CORTLANDT, N.Y. – Veterans gathered Friday at the Muriel H. Morabito Community Center to honor fallen members of the armed forces, before the Memorial Day weekend.
"We are here to remember the men and woman who have defended our great county over the years," said Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi. "We would not have our freedom without their brave sacrifice."
The theme of the event was an upcoming June rally in front of the Veterans Affairs hospital in Montrose. Until recently, there was a proposal by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to convert 160 of the campus's 172 acres into a housing complex, and downgrade the services offered at the campus. The move would have shifted services from Montrose to the VA campuses in Nyack and Castle Point, near Monticello.
"My commitment came because of one thing I learned early on, and that's that not all wounds are visible," said William Nazario, a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and a veterans advocate in the area. Nazario was recently honored as Male Volunteer of the Year by the Montrose VA hospital.
Nazario said victory over the proposed plan to turn the Montrose VA campus into housing "will only come when they put these buildings back in use and create more services."
"Anyone who has volunteered at the Montrose VA has seen a young man come in broken," he said. "... We have to defend what's ours, and honor those that are buried in our VA cemeteries."
Guest speaker Lt. Col. Ricardo Singleton, a Peekskill resident, pointed out that Memorial Day is a time to remember those who did not come back from their missions. Selfless sacrifice, he said, is a core value taught to service members.
"When someone gives their life, that's about selfless sacrifice," he said. "They need somebody to say 'thank you,' a government to say 'thank you,' a family to say 'thank you,' an organization to say 'thank you. The VA says, 'Thank you.' "