years from the Mess Hall food. Mr. Magrino was awarded the National Defense Service Medal for his service.

James O’Hara, of Seaford.

James O’Hara
Mr. O’Hara is a resident of Seaford, and served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1970. He remembers being drafted in January and sent to Fort Jackson in South Carolina for basic training. He was sent on to advanced infantry training at Fort Polk, and then onward to Vietnam. O’Hara spent three months going out on re-con patrols. When his patrol leader went home, he took over the position for the remainder of his service. Among the numerous medals earned, Mr. O’Hara received the Vietnam Service Medal, the National Defense Medal, as well as a Conspicuous Service Star. “When I got out, my PTSD was very bad, with no help from the VA,” he recalls. Thankfully, he says that “Now I get all the help I need.”

John O’Hara, of Seaford.

John O’Hara
Mr. O’Hara, also of Seaford, served in the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1969, with the Bravo Company, 6th Battalion, 31st Infantry, 9th Division. O’Hara was an RTO and Squad Leader in the Mekong Delta and Saigon. He was wounded by a booby-trap in 1969, was honorably discharged and received a Purple Heart Medal. Mr. O’Hara was also awarded the Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Medal, among many others. He has kept in touch with many members of his unit over the years via telephone.

Edward Pzedwiecki, of Massapequa Park, and his Honor Flight guardian (right).

Edward Przedwiecki
Mr. Przedwiecki now calls Massapequa Park home, but he once served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969. He was wounded during service and was air-lifted from Lai Khe, Vietnam. He received a Purple Heart during his service. He notes that there is a lot he experienced during his service that he does not discuss with friends or family, only other veterans , since it was a very difficult experience.

Richard Colby, of Seaford.

Richard Colby
Mr. Colby, of Seaford, served in the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1974. “I made boot camp, and weighed about 180 lbs,” he jokes. Mr. Colby is a member of the Honor Guard of the Wantagh American Legion Post 1273, and is so grateful for the opportunity to join Honor Flight.

Joseph Sciortino, of Massapequa Park.

Joseph Sciortino
Mr. Sciortino is a resident of Massapequa Park, and served in the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1968 as a mechanic. He worked on various tanks throughout his service. He did his basic training in South Carolina, before being sent to on to Fort Meade He reached Vietnam in December of 1968, and was stationed in Saigon until the end of his service.

Thank you to these veterans — and all veterans — for the valor and service you have done for the United States. May we continue to recognize and celebrate you as you return to your communities and civilian life.

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Lauren Feldman is the Editor of the Nassau Observer. She is a Long Island native, who received an MA in Media and International Development from the University of East Anglia.

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