It’s been years since the Mattituck American Legion had enough active members to hold a Veterans Day service, but this Veterans Day, after a call for new members this past summer reinvigorated the post, they once again gathered at the monument of Wickham Avenue and Pike Street Nov. 11 to honor those who have served.
Even since its reinvigoration, the Raymond J. Cleaves Post, named for a soldier from Mattituck who died in World War I, has faced its share of travails. Its building, housed in a Quonset hut in a hollow, was flooded during a heavy rainstorm earlier this fall, and it is still being repaired.
But that didn’t deter veterans, or the Mattituck community, from coming out to show their support for their post. Community members, with an active contingent from Boy Scout Troop 39, packed around the monument just before the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year.
“This year’s remembrance has historical significance. This year is the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I,” said Vietnam veteran John Riberio, who gave the address at this year’s service. “It has special significance for this Legion and this post. We are named for Raymond Cleaves, a local man, who, like many others, went off to serve. A local man seriously wounded in France before the Armistice, who died in the United States of his wounds after it.”
“But the ‘War to End all Wars’ wasn’t,” he added. “As Marshal Foch of France, the Allied Commander, presciently observed when the final peace occurred with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, Europe had bought twenty years of peace.”
“We still mourn, honor and remember our sacred dead. And that is as it should be. But we also, now, honor the living who have served. And that is also as it should be,” said Mr. Riberio. “We honor them all for what they accomplished, and what they may have endured, the sacrifices they made, and the duty they undertook with honor and fortitude.
Our veterans should be both cherished and celebrated. That is why this day, and commemorations like these are so important. Our vets are the best America has to offer. Throughout our history they have engaged, adapted and overcome – for almost two and a half centuries, over virtually every corner off the globe. They have adapted and overcome, far too often, when they returned to an often indifferent, sometimes hostile, homeland. And by and large, they have reintegrated into American society, ignored the stereotypes thrust on them by popular culture, and gotten on with their lives – making valuable contributions to our nation while doing so.”
The Mattituck American Legion intends to start an Auxiliary chapter, allowing sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of veterans to support the Legion’s mission.
They’re also hoping to kick off a series of fundraisers in the new year, including meals at the Legion Hall and maybe a fair on its front lawn, similar to the Harvest Festival run by St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Greenport, said post member Ron Breuer.
Community member Chris Brincat took the time Saturday morning to set up his pickup truck with four flags flying from the tailgate, including two American flags, a POW/MIA flag and a Gadsden Don’t Tread on Me flag.
His grandfather was a World War II veteran, a ball turret gunner on a B-17 who spent 18 months as a prisoner of war at Stalag 17. His father had a long career in the Air Force, and he grew up on Loring Air Force Base in Maine. He couldn’t serve, due to surgery on his head when he was young, something he’d always regreted.
He’s planning to be one of the first on line when Mattituck forms an auxiliary.
“They never opened it up to sons and daughters before,” he said.
For more information about joining the Mattituck American Legion or its auxiliary, contact Art Tillman at 631.398.9587 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.