Mahopac, NY - Former shipmates hugged one another in recognition, a spry World War II pilot tipped his vintage leather cap at passersby, and tough-as-nails former Marines teased each other's ability to still fit into their uniforms. Memories, past and present - as well as the delicious menu - are just some of the reasons veterans flock to the annual Veterans Chow Down at the Putnam County Golf Course.
The free dinner, co-hosted by Senator Terrence Murphy, Senator Sue Serino, and Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, honors the men and women who served in our armed forces.
Presented by the Putnam County Veterans Service Agency and PFC. Joseph Dwyer Vet2Vet Program, attracts over 500 veterans and their guests each year.
Senator Murphy said, "This is what being a public servant is all about - recognizing the great job our veterans have done protecting our freedom. We need to roll out the red carpet for our veterans and treat them with the respect and reverence they deserve. It's exciting to see old comrades get together and for them to build new relationships as well. It's a pleasure to be a part of such a heartwarming experience."
"The annual Chow Down brings together our area veterans to not only show our appreciation for those who served and their families, but to connect them with important local resources," said Senator Serino. "These events are an opportunity to remind our veterans that they have an incredibly grateful community behind them always and I thank the many volunteers who come together every year to make it happen."
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said, "Serving those men and women who have served for us is what the Chow Down is all about. It is our way of giving thanks to our Veterans and showing them that we appreciate the sacrifice they made to defend the freedoms that we enjoy. I'm proud to be able to host this incredible event with Senator Murphy and Senator Serino. We appreciate the work that the Vet2Vet program and Putnam Veterans Service Agency did in organizing the event as well as the efforts of all the volunteers who came to assist us. I want to give a special thanks to the Gold Star Mothers, Carmel Knights of Columbus and local Boy and Girl Scouts for helping with the event."
"We are all grateful for the sacrifices our veterans have made for our country. We can never do enough to thank them, but the Chow Down gives us a great opportunity to recognize their accomplishments in uniform and in their communities," stated Assemblyman Kevin Byrne. "The Chow Down also gives veterans the opportunity to link up with valuable services. I look forward to seeing this program expand throughout the state."
An accomplished bagpiper, Assemblyman Byrne opened this year's show playing a medley of patriotic tunes. John Bourges, Program Coordinator for the Dwyer Vet2Vet Program of Putnam County, welcomed the crowd and introduced Karl Rohde, Director of the Putnam County Veterans Service Agency, who served as Master of Ceremonies. Rabbi Andre Makek provided the Invocation for the 11:00 a.m. seating, and Fr. Adolphus Muoghlu gave the invocation at the 2:00 p.m. lunch. Kevin Cooke, a veteran of the Iraq War, led the Pledge of Allegiance for first lunch, while Joseph "Rocky" Colavito, Chairman for the Putnam County Joint Veterans Council did the honors for the second lunch. Vietnam veteran Robert Ferguson, a member of the New York Riders, and Art Hanley, Deputy Director for the Putnam County Veterans Service Agency, shared the reading recognizing the Missing Man Table.
This year's program included a lively performance by a quartet of singers from the USO who paid tribute to popular music from the World War II era, the sensational 60s and beyond. Displays set up by the American Veterans Historical Museum reminded veterans and visitors of the glories and sacrifices made by military personnel in times of war and peace.
Many local elected officials and public servants were on hand to pay their respects to the veterans, including Putnam County Legislators Toni Addonizio, Amy Sayegh, Joseph Castellano, Barbara Scuccimarra and Neal Sullivan, Carmel Town Supervisor Kenneth Schmitt, Anthony Scannapieco, Republican Commissioner for the Putnam County Board of Elections, and Julia Killian, candidate for Lieutenant Governor.
The PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Vet to Vet Support Program assists veterans by reducing or eliminating the negative impact that trauma-related symptoms have on social, occupational and family functioning. Rockland County is one of fifteen New York State counties participating in the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Program to provide Vet to Vet support.