MANHASSET, NY – Surrounded by proud veterans wearing the hats and T-shirts that told of their military service during World War II and Vietnam, staff members of the Stern Family Center for Extended Care welcomed active duty and reserve military personnel for a very moving ceremony on March 23, the ninth anniversary of America’s entry into Iraq.
Since America’s involvement nine years ago, much has been written abut the plight of returning military personnel, including financial stress and family breakdowns due largely to the economic recession and shortage of jobs, not to mention the mental anguish caused by post-traumatic or post-operational stress disorder.
One grateful member of the US Army Reserves, Michael Kentner, Platoon Sergeant, 773rd Transportation Company, Fort Totten, who is also a New York City firefighter and a maintenance worker at the Stern Center, explained how important it is for reservists to have a supportive work environment. Mr. Kentner came across a web site maintained by the federal government last year seeking nominations for a “Patriotic Employer” Award, which gives recognition to employers who support military-reservist obligations. At that point, he wrote a letter that extolled the virtues of his immediate supervisor, Walter Oberman, the Stern Center's assistant director of engineering. “To be succinct,” wrote Mr. Kentner, “it's a huge inconvenience for a manager to deal with a military-reservist because we're constantly asking for accommodations. My supervisor, to his credit, has never once complained about having me in his department; but instead, continues to support what I'm doing with a special sincerity that gives you chills. This guy embodies a certain intangible patriotism that simply cannot be articulated in words on paper.”
Last month, Mr. Kentner received a letter stating that the nomination was approved, and the Patriotic Employer Award and distinction was awarded to Mr. Oberman and to Stern Center Executive Director, Maureen McClusky. While accepting his award, Mr. Oberman said he was both humbled and honored to work with his good friend, who, he said, “is clearly an American hero. How can you not want to help someone whose only thought is to help his country and his city?”
Also on hand to present the award to Mr. Oberman was Sgt. Major Vincent J. Mannion, 301st Information Operations Batallion, Fort Totten, NY, who observed that “there are so many people who talk the talk but wind up complaining about the reservists’ military obligations.” He congratulated Ms. McClusky and her staff for providing a true environment of support and concern.
The ceremony was led by Andrew Roberts, director of the Office of Military and Veterans Liaison Services of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, which has recruited 100 veterans for various jobs throughout its facilities over the past 14 months. Also a veteran of military action in Iraq, Mr. Roberts praised the health system’s practice of paying its employees on military leave the difference between their military pay and their regular salaries, ensuring that their service to our country does not create any undue economic hardship for their families.
About The Stern Family Center for Extended Care
Part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, the 256-bed Stern Family Center for Extended Care, located on the campus of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY, specializes in short-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing and extended care services.