Greg Rinn, a former Rockville Centre village trustee, flew to exotic locations around the globe while he was serving as a U.S. Navy pilot.
In observance of Veterans Day, the Village of Rockville Centre held a ceremony on Saturday at Veterans Park, in front of the John A. Anderson Recreation Center, to honor and recognize local veterans, like Rinn, for their service.
Now, nearly 60 years since Rinn completed the hours of flight time required to earn his wings, he looks back fondly at his time in the Navy and the many lifelong friendships he made along the way.
During his training, he was stationed at bases in Pensacola, Florida; Corpus Christi, Texas; Orlando and Norfolk, Virginia, where he was assigned to a squadron for three years.
“Someone told me years ago that when you get to a squadron, they’ll be your friends for life,” Rinn said. “They were right. To this day we communicate, and we’ll try and get together.”
During his five years of active duty, he flew the P2V Lockheed Neptune to locations around the globe, including Italy, Greece and Iceland. He also flew over Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban missile crisis.
“We were fortunate, to a certain degree, that we didn’t go to Vietnam,” Rinn said. “Although we did practice dropping a lot of mines in anticipation of mining the harbors of North Vietnam. Everybody had to practice that quite frequently.”
After he left the Navy for civilian life, he went to work for a telecommunications corporation for about 40 years, but stayed in the reserves at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, until it closed in 1970.
“We were at risk at times with the things we had to do,” Rinn said. “But I thought it was a wonderful experience, and it was a blessing to be able to serve the country the way we did.”
He later went on to serve the community as a village trustee for four years, from 2001 to 2005. He is also a 27-year member of the American Legion and has served on the Citizens Budget Committee, the Friends of Senior Services Board, and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Rinn is just one of the roughly 1,000 veterans in the Rockville Centre community, who were recognized during the Veterans Day event organized by American Legion Post No. 303.
“In times of war and peace, American veterans have sacrificed to provide security for our nation 365 days a year,” Post Commander Frank Colón Jr. said. “Not all veterans have seen combat, but all have at one time made a solemn promise to sacrifice their lives for this country we call the United States of America.
Veterans Day is also a day of action where we commit ourselves to the well-being of veterans, families and communities through various programs of support and education,” Colón added. “We thank you for coming here today, and for showing your support for Rockville Centre veterans and our programs.”
The ceremony began with a prayer by Deacon Thomas McDaid, of St. Agnes Cathedral.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for your country,” McDaid said. “Bless us, and grant eternal rest for those who have given their all, grant peace to us who are here, and peace to our country now and forever.”
Following the invocation, Mayor Francis Murray spoke about the importance of recognizing veterans for their service.
“We’re here today to honor our heroes, to remember their accomplishments, their courage, their dedication, and to say thank you for their sacrifices,” Murray said. “Thinking of heroes joining us today, and those who are here only in spirit, a person can’t help but feel awed by the enormity of what we encounter.”
The mayor added, “We stand in the midst of patriots, and the families and friends of those who have nobly served. The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities. They possess courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity — all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than oneself. Millions of American have fought and died on battlefields here and abroad to defend our freedom and our way of life.”
Legionnaire Joe Scarola rang a bell, an annual symbolic recognition of the armistice treaty signed on Nov. 11, 1918, that ended World War I. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of that historic year, the fighting on the Western Front ended in a ceasefire.
The ceremony drew to a close with the singing of “God Bless America,” after which the color guards of the Rockville Centre Police Department, the Fire Department, and Boy Scout Troop 40 retired the flag.