Along with their canes, walkers and wheelchairs, and with members of their families on hand, the former servicemen arrived on Saturday with their pride and memories intact to attend the sixth annual veterans recognition barbecue hosted by state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) around the corner from his office.
“I think it’s very important for these local war heroes to be recognized and appreciated for their service. I also find it beneficial to bring them together, for they can relate to one another the way nobody else can,” said Addabbo, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs.
That camaraderie was immediately apparent, as newly acquainted Benjamin Cohen and Raymond Micale took each other around like a couple of old friends.
Cohen, a Lindenwood resident who drove a tank in the 3rd Army 742 Tank Battalion during World War II, proudly said of the outdoor cookout which featured hot dogs, hamburgers, and an assortment of Italian specialties, “I think we deserve it. We did a lot to help the country.”
Serving a little over two years, Cohen suffered burns on his arms when a tank he was driving was attacked. Still, he said, “I was glad that I served,” adding, “I didn’t have to go. I had four brothers in the service.”
Micale, of Howard Beach, said he volunteered to serve in Korea for close to three years as a mechanic in the Air Force.
He attended Addabbo’s barbecue last year and on Saturday paused to say, “It’s very nice what they’re doing for us.”
Ermondo Puccio, also of Howard Beach, was a staff sergeant in the Army artillery in World War II, serving in various locations around the southwest Pacific for close to three years. Wounded when a machine gun fell on him, he is now wheelchair-bound, a result of the injury, he said.
As he and his fellow heroes chowed down, he said, “We’re fading away little by little. At least we get some recognition.”