Suffolk County College Dedicates Veterans Plaza At Northampton Campus

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The brisk weather did not stop roughly 150 people, including several dozen veterans—some of whom are currently enrolled at one of Suffolk County Community College’s three campuses—from attending Wednesday morning’s Veterans Plaza dedication on the Northampton campus.

The new plaza, which sits to the rear of the campus’s Peconic Building, boasts several garden beds staked with dozens of American flags that run down the center of a long rectangular cement patio.

On Wednesday, college officials dedicated a plaque that reads, “Veterans Plaza. You Served, We Honor.” It’s designed to honor the nearly 700 veterans who now attend classes at one of the college’s three campuses, including those in Selden and Brentwood.

Shaun McKay, the president of Suffolk County Community College, said officials decided to create a Veterans Plaza on the Northampton campus because it is a “small but important way to say we remember” those who served.

“The sacrifices can never be repaid, but we can ensure that we never forget,” Mr. McKay said at Wednesday’s dedication ceremony.

The Northampton campus is the second campus to dedicate a Veterans Plaza. College officials created one on their Selden campus, also known as the Ammerman campus, last year, and plan to dedicate another on the Michael J. Grant Campus in Brentwood in 2018.

In addition to dedicating the new plaza, officials recognized those serving in the military, as well as those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. That list included Air National Guard Sergeant Louis Bonacasa of Coram who was only 31 when he was killed on December 21, 2015, by a suicide bomber near the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

His widow, Deborah Bonacasa, a veteran herself, was invited to address attendees at the ceremony, held also to honor the sacrifice of her husband, who had been studying visual arts at the Northampton campus when he was killed, and others like him who have laid down their lives on the battlefield.

Ms. Bonacasa, who has a 7-year-old daughter, Lilliana, told attendees that losing her husband, who had been stationed at the Air National Guard base at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, taught her to take nothing for granted.

“The grief is so emotional and agonizing, but I take comfort in that he died doing what he loved the most,” she said, fighting back tears. “Perhaps grief has a positive impact on us so that this time it can count.”

David Rogers, a veteran of the first Gulf War and the Bosnian War, said he attended the ceremony because some veterans—especially those who have seen combat—have a difficult time reacclimating to civilian life upon their return. Mr. Rogers, vice commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2913 in Patchogue, added that having places like the Veterans Plaza on the Northampton campus can help some veterans reconnect with their communities.

“As someone who has served, you feel so lost,” said ANG veteran Marcelle Leis of Patchogue, program director for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project, a program that offers assistance to veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and traumatic brain injuries, who also attended the dedication. “But then you turn around and see the support. It really makes you feel like you’re not alone.”

At the end of the ceremony, Shannon O’Neill, the college’s director of veteran affairs, honored each veteran in attendance by presenting them each with a coin that reads: “You served, We honor.”

At the conclusion of the dedication ceremony, family members and friends of many veterans greeted each other, some sharing their memories of the late Mr. Bonacasa.

“We didn’t just lose a soldier. We lost a father, a husband, a brother, and one of our own,” said Meredith Starr, a visual arts professor at the Northampton campus who noted that Mr. Bonacasa was one of the most talented students she has ever taught.

“He really has left his mark here, that’s for sure,” Ms. O’Neill added.

Published by daves-studio

I truely believe that "Even ordinary life can be immortilized through art". I have always been awed by the mystery of how people are connected and for most of my life as an artist I have looked for new ways to express what was inside of me, what I was feeling and how I wanted people to view and understand what I wanted to say. This caused me to restrict my art to forms that others could understand. I was speaking to the masses, but I was not using my own voice. Over time I realized that it was not so important weather people truly understood what I was saying but rather that I was speaking so I started to look for the way to think out loud and be heard and have found that voice in papercutting. My work is a mixture of Eastern and Western Art that I started after a visit to China in 2004. while there I discovered the ancient and demanding art of Chinese paper cutting and line drawing. On my return from China I began to make connections between the craft of paper cutting and my years as a soldier. The results of this unusual connection have been beautiful two and three dimentional metaphors of the importance of time and the fragility of life and democracy. Paper cutting itself can be found in many cultures and just like in China those cultures for the most part have thought of it as a decorative or folk art, few artists have explored the idea of using this form of art in a more substantive way. It is part of what has attracted me to papercutting in the first place. While the beauty of paper cutting was appealing, more appealing was the idea of using this fragile material to represent serious and even realistic ideas. The process that I use for my paper structures is the same as found in traditional Chinese paper cutting. What is different is the paper, the way it is displayed and the topics talked about in the art. It is these differences in the works that make them stand out from other forms of paper cutting and structures. Instead of using traditional types of paper for papercutting I have made the cuttings out of aluminum or mirror paper. The paper was chosen for its reflective properties, not just for making the art brighter but for the ability of the viewer to see reflections of themselves in the art, showing a connection between the viewers and the subjects in the work. While most paper cutting are laid flat on the board these works are placed between two pieces of glass in the front of the frame allowing the light to cast shadows on the background, making these papercutting sculptures of art. The other aspect of this work that is different from traditional paper cutting is that each piece is individually designed and not mass produced. This is an important aspect of my work as it is about keeping the appeal of POP art while reducing the images to singular forms. My hope for the future is to continue to explore ways to bridge the techniques and styles of paper cutting and western ideals of art. Not just as a way for me to produce my art but as a way to communicate western ideas in Asia and Asian ideas in the West. For art is the only true international language that all people no matter where they come from can appreciate, and it is through art that we can learn about other cultures beyond mere words.

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