Soon, those walking down Main Street in Patchogue Village might notice a significant and meaningful change, after Dave Rogers — VFW Post 2913 vice commander, VFW Suffolk County Council junior vice commander and community artist — and Mayor Paul Pontieri implement their new Lights on Veterans program.
They are currently seeking donations for more than 150 12-by-12 stones to be placed next to each side of every light post down Main Street and South Ocean Avenue in an effort to — literally and figuratively — shine a light on local veterans.
“Whenever [Rogers] gets ahold of a project, he just runs with it,” said trustee Susan Brinkman, who lent a hand during the planning stages of the project. “He is truly an amazing force in the village and we fully support him.”
All the proceeds from the program, sponsored by the Village of Patchogue through the Greater Patchogue Foundation, will go to support VFW Post 2913, American Legion Post 269, AmVets Post 111 and veterans programs in Patchogue.
“Our mission is to highlight our veterans and what we do as a veteran organization,” said Rogers.
Originally, Pontieri said he wanted to place plaques at every light post and sought out Rogers for help. “The idea sounded great, but it wasn’t realistic,” said Rogers.
The about 75 light posts down Main Street and South Ocean, he explained, were not all the same. The town put in some and the village put in the rest. For safety reasons and aesthetics, the plaques would have to be bent without compromising the text. And so, each plaque became expensive, costing about $800. That’s when Rogers got the paver-art idea from Brinkman, who planned on using them in the Roe walkway.
The more affordable idea was a perfect fit for the project, he said, costing about $250 per stone, including village DPW installation. Each donated stone will be engraved with veterans’ names, rank and branch of service and any additional info such as awards.
“The whole idea is to do something for the vets while raising money for the veterans organization,” Pontieri added. “We were thinking that each family who donated a brick could stand by them during the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades to further honor and remember those who served.”
Pontieri and his family also plan to dedicate a paver, possibly, he said, to all his Romeo uncles and uncle John Pontieri, who served in all different branches and wars since World War II.
The hope, Rogers said, is that families and community members will donate to honor specific living and deceased veterans who have given and continue to give to the village. Each and every veteran organization, he explained, works hard for the community, raising funds for homeless vets, service dogs, scholarship programs and pushing legislation on behalf of all veterans nationwide.
In addition to the individualized stones, there will also be a more generalized fund for colored paver-art to be placed at each of the Four Corners in honor of the Army, Marines/Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force — at a more expensive cost of about $1,000 apiece. “Each will be in the colors of the branch of service,” Rogers said.
The program will be ongoing, he said, eager to see the first batch of about a dozen pavers (depending on donations) unveiled during Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
“We don’t see this anywhere on Long Island and rarely see anything as noticeable and individualized,” he said. “This is for the veterans that might not have gotten the Purple Heart or Congressional Medal of Honor but still deserve to be recognized and remembered for their service. It is for the local veteran who served his community.”
One in particular came to mind: Patchogue Village’s World War II Army veteran Harold O’Neill, well into his 90s, who makes it a point to march in every Memorial and Veterans Day parade and still takes the time to talk at local schools. “We have quite a few special veterans like Harold and this will make them feel special,” Rogers said.
For more information, contact Dave Rogers at 631-838-8944 or the Patchogue Chamber at 631-207-1000. To download the donation forms, go to www.patchogue.com.