With the help of Warriors For A Cause and the Mineola Chamber of Commerce, a local veteran traveled in style to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday.
In a show of appreciation for the 96-year-old veteran and support for the community, the two organizations are sponsoring lifelong Mineola resident Ray Vaz’s transportation to the Javits Center in Manhattan for both of his coronavirus vaccine shots.
Tony Lubrano, chairman of Warriors For A Cause, got the idea to provide the rides after seeing a Facebook post by Vaz’s daughter, Caryl Vaz Salesi, in which she mentioned the appointment she had made for her father to receive his vaccine at the Javits Center. While the news was exciting, Lubrano and others observed that it might be a challenge to get Vaz, who uses a wheelchair, to and from New York City for both doses of the vaccine.
Lubrano, who is also a former president of the Mineola Chamber of Commerce, reached out to Joel Harris, the group’s current president, and the two formed a plan to help Vaz. Working with Larry Blessinger, owner of All Island Transportation in Freeport, they arranged for the veteran to be driven to receive his first dose of the vaccine on Friday and for his second dose three weeks later.
“Ray is truly an American hero and an exceptional Mineola citizen,” Harris said. “The Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to help local businesses, but we like to go beyond that. We’re really, really proud to be able to do this for somebody like him.”
As a soldier at the Normandy landings, Vaz survived serious injuries, earning a Purple Heart, and continued to serve upon recovering. He went on to help liberate Buchenwald concentration camp.
Bringing the expression of gratitude for Vaz a step further, Lubrano and Harris arranged an escort by the 3rd Precinct of the Nassau County police for the veteran. State Sen. Anna Kaplan and a representative from U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice’s office, Kevin Devlin, also met Vaz at his home to see him off and thank him for his service on Friday morning. Reflecting on the helpfulness she saw at every step of the process, Salesi said that the day was a success.
“Everyone was really accommodating, so my family is very thankful,” Salesi said. “It was a wonderful gesture and a great surprise.”