BAY RIDGE — It seemed like every elected official and community leader was present at this year’s annual Veterans Day observance at the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Bay Ridge.
The much-anticipated ceremony that salutes veterans from all branches of the service took place on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at the Fort Hamilton Community Club.
David Linder of the Fort Hamilton Army Base hosted the observance. Sgt. First Class Hope Harrell performed the national anthem and Chaplain Maj. Bruce Duty delivered the invocation.
“Today we are celebrating veterans from wars that go back to World War I,” said Fort Hamilton Army Base commanding officer Col. Andrew Zieseniss. “We’re kicking off a busy few days here in New York City as we honor military veterans and we recognize the importance of the U.S. Army.”
Zieseniss went on to explain, “One hundred years ago in 1919, Americans first came together to recognize veterans of the Great War on November 11, Armistice Day. In 1947, Armistice Day was officially renamed Veterans Day in order to recognize all American military veterans. Since 1919, we stand shoulder to shoulder to pay tribute to all those who served and continue to serve our country under the most difficult circumstances.”
Zieseniss introduced five local heroes who served in World War II and were sitting front and center at the ceremony: Harold Rosenthal who fought in the Philippines during the Pacific campaign; Harvey Lerner, who served in the Navy and provided critical support stateside during the war; Harold Radish, who fought in Europe when he was 18 years old and was a POW for four years; Jack Vanasco, who served with General Douglas MacArthur; and Albert Goldberg, who fought during the Battle of the Bulge as an infantryman and machine gunner.
The keynote speaker was Garrison Director William Barriage who leads the Logistics Readiness Center at Fort Hamilton. Barriage served over 37 years as a commissioned officer in the United States Army and holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Nevada and master’s degree in counseling from Long Island University. His awards include the Legion of Merit Medal and the Bronze Star Medal.
“This year we commemorate a century of celebrating Veterans Day on the anniversary of the Armistice that ended the fighting along the western front in World War I,” said Barriage.
“This year we also commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the beginning of the liberation of western Europe during World War II, and we remember the contributions of our greatest generation,” he added.
The ceremony concluded with Zieseniss and Command Sgt. Major LaShan Hayes recognizing Barriage for his dedicated service to the military.
Elected officials attending the ceremony included U.S. Rep. Max Rose; State Sen. Andrew Gounardes; City Councilmember Justin Brannan; Assemblymembers Peter Abbate, Mathylde Frontus and Nicole Malliotakis; and community leaders John Abi-Habib, honorary consul general of Lebanon in New Jersey; Ray Aalbue, chairperson of Brooklyn’s Memorial Day Parade; and Dr. Habib Joudeh of the Arab American Association.
Rose, himself a veteran who served as an active duty officer in Afghanistan from 2012-2013 and earned a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge called it a privilege to be at the observance.
“Fort Hamilton holds a special place in mine and so many other veterans’ hearts. It was truly a privilege to join so many patriots in honoring all those who have protected and served this great nation,” Rose told this paper.
Brannan said that this year’s Veterans Day has special meaning. “One hundred and one years after the end of World War I and Armistice Day, we gather to honor the men and women who served our country and had the fortune of coming back home,” said Brannan.
“Being among these heroes is incredibly humbling. We should really be honoring America’s veterans every day of the year but the least we can do is pause to express our profound gratitude for their sacrifices and contributions each year on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It’s up to us to make sure our veterans always get the respect, attention, recognition and care that they need,” he added.
Gounardes echoed Brannan’s sentiments. “Veterans Day is a time to reflect with profound gratitude on all that those who have served our country have done to protect us,” Gounardes told this paper.
“Yet it is not just on Veterans Day but every day that we have to acknowledge this debt of gratitude owed to our veterans,” he added. “I was happy to attend the Veterans Day observance at the Fort Hamilton Army Base and thank them for carrying on this invaluable tradition.”
Frontus called it an absolute pleasure to attend the observance. “The ceremony was a fitting tribute to our local veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country,” Frontus told this paper. “I was glad to meet the vets personally and hear their stories.”
Abbate said he was delighted to be at the observance. “It’s just a small part of what we can do. Veterans Day should be every day. We should always honor them,” said Abbate.
Malliotakis called it an honor to be at the ceremony. “It is such an honor to be in the presence of all the World War II veterans who truly are the greatest generation who have selflessly given to our nation. And to be in the presence of five World War II veterans today is certainly a highlight for me, and of course we’re very grateful for all the veterans who served. It’s because of them that we have the freedoms, the liberties and the life that we live here in the United States of America,” added Malliotakis.