A special free luncheon, jointly sponsored by the Southern Ulster Rotary Club and the Plattekill Veterans Committee, was held to honor and say ‘thank you’ to all Plattekill Veterans.
Will Farrell, of the Rotary Club, and Sis Morse, Chair of the Plattekill Veterans Committee, said this is the second time hosting the luncheon. Farrell said at Saturday’s luncheon a representative of the Ulster County Veterans Services Agency was also on hand to answer questions and to ensure that Veterans receive the assistance they need.
Farrell said the luncheon “is a perfect fit for the Rotary and for the town’s Veterans Committee because we want to do whatever we can for the Veterans.” Morse added that, “We consider it [luncheon] a labor of love, that’s how we look at it.”
Tanya Sanchez said members of Iglesia De Dios (Church of God) in Plattekill helped serve the Veterans and assisted in handing out the raffle prizes.
Rod Williams is a Veteran of the Vietnam War and served from 1969 through 1970.
“I was in the United States Navy Seabees and was first stationed stateside in Gulfport, Mississippi. It was a construction battalion that provided support mainly for the U.S. Marines ‘in country,’ in Vietnam,” he said.
Williams served two tours of duty for a total of thirteen months, in Dong Ha, in northern South Vietnam and then in Tu Loc in mid South Vietnam.
“For every military personnel in Vietnam that was about it [13 months], unless you asked to go back,” he said.
Williams said having these luncheons is a great thing for the Veterans.
“I’m a firm believer that our military Veterans sacrificed a lot, not just the ones that are alive today but the numbers of men and women that lost their lives,” he said, recalling that coming back home, “was a terrible time.”
After his service Williams went to college in Colorado on the GI Bill.
Williams said at the luncheon he met four other men who were in the Seabees that he had never met before; “the same time frame but different areas. We’re a very tight knit, select group of people. Just the idea of bringing Veterans together and giving them the opportunity to be acknowledged is nice.”
Korean War Veteran Charles Winterfeld is in his ninth decade.
“I was in the Air Force and stationed in Europe and checking on the Russians who were continually violating our air space all the time, so we had sites across Europe so we could monitor the aircraft,” he said.
Winterfeld said he and the other Veterans appreciated the luncheon and for acknowledging, “what the Armed Forces are doing keeping everybody safe.” He added that he believes that every young person for a period of time should serve their country.
Donna Gabriel, who is with the Disaster Services of the Red Cross, said she came to the luncheon to support of the Veterans.
“I try to get them to sign up for the smoke alarms and do the installations. We had a fatal fire in Kingston in the spring,” she said.
Mike Jerkowski works for the Ulster County Veterans Services Agency and came to the luncheon to offer assistance to Veterans to ensure they are getting their proper benefits.
“We try to do a luncheon every month, post Covid, all over the county to let everybody know that we’re out here to assist however possible,” he said.
Jerkowski is Veteran himself, having served in the Air Force for a couple of tours of duty, getting out in 2018.
“I’ve been here for two years and I think since Mark [Cozzupoli Director of Ulster County Veteran Services] our outreach has gotten a lot better, but there are still people that don’t know what they may be able to get and maybe there is some way that we can help them,” he said.
Jerkowski said the most rewarding part of his job is, “when somebody comes in who may have been wronged by either the government or by other agencies and they’re not expecting much but we are able to give them the help they want. Some of them are the toughest guys in the world, who may be brought to tears, just by the little things that we try to do for them.”