CENTER MORICHES, Long Island — Veterans calling VFW post 414 their second home couldn’t have asked for a better gift this Veterans Day — a complete makeover, including a beautiful mural, thanks to the generosity of a Long Island community.
The 65-year-old building in Center Moriches had fallen into disrepair. With little money to address its growing problems which included electrical issues, members appealed to elected officials for help, and the response was huge. Labor unions, businesses and residents donated over $20,000 worth of materials and labor to repair and renovate.
“There were a lot of people involved in this. We have to thank Kate Browning, our county legislator, for helping and getting the unions involved,” a grateful Bernie Eterno, who served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1972, said.
Prisoners in the Sheriff’s Laborer Assistance Program gutted the bathroom, installed tiling for the new floor and helped paint the building.
Over the summer, under a hot sun and with a lot of heart, artist Stephanie Sabolenko and her mom Donna Graziano teamed up to create a mural that would send out a strong message to our veterans.
“We have to stop worrying about our simple problems that we have and start looking at what all these soldiers have done for us, and things that they have to go through in their life, and try to give back and help them out,” Sabolenko, who happily donated her time and talent, said.
The mural, which covers an exterior wall of the building on Main Street, features images representing all five branches of the military.
“It’s powerful in the statement it makes. Our country with the servicemen saluting the flag. It’s as simple as that,” Graziano said.
“Everything we wanted was put there,” Vietnam veteran Joe Bilardello, who had input in the mural, said.
“It was amazing when it was finished. We were floored.”