This is the last privilege I will enjoy as your Huntington Town Councilwoman to address our military men and women on Veterans Day.
I want all of our military veterans to know how much I love them, will continue to love them, and how grateful I am for their honorable service to our country, to our community, and last but not least, to each other.
It has been deeply touching to observe.
Especially the bond between East Northport residents U. S. Army veteran Joe Casoria and Marine Corps veteran Jerry Cramer.
I spoke about these two remarkable gentlemen on Veterans Day shortly after being re-elected in 2019, and because their story is so compelling, touching, and ongoing, I need to revisit it.
About five years ago after meeting at their American Legion gathering, Jerry Cramer told Joe of his disappointment in having been denied the Purple Heart Medal that he rightfully earned following combat with the Chinese Army in 1950.
In the brutal battle of Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, Jerry served and suffered through negative-30-degree temperatures, was shot at by machine gun fire and helped to collect his fallen comrades who had frozen to death under the impossible weather conditions.
And then, the day after Thanksgiving in 1950, Jerry too, fell to near fatal frostbite injuries before he reached an aid station on December 5th, where he was treated by a medical officer and evacuated to a hospital in Japan. Jerry remained hospitalized in Japan until February 1951.
Jerry’s denial for the Purple Heart Medal is an outrageous if not inexplicable injustice. A 2017 letter from Department of the Navy stated the requirements for the bestowment of a Purple Heart medal as follows:
“Since the Purple Heart was first authorized for the Navy and Marine Corps in 1942 (under FDR’s Executive Order Number 9277), the fundamental eligibility requirements have remained a constant: a qualifying wound must have been received in action with the enemy or been caused by the enemy’s actions and must have necessitated treatment by a medical officer at the time of injury.
It is without question that Jerry earned a Purple Heart under these rules, and while he has long since provided the Department of the Navy the documentation and medical records required to prove it, he is still without one.
Exasperated, Jerry told Joe that it was a long time ago, and he had long since given up.
But Jerry Cramer’s revelation did not sit right with Joe Casoria. And in fact, it propelled Joe into immediate action to right this terrible wrong.
As of today, Joe, who is 88 years old, has appealed to two U.S. presidents, two U.S. congressmen, one United States senator and me to join him in his quest to bring a Purple Heart home to his now 94 year-old friend.
Upon meeting these charming and impressive veterans in 2019, and learning of Joe’s relentless efforts, his dozens of letters and even more phone calls to get that Purple Heart to Jerry, I eagerly signed on to the campaign.
In the very few instances when the Department of the Navy has answered any letters of appeal for Jerry, it relies on a March 27, 1951 restriction imposed for the Purple Heart Medal that occurred after Jerry’s service and qualifying frostbite injury.
It’s just wrong.
But Joe Casoria has vowed not to quit until Jerry gets his Purple Heart.
He didn’t have to take on this fight.
Joe never even served with Jerry.
But as a good soldier does, Joe Casoria is standing shoulder to shoulder with his comrade Jerry Cramer in a new battle: this time against illogical and virtually impenetrable federal government bureaucracy.
So on Veterans Day this year, I ask you to join me in standing with Joe Casoria to help him bring that Purple Heart home to his friend, Jerry Cramer.
You can do that by calling or writing to Nick LaLota, United States congressman representing the 1st District of New York, who, like me, awaits an answer to his letter of appeal on behalf of our mutual constituent, Jerry Cramer.
You, too, can add your voice, never give up, and in doing so, be like Joe.