It was a day of celebration, and a day to remember. Members old and new, as well as local and state officials, were on-hand at the diamond jubilee celebration gala for the Veterans of Foreign War Gus Scutari Post 6394 on Saturday, Oct. 2.
“To see the post last this long when a lot of posts are slowly dying off, it’s a good feeling,” said Post Commander Kris Kilgour. He served in the Navy from 1994 to 2000 in the Persian Gulf on the U.S.S. Valley Forge, CG-50, and has been the post commander for the last five years.
A number of state and local officials were at the ceremony to present citations and speak on the significance of the post’s ability to help veterans and the local community for the last 75 years.
“When they came home, they built the country,” said James Gaughran, New York State Senator for the Fifth district.
In the evening’s program, members of the post who passed away recently were honored. An empty table for one was also set to honor the prisoners of war who never came home.
One of the members who made a significant impact in the community who was honored was Gus Scutari, who the post was recently named after. To members and the Syosset community, Kilgour said he was pivotal and well-remembered.
“Gus Scutari fought to protect America from tyranny, authoritarianism and dictatorship, said Charles Lavine, State Assemblyman for the Thirteenth district.
The occasion was also special, as it was the first time in a while that members saw each other face-to-face because of the pandemic. Kilgour said the post had to switch to virtual meetups as a way to protect many of the post’s older members. Still, he noted that the post was able to hold drives in the community to help one another. Kilgour noted a program in which the post provided homebound veterans with hard to find items during the height of the pandemic such as toilet paper and body wash.
Michael Hoag, State Commander of the VFW, was also on-hand at the event to honor the post. He served in the Army in the fourth infantry from 1967 to 1968, and in the army reserve for 21 years starting in 1972. He could tell that the amount of community service the club participates in is clearly evident from the amount of people that came to the event and the officials who honored them.
At the state level, he mentioned an important part of the VFW’s purpose: lobbying for veterans’ rights.
“I think with the organization, lobbying and keeping the politicians informed about what we need is an integral part, plus the very important part which is our community service,” Hoag said. Some of those programs the VFW is lobbying for include peer-to-peer mentoring programs and tax exemptions for veterans.
Another important aspect is bringing the community of veterans together to create lasting friendships.
At the event, spirits were high as members and their families had the chance to catch up with each other and reminisce about their time at war.
John Kenary served for the U.S. Army from 1961 to 1963 in the twenty-fifth infantry in Thailand and Hawaii. The Oyster Bay resident has been a member of Post 6493 for two years.
He initially joined because, “I felt like I could do more for the veterans instead of sitting home and doing nothing,” he said.
”You just help fellow vets that have fallen on bad times,” Kenary said. “You interact with the youths in the high schools in the essay contest and you visit nursing homes and give people a feeling that ‘Oh, somebody cares about me.’”
Whether it be a place to help the community, or a place to share stories, it comes back to comradery and connection.
“Even though we’re different ages and have served in different theaters of war, we all share the same bond of having been in the military and having gone overseas and fought for the country,” Kilgour said. “Even though they’re different time frames, a lot of the stories are the same, and we share that bond and it’s good for us to get together and relate.”