YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. -- Yorktown's Stephen O'Loughlin served in the Army six decades ago, joining the occupation forces following the end of combat in the Korean War. Now, he is receiving help from a group dedicated to fixing military veterans' homes.
The 57-year resident, whose service in Korea was from 1953-54, is getting assistance from the newly formed downstate New York chapter of Purple Heart Homes, which helps implement home improvement measures. The group will help get railings installed at the front and back of O'Loughlin's house, which will make moving about easier.
O'Loughlin, who is a member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Yorktown, attended a Friday evening gathering at the post, which served to showcase the group's new presence.
Speaking at the gathering, O'Loughlin said, “On behalf of the vets, I want to say, 'Thank you.'”
Eugene Parrotta, a Vietnam veteran and Croton-on-Hudson resident, is serving as the new chapter's CEO.
The chapter's board includes Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith as chair; Mark Franzoso, owner of Croton-based Franzoso Contracting, as vice chair; Croton resident and Navy veteran Richard Zumbach as treasurer; and White Plains resident Lorraine Lathrop as recording secretary.
Parrotta recalled how Purple Heart Homes, which is located in North Carolina and was founded by two Iraq War veterans, became involved in the Hudson Valley. It included reaching out to then-state Sen. Greg Ball to do a project. The work involved renovating a 101-year-old home in Pawling belonging to a Vietnam veteran that lacked insulation and had deteriorating windows. Parrotta, who recalled that the veteran had monthly electric bills of nearly $1,100, said there was a ribbon-cutting in October.
“It was amazing,” he said.
Parrotta made a call for action to help veterans, arguing that giving support is necessary to incentivize people to serve in the military.
“If we don't help these people, who's going to convince the next group to go in and defend these shores? Who's going to protect the Constitution? Who?”
On hand was state Sen. Terrence Murphy, who was elected to Ball's seat in November and took office at the start of the year. Murphy, who grew up in Yorktown and previously served on the Yorktown Town Board, went to school with O'Loughlin's son, Patrick. Murphy expressed similar sentiments as Parrotta with regard to helping veterans.
“Like Eugene said, if we can't help the people that gave us the freedom to be here today, shame on us. Shame on us. And I will do whatever is possible to help any veteran.”
Parrotta also recalled the relationship between the Murphy and O'Laughlin families.
“They know each other. It was just a perfect fit.”
Projects for veterans' homes will be paid for with fundraising, Parrotta explained. Upcoming events will be done at a rock 'n' roll show sponsored by the American Legion in Hawthorne and an Armed Forces Day picnic in Verplanck.
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