Members of the Lawrence Cedarhurst American Legion Post 339 are taking this time of year to reflect on their service, as well as devising ways to help other veterans, young and old, get the help they deserve.
Ernest Weiss, a Queens resident, Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient, joined Post 339 at the suggestion of a friend, Mitchell Dancyger, of Valley Stream.
According to Dancyger, he’s known Weiss for 60 years, since they were kids running around the neighborhood, but he just learned last year that his friend was awarded the Purple Heart last year. “I didn’t want to brag, if that’s the right word,” Weiss explained.
Weiss took some shrapnel from a grenade in his left arm, leg and shoulder while on a mission near the Cambodian border in 1967. His wounds were relatively minor and he was able to return to the field after around eight months of treatment. His service was completed in ’68. “The Purple Heart means service to my country,” he said. “I would have given my life for my country if they needed it, like Nathan Hale.”
Dancyger served in Germany from 1966 to 1968, he’s thankful he was able to avoid conflict during his time with the military. “I was very lucky in my life,” he said. “I see some vets on the street and it hurts, that’s not how we should take care of them.”
Weiss and Dancyger continued to be troubled in the manner they saw people treat other veterans when they first got home. It’s part of the reason they wanted to get involved. “I want to help my fellow vets who didn’t get out in the same shape I did, Weiss said. “I was fortunate, so I’m going to give back.”
Syd Mandelbaum, the Post 339 commander, has combined his volunteer work with the American Legion and his Cedarhurst-based charity Rock and Wrap It Up! through the Feed the Veterans initiative.
A database on Rock and Wrap It Up!’s website — Hungerpedia — shows veterans and their caregivers where their local food pantries and soup kitchens are located. “I’m humbled to be able to do this,” Mandelbaum said. “There’s never been enough done for [veterans] once they’re out.
While none of the trio relay on federal veterans services, they have seen improvement sine President Trump took office.
Ralph Esposito, the director of Nassau’s Veteran’s Service Agency said the new administration has expedited payments. Veterans no longer receive one big retroactive check covering every six months. “A lot of [veterans] don’t have that sort of money in their pocket,” he said. “Most claims are done within sixty days now.”
Though the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has improved some services, Dancyger said many veterans need assistance. “Everyone should be helping,” he said, “it’s good for [the veterans] and it’s good for your heart.”
Post 339 will hold its annual Veterans Day ceremony at Andrew J. Parise Cedarhurst Park at the intersection of Summit and Cedarhurst avenues on Nov.11 at 11 a.m. It will include the dedication of four bricks in memory of four members who have died.