The City of Long Beach celebrated Veterans Day with its annual gathering in City Hall, with community members coming together to show support and gratitude for those who have, and are currently, serving in the armed forces.
Long Beach Middle School seventh-grade students also took part, as they do each year, planting 50 flags in front of the district offices beside Lido Boulevard, so all driving past could see.
But veterans were also honored last Sunday, at a ceremony that many in Long Beach may not know about. Long Beach Terrace, an apartment complex in the East End, hosts its own small gathering to honor the veterans who live there. This was its fourth year, and seven resident veterans were recognized.
“We honor our veterans every year,” explained Lenny Mancuso, a board member at the complex. “It’s the least we can do for our honored guests, the heroes that have served this country.”
Mancuso volunteers for, and became a member of, Chwatsky Jewish Veterans Post 717 in Oceanside, to honor the memory of his father, Rosario, who was a prisoner of war in World War II. “These heroes are quickly forgotten,” Mancuso said, “and it’s up to the families and community members to keep their sacrifices in the forefront.”
Long Beach High School’s Soundwaves a cappella group kicked off the ceremony, singing “God Bless America” and Barry Yomtov, an officer in the Oceanside post, led the Pledge of Allegiance before one of the veterans spoke about his experience.
George Israel, 92, recounted attending a four-month-long Navy officer training program in 1953. Later that year he was commissioned, and he served on several ships, the last of which was a seaplane tender, on which he was a gunnery officer. He was honorably discharged as a lieutenant in 1956.
“I had the privilege of serving in the United States Navy as an officer during the Korean conflict,” Israel said. “I want to thank Lenny and my fellow veterans and you wonderful people who celebrate veterans. It’s really wonderful that you do that.”
Long Beach City Council President John Bendo presented citations from the city to Israel and the six other veterans — Peter Anninos, Andrew Camacho, William Eichholz, William Flynn, William Guthy and William Rosenbaum — for their service. Bendo is a veteran himself, having graduated from the U.S. Navy Nuclear Power School and served six years in the Navy.
“The truth is, there’s fewer and fewer of us around,” Bendo said. “In 1968, the country had a population of about 200 million people, and there were 3.5 million people in uniform at that time. Today we have a population of 350 million, and only 1.4 million people in uniform. That means one-third of 1 percent of our population is serving in the armed forces.
“That’s why events like this are important,” Bendo added, “because we have to remember those fewer and fewer people that served to give us the rights and freedoms that we have to protect us.”
County Legislator Denise Ford spoke as well. Many members of her family have served in the armed forces, including her father, in World War II. Her nephew recently joined the Army, and has served in Korea and Japan.
Nassau County has about 1.3 million residents, Ford said, compared with the 1.4 million current members of the military. That isn’t enough, she said, adding that she hoped that “some of our younger people will all of a sudden find it in their hearts that they actually do want to enter into the armed forces.”
“Thank you very much for your service,” Ford said to the veterans. “We are indebted to you for the sacrifices that you made and what you represent — the courage and bravery of what America is today.”