On Veterans Day, a bell is supposed to be rung 11 times, recalling the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month - 11 a.m., Nov. 11. Mineola American Legion commander Sal Cataldo rang the bell at Thursday 12 times, giving one extra "for all our armed forces all over the world."
According to estimates, there are 24 million veterans living in the U.S., and 67-percent have "little to no knowledge of the issues that pertain to them," Manny Grilo, commander of the Mineola VFW said, adding that the other 33 percent are members of veterans' organization. Speaking about the benefits of veterans groups, Grilo said that he did not join an organization for 10 years due to his being a veteran of the Vietnam War, not receiving as gracious a welcome home as other soldiers.
Grilo eventually became a member of the VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Society of the First Infantry Division and the Vietnam Veterans of America. "I was married, I was working, I had a family, and I was pretty busy, so I couldn't go to meetings," Grilo said. "But all those five organizations sent me magazines, newsletters, and literature informing me about what was going on, which was the most important thing." He also explained that in addition to Medicare benefit plans and other discounts, the organizations provide information such as diseases to which they may have been exposed to during their deployment. "There are 50 diseases that are related to Agent Orange," Grilo said. "Persian Gulf veterans have 10 diseases related to that war."
New York Assemblywoman Michelle Schimmel, D-Great Neck, said to the gathered crowd that "being a member of the veteran's committee I know that there are more jobless veterans coming back, more mentally ill veterans coming back and that takes resources, and we have to recognize that."
First to speak was Mineola , who addressed the crowd by saying, "I think it's important to remember that we do have so many of our friends and neighbors half a world away, still in harm's way, and that we take the opportunity very chance we get to remember that it is up to us not to forget." Martins added that "those men and women, now and in the past, many of them right here with us today, who sacrificed, to give us the opportunities to stand here today as we do."
"Most of us have only known peace and security whereas in the history of the world, most people and most people today have only known war, insecurity, fear chaos, dictatorship," Nassau County , R-New Hyde Park, said. "All of us here have only known freedom to express ourselves, freedom to elect our candidates... freedom of religion. We are really unique and our uniqueness is due to one great factor: the Lord has bless our country with great, proud, brave men and women who have served the United States of America."
"We're very lucky to live in this country, a country that's rich in resources," Mineola village trustee Tom Kennedy said. "The one thing those resources don't produce is freedom, and that's provided by probably our greatest resource and that's the brave men and women of our armed forces."
Fellow Trustee Paul Cusato, wearing his firefighters uniform, simply expressed his thanks to the veterans on behalf of the fire department. Also present at the ceremony were representatives from the Mineola ambulance corps., the Golden Age Club, the Leisure Club of Mineola, and Cub Scout troop 246. "There's no need to say anything else other than 'thank you'," Trustee Paul Pereira said. "What else can you say but thank you for the sacrifice that our veterans have made, thank you for those who are still serving, and how grateful we are that we have those men and women who are willing to sacrifice."
Mineola Deputy Mayor Lawrence Werther chose to speak about his new grandson and his hopes for the future.
"I don't know the things he's going to be exposed to as he grows up, I certainly don't know that when he's my age what his eyes are going to see and his ears are going to hear," Werther said. "But one thing that I'm very comfortable in believing is that that flag will still be flying all because of you who put on the uniform of the United States of America and fought for our freedoms here."