Assemblyman McKevitt Hosts Veterans Hall of Honor 2012

Assemblyman Tom McKevitt (R,C,I - East Meadow) hosted a Veterans Hall of Honor ceremony at the Williston Park American Legion Post 144. Fourteen local veterans were honored for their service and sacrifice to the United States.

"We owe the brave veterans of the United States Armed Forces a huge debt of gratitude for the sacrifices that they have made to secure the liberties that we enjoy today," said McKevitt. "I am proud to have the opportunity to honor each and every one of these incredible individuals."

Photo and biography for all 14 local veterans follows.

Gerard Barbosa
Veterans of Foreign Wars East Meadow Post No. 2736

Gerard Barbosa

It is unique to be able to tell the story of a man who experienced Pearl Harbor and the Normandy invasion and lived to tell about both.

In March 1941, Gerard Barbosa volunteered for the Navy. His destination: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where he was a gunner's mate on the U.S.S. Raleigh.

Until December 6, 1941, America was not officially at war. That changed on December 7. Remembering the "date which will live in infamy," in the immortal words of President Franklin Roosevelt, Gerard was relaxing on the Raleigh when the attack began that morning. He recalls bullets bouncing off the deck of the ship. Looking skyward, he saw the attacking Japanese planes overhead. Grabbing his gun, he began shooting at any moving target in the sky. During the battle, a torpedo plane hit the Raleigh on its port side and a dive bomber hit the ship. It was only due to the quick action of seamen, repairing holes in the ship in the midst of the raids, and tugboats that kept the ship afloat. Unbeknownst to Gerard at the time, six Japanese planes were shot down during the battle.

After Pearl Harbor, Gerard was sent to fight in Europe aboard a ship known as LST-157. Although his ship was involved in numerous raids, none compared to D-Day on June 6, 1944, the invasion of Normandy. He remembers German planes flying overhead, eager to destroy the enemy, the Allied forces. Sadly, many soldiers died before they hit the beaches or soon after, from the weight of their packs, the sea or enemy gunfire.

After his discharge from the Navy, one of the places Gerard worked was Grumman Aerospace. While there, he helped build the Lunar Excursion Module that landed on the Moon July 20, 1969.

Gerard and his wife Marie have two children and recently celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary. He is a decorated Navy man and a Life Member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Hon. John DaVanzo
Veterans of Foreign Wars Pvt. Adolph Block Post 1305

John DaVanzo

A lifelong resident of Mineola, John DaVanzo, also affectionately known as "Mr. Mineola," has given an enormous amount of his time and talents to serving his country, state and community.

A United States Navy veteran, John is a survivor of the Normandy invasion in 1944. Today, he remains active with the veterans through his participation in the VFW and American Legion in Mineola.

A lifelong volunteer, John has been a member of the Mineola Volunteer Fire Department for over 60 years and is an Honorary Chief. He also has served in the Nassau County and NYS Fireman's Associations and has been awarded many honors, including Fireman of the Year 2001 for NY State & the National Volunteer Fire Council-Firefighter of the Year Award in 2004.

John also has devoted many volunteer hours to organizations such as the Nassau Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Elks, Catholic Charities, Boy Scouts; and his membership in the Mineola Chamber of Commerce, the Italian-American Civic Association and County Seat Kiwanis Club, just to name a few, has improved numerous lives in the community. John is a parishioner of Corpus Christi Church, where he is a Knight of Columbus, Council #2542, and has been recognized as Knight of the Year. In 2011, John received the St. Agnes Medal of Service from the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Answering the call to run for public office, John served the Village of Mineola twice as Trustee, from 1955-1965 (serving as Deputy Mayor from 1955-1960) and 2005-2007. He also served as Councilman in the Town of North Hempstead from 1965-1974 and as Town Clerk from 1974-1991. He is a Life Member of the New York State Town Clerks Association.

John, a widower, is a father of five, grandfather and great-grandfather.

William "Bill" Urianek
American Legion Mineola Post No. 349

William "Bill" Urianek

A third-generation Marine, Bill Urianek was drafted in 1951. He went to Boot Camp at Parris Island, South Carolina and finished at Camp Pendleton, California. After his promotion to Sergeant, he was discharged in 1953.

Bill was actively involved in Mineola Little League for more than 15 years, serving on the board, coaching, acting as a two-term president and was the driving force in getting lights installed on the fields to enable night play. He also helped design the PAL roller hockey rink in Mineola. Bill is a co-founder of the Mineola Civic Association.

Perhaps the cause closest to his heart is helping veterans he has never met who have been tragically injured in war. After hearing about the plight of Army Ranger Christopher Levi of Holbrook, who lost both legs in service in Iraq, Bill set out to assist him. With the support of the Mineola community, Bill collected over 70,000 cans and bottles and, along with monetary donations, raised over $11,000 for Christopher. He has also collected over 13,000 cans and bottles, raising $1,900 on behalf of American Vets Dogs, an organization that provides dogs as companions for United States veterans. Bill is continuing his mission of collecting cans and bottles for Lt. James Byler of Huntington, who also has lost both legs in service in Afghanistan.

Bill also has assisted Mineola High School's Haiti fundraiser, the Inn for the Homeless in Hempstead and Mineola families in need. Since this project began, Bill has collected over 184,000 cans and bottles. Bill also helps raise money to assist with the cost of dialysis for children suffering kidney failure.

Manny Grilo
Veterans of Foreign Wars Pvt. Adolph Block Post No. 1305

Manny Grilo

Manny Grilo served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969 as part of the First Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Recon Platoon, SOGG. He is the recipient of numerous medals, including three Purple Hearts, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, the Air Medal and National Defense Service Medal, just to name a few.

Currently the Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Private Adolph Block Post #1305 in Mineola, Manny is deeply involved in veterans' organizations and causes. He is a Life Member of numerous organizations, including Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, Friends of Gettysburg, the American Legion and the Society of the First Infantry Division. He is also a member of the United Veterans Organization.

Manny selflessly gives his time and energy to chair the Mineola Memorial Day Parade and Veterans' Day services. He is the Poppy chairman and part of the crew that produces "Veterans News" on Public Access TV. He has raised money for American Vet Dogs and for two Long Island veterans who lost their legs in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army Ranger Christopher Levi and Lt. James Byler, respectively.

Manny is proud of his heritage, evidenced by his membership in the Portuguese Continental Union Lodge #51 and the Mineola Portuguese Center.

In addition to all he does for causes close to his heart, Manny and his wife Louise find time to enjoy their eight children, 22 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Charles Boyd
Nassau County Council VFW - Commander 2011 - 2012

Charles Boyd

Born and raised in Jackson Heights, Queens, Charles Boyd joined the United States Marine Corps in 1950. After completing his training in Parris Island, South Carolina, Little Creek, Virginia and Camp Pendleton, California, he served in Korea as a Sergeant with the 1st Marine Division from March 1951 through March 1952.

After leaving the military, Charles found employment as a linotype machinist and worked at nearly every English and foreign language newspaper in New York City, until he found the position that suited him. He spent the next 26 years at Peter F. Mallon Inc., A Complete Printing Unit, in Long Island City, until the advent of the computer. With a little luck, he found employment at Newsday as a printer, where he did ads, page layout and worked in the color lab until his retirement in 1993.

Over the course of his life, Charles has been an active member of his Church, St. Aidan, serving as an usher, worked with the CCD Program and with the Teen Council Directory. He is one of the original members of the Commanche Raider Indian Customed Band, and created The Harvard Street Kazoo Band for the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Village of Williston Park.

A 41-year member of the Williston American Legion Post 144, Charles served as commander from 1982 to 1983 and served the post in every position at least twice. Today, he is the Commander of VFW Post 1688 for the second time, the first time from 1994-1996. Charles is also the VFW State Loyalty Chairman. In addition, he volunteers his time as a Nassau Veterans Service Driver, providing disabled Veterans transportation to and from the Northport VA Hospital. He is a member of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team).

Of all his accomplishments, Charles is proudest of being the father of six daughters, 16 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren and counting.

Robert Thomas Riordan
American Legion Merrick Post No. 1282

Robert Thomas Riordan

Born in New York City, Tom Riordan served in the United States Marine Corps from 1951 to 1953. Originally, he joined the American Legion in 1988. In 1989, he became a member of North Bellmore American Legion Post #1749, where shortly after joining he became President of the Post's Building Corp. He later served as Commander for three years. During his term, Tom obtained a grant of $60,000 to help renovate the Post.

By the mid-1990s, unfortunately, his hometown post in Merrick had dwindled to less than 15 members. To save them from losing their charter, in 1997, Tom transferred into Merrick Post #1282. Through his effort and leadership, Post 1282 has undergone extensive renovations to its building and currently boasts more than 160 members. Due to his tireless dedication to see veterans receive their proper recognition, Merrick can boast of having beautiful and dignified Veterans Monuments.

Over the years, Tom has been honored many times, including Merrick's Man of the Year in 2001, recipient of the Town of Hempstead Veterans Medal in 2002, election as Nassau County's Commander of the American Legion in 2005, recipient of the Nassau County Distinguished Service Award in 2007 and induction into the New York State Senate Veterans' Hall of Fame in 2010.

Today, Tom remains active in the community in programs such as Americanism, where schoolchildren are given awards, and oversees collecting used eyeglasses, US and foreign postage stamps, playing cards, and cell phones and more that are then sent to our troops and their families overseas.

Leonard Fabrizio
American Legion North Bellmore Post No. 1749

Leonard Fabrizio

Born on Memorial Day, 1933, Len Fabrizio was drafted into the United States Army in 1952, during the Korean War, where he trained as a radio operator at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He was eventually stationed in Japan in Anticraft Battery "Charlie" whose mission it was to protect Itizuki Air Force Base from possible Korean air strikes.

By the time Len was discharged from the Army in 1955, he had attained the rank of Corporal. With his return to civilian life, he soon began classes at Adelphi University, where he majored in chemistry. While studying, Len began working for Occidental Chemical Corp, a company involved in PVC plastic. He remained with them until his retirement in 1993.

Soon after his retirement, Len was employed at PVC Container Corp. as a Technical Consultant, where he helped improve product quality and technical service efforts. He retired in 2005.

Len has been a member of American Legion Post #1749 in North Bellmore since 1986. During his time with the Post, he has served in many capacities, including Emcee for the Memorial Day Parade from 1994-1997, Finance Officer, 2nd Vice Commander, Law and Order Chairman, Publicity Chairman, Chaplain, and Compliance Officer. He is involved in the planning, execution and distribution of the Post's annual Thanksgiving food gift to Beacon House, a homeless veterans' conglomerate. As Len's Commander puts it, "Len has done everything but sweep the floors after an event, and he would do that if asked."

In 1997, Len was named American Legionnaire of the Year in Nassau County.

On a personal note, Len is the proud father of Nancy and grandfather of Linda.

Robert Kohler
Vietnam War Veterans Association Sgt. Joseph A. Matejov, USAF Post

Robert Kohler

Bob Kohler, a 27-year Nassau resident and veteran of the United States Marine Corps., is the current Commander of the Nassau County Vietnam War Veterans Association, which he helped form in 2005. As Commander, Bob has been an instrumental presence in a number of areas for the organization, including the Education Committee, the Homeless Veteran Program, the POW/MIA issue, fundraising and food drives for homeless veterans and local food pantries.

The past several years have seen Bob volunteering his time with other veterans and concerned citizens for Nassau County's Veterans Stand Down. In addition, last year, he spearheaded the Vietnam War Veterans Association's two food drives that resulted in over 80 cases of food and canned goods collected, all of which were distributed to homeless veterans and those in need. Bob was an active member of the Nassau County Veterans Monument Fund Committee, working closely with others on the Committee in designing and constructing the Vietnam Monument in Eisenhower Park.

As a member of North Bellmore American Legion Post #1749, Bob has held the position of President of the Board of Trustees for the past 11 years. Previously, he was Commander, Vice Commander, member of the Post's Color Guard and participant in its fundraising activities.

In his spare time, Bob volunteers his time cooking or obtaining food supplies for Holy Redeemer soup kitchen in Freeport, which serves both homeless veterans and needy area residents.

George Lewis (Commander Al Piscitelli)
American Legion Carle Place Post No. 1718

George Lewis

Drafted May 18, 1943 into the United States Navy, George served in several capacities. He first received six weeks of "Boot Training" in Sampson, New York. After this, he was sent to Georgia, where he became a station crew member on an airbase called "Lighter than Air Base," due to the blimps that were stationed there. George was then transferred to Maryland for Landing Ship Training. The LST to which he was assigned left New Orleans and arrived in the South Pacific in October 1944. Upon his arrival, he was transferred to a Landing Craft Tank, or LCT, which carried troops and equipment to various islands in the Pacific, finally landing in Japan after its surrender. It was during this time that he was promoted to Boatswain Mate 2nd Class.

Honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1946, George received several citations during his time in the military, including the World War II Citation, Pacific Campaign Citation, the American Campaign Citation and the Philippines Citation. At the time of his separation from the Navy, George had achieved the rank of Boatswain 2nd Class.

George is a 42-year member of the Carle Place American Legion Post 1718, serving as its Commander in 1975, and then again from 1998 to 2006. He also served as Commander of the Nassau County American Legion in 1985. Dedicated to the American Legion, he continues to fight for the rights of all veterans.

George and his late wife, Margaret, have two children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Robert Rudkin (Commander Ed Brown) American Legion Wm. Bradford Turner Post No. 265

Robert Rudkin

As a young man of 18 during World War II, Bob Rudkin desperately wanted to serve his country. His only dilemma was deciding which branch of the military to join. Listening to the radio one day, he heard the Army Air Force song "Wild Blue Yonder." This song struck a chord with him and the decision was made. Bob became a fighter pilot. After three years of vigorous training, he was a crack pilot, and his mode of transportation was a P51 Mustang, hottest Allied fighter plane in the military.

Bob's fighter group was assigned to ground strafing-eliminating German gun positions. During a mission, flying his Commander's borrowed plane, he was shot down over Germany and had to bail out. He walked for three days on burned legs before he was captured by German farmers. Bob found himself a POW, held with other Americans, British and Russians.

As the War came to a close in 1945, his POW camp was liberated. Bob returned to the United States, where he was reunited with his family and spent time in a military hospital. For his service to his country, Bob was awarded the Purple Heart, along with other medals.

After his military service, Bob was actively involved in many organizations, including the New York Institute of Environmental Engineers, Garden City Lions Club, Garden City Swimming Association, Sons & Daughters of the American Revolution, and was a Life Member of the DAV.

For American Legion Post 265, Bob served many functions, which include Past Commander, Vice Commander, Treasurer, Scholarship Committee, visitor to veterans at the VA Hospital in Northport and so much more.

Bob and his wife, Pauline, have been blessed with two sons and five grandchildren. Sadly, Bob reported to Post Everlasting on January 25, 2012.

Stanley Sichel
Veterans of Foreign Wars G & E Linder Post No. 8031

Stanley Sichel

Born in 1917, Stanley Sichel's young life is marked by moving back and forth between New York City and Long Island. His high school senior year was cut short when he had to find work to help support his mother, brother and sister.

One year before the United States entered World War II, Stanley volunteered for the Army and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. With the help of a Sergeant, he was accepted into the Cadet Program, where he eventually became a pilot. Learning to fly different types of planes, Stanley gained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. During this time, he flew two of the largest planes in the military, the B-17, known as the Flying Fortress, and the B-29, known as the Super Flying Fortress.

Eventually, Stanley was offered 1st Pilot in his Squadron, the 883rd Bomber Squadron in the 73rd Bomber Wing of the 20th Army Air Corps and was given his own crew of 10 men. While stationed in Saipan, Stanley and his men flew 25 missions, 18 successful, dropping incendiary bombs on Japan. The trip from Saipan to Japan and back took 15 hours. On one mission, after dropping a bomb, the flight made an unscheduled stop in Iwo Jima, halfway between Japan and Saipan, due to the loss of an engine over Japan. During another mission, Stanley and his men were caught in a fiery updraft and had to climb at an 80 degree angle in order to pull the plane out of the firestorm below. Stanley readily admits that they were lucky to have made it out unscathed. When the War ended in 1945, Stanley arrived home on his wife's birthday, giving her the greatest present she could have wanted, and saw his newborn daughter for the first time.

Stanley joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars G & E Linder Post #8031 in New Hyde Park in 1957 and was elected Commander in 1963, serving one year. Widowed twice, he is the father of two daughters, and has six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Thomas Zarella
Veterans of Foreign Wars Garden City Park Post No. 120

Thomas Zarella

Shortly after his 18th birthday in 1944, Thomas Zarella received a letter from the draft board telling him to report for duty in the United States Army. First, he was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey, then sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.

Placed in the Armored Division, he learned to drive a jeep, tank and several other vehicles, while learning the intricacies of many different weapons. Following basic training, Tom was sent to Washington DC, where he shipped out to join the invasion on Japan. By a stroke of good fortune, while traveling to Japan, his ship was diverted to the Philippines, as a peace treaty had been signed with Japan.

While in the Philippines, Tom became an MP and helped police the islands. He then became Quartermaster for the Yellow Ball Outfit and began delivering supplies to various locations on the island. He was later flown to yet another Philippine island where he became a Supply Technician in the 12th Airborne Squadron, delivering food, fuel, ammunition, and plane parts as needed. In 1946, Tom was discharged. Tom is the recipient of the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal for his service in the Philippines during World War II.

Today, Tom is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Garden City Park Post No. 120, where he is willing to do most anything to help out, especially assisting with the promotion of POPPIES each May, in honor of Memorial Day.

Tom and his wife, Marge, have been blessed with five children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, with another on the way.

John Lawless
American Legion Williston Post No. 144

John Lawless

Born and raised in Corona, Queens, John was drafted into the United States Army in 1969, where he served in Vietnam as an Infantryman for the First Cavalry Division. Wounded, he returned home and served the remainder of his tour at Fort Meade, Maryland. For his service in Vietnam, John received the Purple Heart.

Following his discharge from the Army in 1971, John returned to Bankers Trust, where he had worked prior to being drafted. At night, he attended college and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Adelphi University. Over the years, John was employed at several Wall Street firms until his retirement in 2005.

The year 1971 was even more memorable for John, as it is also the year he married his wife, Pat, with whom he has three children. While raising his children, John volunteered much of his time as a coach to Williston Park PAL Girls Softball, St. Aidan's Girls CYO Softball and St. Aidan's Girls CYO Basketball.

John has been a member of the Post for over 13 years. John is an active member of the Post, where he has served as Banquet Manager, 1st Vice Commander, 2nd Vice Commander, and Commander. At one point, he held the position of 2nd Vice Commander and Commander concurently.

Harry Wurth
Veterans of Foreign Wars Albertson Post No. 5253

Harry Wurth

Joining the United States Navy immediately after graduating high school in 1945, Harry Wurth was assigned to the U.S.S. Belleau, CVL24, aircraft carrier, which was deployed to the Pacific near the end of World War II. Aboard the carrier, he served on the deck crew and later as a baker. He was discharged from the Navy at the end of the War.

In 1964, Harry joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #3211 in Hicksville, becoming Quartermaster in 1965. He became Post Commander in 1969 and All State Commander. During this time, Harry began visits to the VA hospitals in Northport and St. Albans. Harry was elected Chaplain to the Nassau County Council in 1972. As Chaplain, he again visited the Northport and St. Albans VA hospitals on a monthly basis.

Over the years, Harry has served as Junior Vice Commander (1973), Senior Vice Commander (1974), Nassau County Commander (1975) and Allstate County Commander. The year 1978 saw Harry elected as Chaplain and Commander in District 1.

In 1981, Harry transferred to Albertson VFW Post No. 5253. In 1992, Harry was appointed VFW State Inspector, making sure all the VFW Posts in New York had completed inspection. In 1993, he was appointed New York State Chief of Staff, which required him to form new VFW Posts in New York State. Harry is extremely proud of the 19 new Posts he helped create.

From 1994 to 1996, Harry moved up the ranks in the State, finally becoming VFW State Commander. Harry is currently Quartermaster for the Albertson Post and for the Nassau County Council, positions he has held since 1997. Harry also is still very active with the American Legion.

Of all he has done, Harry is most proud of his three children and eight grandchildren.