Days before the nation celebrated its independence, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray presented prestigious awards to a group of courageous veterans during the Town of Hempstead’s annual Salute to Veterans Ceremony at Point Lookout Town Park on June 30. A total of eight veterans were honored, including six 2012 Veterans Medal recipients and two Montford Point Marines who were presented with the town’s Trailblazer Award.
“These dedicated men and women bravely served their country during times of war, and upon returning home, committed themselves to helping fellow veterans who needed medical care, basic supplies or help finding employment and housing,” stated Murray. “These veterans sought nothing in return for their selfless acts. But, today, they receive the recognition they so rightfully deserve.”
The Town of Hempstead’s Veterans Medals are awarded to veterans who have dedicated themselves to helping their fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms in their time of need. This year’s 2012 Veterans Medal Winners are: Lecia Rodriques-Whyte of Elmont; Tami Ellinport of Valley Stream; John Brady of Levittown; Frank Lowell Neal, Jr. of Hempstead; Stephen Nicolino of Freeport; and Frank Colon of Rockville Centre.
Murray also presented the town’s Trailblazer award to Richard Warren of Roosevelt and Vincent Long, Sr. of Hempstead for their service as original members of the legendary Montford Point Marines. The Montford Point Marines were the first African Americans to serve in the United States Marine Corps, whose heroic efforts in World War II led to the integration of the Marine Corps.
Prior to the ceremony, Murray posthumously honored late veteran Ned Johnson, the past county commander and chaplain of the United Veterans Organization, and an active member of the town’s Veterans Committee. On behalf of the late veteran, Johnson’s wife and two children accepted a special posthumous Fallen Hero Award presented by Supervisor Murray.
The following are short biographies of the six 2012 Veterans Medal Recipients:
Lecia Rodriques-Whyte of Elmont retired from the Army in 2007 after sustaining injuries during her deployment in Iraq. Despite her physical challenges and countless responsibilities as a mother of four and grandmother of five, she works tirelessly to help fellow veterans. Lecia is a member of multiple committees at the Brooklyn VA Hospital, where she established a computer lab to familiarize veterans with technology. She is active as the adjutant of American Legion Post No. 1033 and a member of VFW Post No. 455.
Tami Ellinport of Valley Stream had a distinguished military career in the United States Army as an Environmental Medicine Specialist. She has since embarked upon a host of activities and associations with local veterans organizations. She is very active in the Disabled American Veterans Organization and her Jewish War Veterans Post, where she has served in executive roles.
John Brady of Levittown served in the Army during the Vietnam Era, and remained involved as a member of the Army and Navy reserves. He has been a member of Levittown’s American Legion Post No. 1711 for more than 25 years. John volunteers to transport veterans to important medical appointments, and also collects food and necessities for needy veterans. He also serves as a Cub Scout pack liaison and coordinates his post’s programs geared toward children with special needs.
Frank Lowell Neal, Jr of Hempstead, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps., served during the Vietnam War. Frank is a longtime member of American Legion Post No. 390 in Hempstead Village, and rose to the position of Post Commander. Frank is also active in the post’s parade committee and the Nassau County Stand Down. He was recently elected to the position of 2nd Division Commander for the Nassau County American Legion.
Stephen Nicolino of Freeport is a veteran of United States Air Force who served heroically during the Korean War. He has been an invaluable contributor to veterans affairs while serving in both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Stephen led a fight to erect a Veterans monument in his beloved Freeport village and was the driving force behind the installation of parkway signs to designate Pinelawn and Long Island National Cemeteries. Active in an array of committees and advisory boards, Stephen is known as the “face and voice” of veterans affairs in Freeport.
Frank Colon of Rockville Centre, a veteran of the United States Army, is the past commander of the North Bellmore American Legion Post No. 1749. He is active in many parade and event committees, and recently brought multiple groups together for one community-wide Memorial Day parade to pay homage to the fallen. He teaches students and faculty at local schools about patriotism and respect for the American flag, and lends a hand to the needy, homeless and hospitalized veterans. Frank is currently a member of the Town of Hempstead Veterans Committee.
The Salute to Veterans ceremony was followed by a musical performance by world-renowned band Herman’s Hermits, starring lead vocalist Peter Noone. The event concluded with a stunning fireworks show presented by Bay Fireworks.
Murray thanked the many local businesses that helped make this event possible, including Swingbelly’s Beachside BBQ, Tulip Caterers, Naturally Boulder Beverage, Entenmann’s Family Bakery and Dover Caterers. KJOY 98.3FM was the event’s media sponsor.
Other participants in the Salute to Veterans Ceremony included: Distinguished color guards from various local groups; The Hempstead Plains Vintage Car Club, which provided a showcase of nostalgic vehicles; America’s Vet Dogs, which provides service animals for veterans; and the AHRC, which created patriotic hand-held fans to keep the veterans cool and refreshed during the hot summer evening.
“We salute our veterans with a night of fanfare, fun and fireworks to commend them for all they have done for this great nation,” concluded Murray. “I am proud to be a part of such a great event that honors our patriotic men and women in uniform.”