Martin C. Evans

Posts Tagged ‘Long Island’

After Making History, Left Behind

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm

By Martin C. Evans, Newsday, March 27 – When you see him around town, it is hard to distinguish Lee Hayes from the many retired black Long Island farm workers who came up from the South to find work, then toiled all their lives to keep their families fed.

Though he lived mostly in obscurity, Lee Hayes once was among America's best. Newsday photo by J. Conrad Williams

You can find him most days at a local senior citizen center, where $2.50 hot lunches stretch the Social Security check that accounts for most of his income. Sometimes, you can spot him in front of the down-at-the-heels home he shares with his daughter outside of East Hampton, where wild turkeys cut across his front yard.

Hayes, 88, has never had much. Over the years, he has picked potatoes on East End farms, hauled glistening slabs while working at an ice house, pushed mops at Brookhaven National Laboratory and sold life insurance. When an injury forced him to retire at nearly 80, he was still framing houses on construction crews.

But the soft-spoken, bespectacled man once was among the most skilled aviators in America.

Hayes, still hale despite years of physical work, is one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen — 996 black men who broke the military’s color bar when they were commissioned as pilots during and immediately after World War II.

Lee Hayes, second from left on top row, in a photo taken around the end of World War II.

Beginning in 1943, he apprenticed at airfields across the South, first winning certification as a bombardier before being sent to an experimental program for black aviation cadets at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. He won his certification as a bomber pilot in January 1946, five months after the war’s end.

“I got so good I could drop a bomb into a trash can from 1,000 feet,” said Hayes, who said he once persuaded a Tuskegee instructor to give him the controls when a stiff crosswind kept scuttling the instructor’s attempts to land.

But the arc of Hayes’ life, which in his childhood had been shaped by the Jim Crow South, would also be deflected by discrimination on Long Island.

Until he came to New York in 1930, when he was 8, he and his family had lived in a Virginia hamlet still strewn with the rubble of slavery. Hayes was born in Mannboro, Va., in 1922, just 57 years and 50 miles from where Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox ended the Civil War. Life had been strictly segregated as he was growing up.

“The school bus would go by with the white kids in it, and we would be walking,” said Hayes, who said heavy rains or winter storms would often force him to skip school altogether. “We would have to wade through streams and cut through the woods to get to school — it was five or six miles — and we would spend more time walking than we would spend in class.”

When the sawmill where Hayes’ father worked closed during the Depression, an uncle who had moved to Long Island years earlier found his father work in an East Hampton dairy, and the family moved north.

In doing so, they joined what became known as the Great Migration of 1910-30, during which 2 million blacks fled poverty and racial discrimination in the South in search of opportunities in the North. Many of these black migrants boosted their prospects by honing technical skills in factories or in the military.

Interviewed at his home earlier this month, Hayes he thought the improved schooling he received on Long Island and his technical training as an Army pilot would propel him into America’s postwar middle class. But although white World War II veterans typically were able to find good-paying work quickly on the Island, even after serving as an Army pilot Hayes found his life remained circumscribed by the color of his skin.

The fast-growing commercial airlines hired thousands of pilots in the decade after the war. But all of the Tuskegee pilots who applied — Hayes included — were turned away.

“After the war, we all put in applications with the airlines, but none of us got called,” said Hayes, who in the Army flew B-25s with the all-black 477th Bombardment Group. “I thought I had an advantage because I could really fly, that the airlines or some outfit would give me a job because I was good at it,” he added. “I was all over looking for work, but nobody would hire me.”

Blocked by discrimination from buying a house in East Hampton after his 1946 discharge, he bought a plot of land outside of town with $300 saved from Army pay. When a bank refused him a construction loan, he deeded his property to a lumber company as collateral, and with the help of relatives built the house he lives in today.

By 1948, he had married a Harlem woman, Marion Jones, who had come to Amagansett to work in a restaurant. He enrolled at what is now Farmingdale State College, hoping that a certificate in aircraft maintenance would improve his prospects with the airlines.

When it did not, he resigned himself to finding what work he could. He said he once was so disappointed over being passed over for promotions he felt he deserved at Brookhaven that he quit his janitor’s job after about five years. But he said he tried never to let disappointment over the lack of job opportunities get the better of him.

Lee Archer Hayes

“You don’t have time to feel bitter,” Hayes said. “You just try to figure out what to do next. You can’t give up.”

He said he finds much to be positive about. He and his wife, who died in 1985, raised a daughter who went to college, and a son who opened a moving business. He once encountered a black airline pilot who, upon learning of Hayes’ background, credited the Tuskegee fliers with inspiring him to seek an aviation career.

“That made me feel real good,” Hayes said, “knowing that someone else had advanced because of the sacrifices we made.”

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Deployments boost emotional disorder likelihood among military wives.

In Women on January 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan boost the likelihood of emotional disorders among wives who are left behind, according to a study in the Jan. 14 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The wives of deployed soldiers report higher rates of depression, sleeplessness, stress and adjustment disorders, according to researchers with the epidemiology department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Longer deployments resulted in a greater likelihood of mental disorders.

The findings bolster observations made by therapists at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center’s Rosen Family Wellness Center, who say worry over the safety of their spouse, loneliness and the added pressure of caring for children and maintaining a household on their own exacts a big emotional toll from military spouses.

The findings could be particularly significant to families associated with Long Island-based National Guard and Reserve units that have served combat tours, such as the 2/25th Marine the 800th Military Police Brigade, and companies of the 69th Infantry Regiment.

That is because Guard and Reserve units generally lack access to the kind of large military bases where there is an abundance of support services and social networks available to help military spouses cope – supports that are more available to families living on big military bases such as Ft. Drum, N.Y. or Ft. Hood, Texas.

In reaching their conclusions, researchers studied the outpatient medical records of 250,626 wives of Army soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The women had received care between 2003 and 2006.

Wives whose husbands were deployment for more than 11 months were nearly 40 percent more likely to report excess depression, about a quarter more likely to report sleeplessness and almost 20 percent more likely to show extreme anxiety.

Nassau vets chief ousted

In Veterans services on January 1, 2010 at 6:54 pm

The director of the Nassau County Veterans Services Agency is out after 8 years, and he’s not happy. Neither are the leaders of several vets groups.

Ed Aulman

Incoming Nassau Executive Edward Mangano sent director Ed Aulman packing effective Jan. 31 without indicating who would take leadership of the agency’s 7-member staff. Mangano, a Republican who narrowly edged Democrat Tom Suozzi  in November, apparently wants his own guy. (See Newsday article, subscription required.)

“It was a bit of a surprise,” Aulman told me. “I don’t know why they felt they had to do without me, especially since there is no replacement yet. Without a replacement, I think the agency will kind of drift along.”

Aulman’s deputy, Pat Yngstrom, who was not among the roughly 150 political appointees ousted by Mangano throughout county government, is said to be a possible replacement. Yngstrom served as director under former county executive Tom Gulotta, a Republican, from 2001 until Suozzi took office in 2002.

Mangano forced out Aulman even though United Veterans Organization of Nassau, a collection of 31 veterans groups, sent Mangano a letter urging that he keep the leadership of the agency intact, according to past president Tom Riley.

“He didn’t listen,” Riley said. “It’s political. That’s the game when a new man comes in.”

James Stasio, president of the Nassau chapter of the 1st Marine Division Association, denounced the firing, saying Aulman had been a galvanizing force for veterans in the country.

“I think it’s terrible, because he did a great job,” Stasio said.

Aulman cited increased staff training and his production of Veterans News, a monthly newsletter with information concerning veterans, as principal achievements during his tenure as director.

But the newsletter was often filled with announcements of wreath layings, senior citizens events, tributes and legislative breakfasts, and it struggled to connect with the tens of thousands of younger veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Aulman has been criticized for not being particularly creative or energetic in his advocacy for new veterans, whose need for services are made urgent by high rates of joblessness, homelessness, post traumatic stress disorder and other maladies, but who are often skittish about bureaucratic contact.

Aulman was a platoon leader during the Vietnam War, serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment from 1967 to 1971. He later was active locally with the 1st Marine Association and the Marine Corps League.

Women vets don’t get same welcome home

In Uncategorized, Women on December 15, 2009 at 12:16 am

Female GIs at Baghram Airbase, near the deadly Pakistan border. All of them are carrying rifles.

Women soldiers who return from combat aren’t treated with the same honor and respect as men are, even though women  serve as turret gunners, convoy drivers and other shot-at positions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That has left many women returning from war zones feeling rejected and depressed once their battlefield service is up, according to an Associated Press article.

“People didn’t come up to us and thank us for our service in the same way,” Sgt. Kayla Williams, 34,  told the Associated Press.  “They didn’t give us free beers in bars in the same way when we first got back.”

Joanne Lombardi, of Miller Place, a volunteer who helps wounded veterans, said women soldiers are often overlooked because combat traditionally has been associated with men.

“I’ve made the same mistake myself,” Lombardi said. “You see a woman in a restaurant with a group of soldiers and assume she is a wife or a girlfriend — not a soldier herself.”

Some female veterans say even male colleagues with whom they built strong soldier-to-soldier relationships while deployed shun them once they come home, often because spouses or girlfriends are suspicious of their professional closeness.

Isolation from colleagues  leaves war veterans more vulnerable to post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxieties, say psychological social workers at the Rosen Family Wellness Center, a treatment center for returning soldiers.  Lack of recognition also denies female veterans the social networks men enjoy, making it harder for them to find jobs and transition back to civilian life.

Many female vets have said they have come to doubt the value of their own service, and have not sought veterans services as frequently as men.

“What worries me is that women themselves still don’t see themselves as veterans, so they don’t get the care they need for post-traumatic stress syndrome or traumatic brain injury or even sexual assault, which obviously is more unique to women,” said Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee. “So we still have a long way to go.”

More than 185,000 women have been deployed since the 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to a Dec. 5 resolution in Congress honoring women in the military. In all, 350,000 women currently are serving in the military.

LI Vet helped halt Nazi advance at Bulge

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2009 at 4:26 pm

A German tank crew, captured during Germany's attempted advance through Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

Joseph R. DeCola, 85, of Lake Grove, was with an anti-aircraft unit in World War II that may have helped turn the Battle of the Bulge.

After he read my article in Sunday’s Newsday marking the 65th anniversary of that pivotal battle, DeCola wrote to say he was a sergeant with the 555th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion when the battle began on December 16, 1944.

The unit had only recently begun making use of a newfound ability to use pairs of mobile radar stations to plot the position of flying aircraft on a map of the ground below them.

That skill produced a tactical advantage when extreme fog prevented American planes from spotting German formations rumbling west toward the Allied line in Belgium.

DeCola’s battalion realized it could steer American pilots to roads being used by advancing German troops and tanks.

“A pilot, from the Bronx, volunteered to fly providing we would control him. We brought him down over the main road in the middle of the Bulge and he reported over eight miles of German Tanks and vehicles,” wrote DeCola, who moved to Huntington after the war, and started an electrical contracting business in Farmingdale.

“We brought in Squadrons of planes and bombed the front and back of the convoy so they were locked in.

“We bombed them all day long. This broke the back of the Bulge and the war was soon over.”

“Afghan Idol”

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm

"Afghan Star" is a wildly popular reality show among younger Afghans. But religious extremists say you had better sing good.

With America in a multi, multi-billion-dollar war to build democracy in a country  Americans know virtually nothing about, an Oscar-nominated film offers the possibility of learning about the scope of the challenge while munching on overpriced popcorn.

The British documentary Afghan Star tells the story of an Afghan must-see-tv reality show of the same name that is both widely popular among younger Afghans, and hugely controversial among the country’s opinionated and often dangerously-armed religious conservatives.

Think “American Idol,” only the Taliban get to behead the contestants if they don’t like their songs.

The film, running now in Los Angeles theaters but expected to soon hit screens in New York, is an entry for this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

A Los Angeles Times review raved about the film’s examination of the Afghan reality show as a marker of the potential change American troops have spent eight years trying to bring about in Afghanistan.

“The show also makes a huge statement for Afghans by bringing together contestants of different tribal ethnicities as well as allowing the participation of several female contestants, a big deal in a country that is essentially run by a male-dominated tribal elder system.”

But with America about to send 30,000 more troops and spend another $100 billion there next year, the film also demonstrates how difficult it has been and will be to bring change to a largely illiterate Afghanistan of ethnic division, xenophobic suspicion and geographic isolation.

Military must treat stressed GIs, Vets advocate says

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Leaders of the 10th Mountain Division at upstate Ft. Drum are not doing enough to make sure soldiers of the  get adequate treatment from emotional trauma related to deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan, says the director of Citizen Soldier, a New York City-based veterans advocacy organization.

Tod Ensign, the organization’s director, cites the alleged May 11, 2009 murder of five soldiers at Camp Liberty, Iraq by Sgt. John Russell, of Sherman, Texas, as an example of how a lack of adequate psychological help endangers U.S. troops. He says there also have been two suspected suicides and a murder involving psychologically-stressed Ft. Drum personnel in separate incidents this year alone.

“General Terry, I am concerned that the incidents outlined above reveal a disturbing pattern of malfeasance and/or negligence toward mentally stressed soldiers at Ft Drum,” Ensign wrote in an open letter to Major General James Terry, Commander of the 10th Mountain Division.

Last month, the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System announced an arrangement with Ft. Drum command staff under which LIJ would send a neuropsychologist to help military health workers at the fort treat soldiers suffering from war-related post-traumatic stress disorders.

Guard kids of deployed parents suffer more

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2009 at 11:47 am

A C-130 transport with the 106th Air Rescue unit being prepared for takeoff. The 106th has stationed rescue troops in Afghanistan several times this year. Newsday photo

Teens from military families, especially National Guard and others who don’t live on a military base, suffer more emotional stress and behavioral issues than other American youth, a Rand Corporation study published in the journal Pediatrics concluded.

Researchers found that across all age groups, children from military families reported significantly higher levels of emotional difficulties than children in the general population. Children whose caregiver also struggled emotionally and children in their teens were the most troubled.

The findings, published Dec. 7, are particularly significant to the large numbers of Army and Air Force National Guard troops on Long Island who have made multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Long Island does not have large military bases that elsewhere provide emotional and material support to troops.

Last year, troops deployed from several Long-Island based Guard or Reserve units, including the Army National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment, the 3rd Battalion/142 Aviation unit, the  2nd Battalion/25th Marine Reserve Regiment and the 106th Air Rescue Wing.

Nationwide, about 2 million U.S. children had a parent in either the active or reserve component of the military in 2009.

The Rand Corporation studied 1,500 children from military families across the country.

About one-third of them reported symptoms of anxiety, somewhat higher than the percentage reported in other studies of children.

Long Island perspective from the Pakistan border

In Uncategorized on December 6, 2009 at 11:28 pm

One of the best insights I’ve ever gotten about the situation in Afghanistan came from a 20-year-old Army National Guard soldier who was stationed there for most of 2008.

Tajua Wiwczar, who is with the 69th Infrantry Regiment, noted that at one point while he was stationed on the Pakistan border, he was with a platoon responsible for monitoring a vast stretch of mountain passes and rugged terrain that is a Taliban hiding ground. Their team of about two dozen soldiers was spread too thin.

“We just couldn’t do it,” he said about a week before President Obama ordered more troops there. “It’s very, very rugged, very mountainous. So having more troops in Afghanistan, it would make a big difference.”

But isn’t it reasonable to ask what difference it would have made if his platoon had another 11 soldiers to cover hundreds of square miles of steep mountainsides and hidden valleys? Eleven soldiers to a 25-man platoon would be roughly proportional to the 30,000 troops being added to the 70,000 currently in Afghanistan.

Gov: Guard Troops to get pre-deployment guidance

In Deployments, Uncategorized on December 5, 2009 at 6:03 pm

N.Y. Governor David Paterson told members of the 442nd Military Police Company that they and all future National Guard units about to be deployed will receive pre-departure orientations to help them avoid family strife, financial troubles, psychological stress and other deployment-related problems.

“This is going to be policy,” said Paterson, who said America has “turned the corner” in achieving an increased appreciation for its debt to U.S. troops.

Paterson addressed about 170 soldiers plus wives, lovers and family members at a Guard-organized seminar Saturday morning at a hotel conference center in Tarrytown, N.Y.

An article and photographs covering the event will appear in tomorrow’s Newsday, as well as on the Newsday.com website.

Military officials say lack of pre-deployment planning can cause stresses among soldiers that undermines mission-readiness, and can lead to higher rates of stress-related psychological problems.

The 442nd will leave for Iraq in April to help train the Iraqi police force.