The Nassau County Firefighters Operation Wounded Warrior is preparing for its annual road trip to bring basic necessities and good cheer to young military veterans recovering from combat injuries in three military hospitals.
This year’s three caravans will depart from Holy Spirit Church in New Hyde Park on Wednesday, Dec. 2, to visit the wounded at Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and the National Military Hospital in Bethesda, MD for the 11th straight year. Many of those in the hospitals have sustained crippling injuries from roadside improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, commonly used to attack U.S. military convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“For everybody in this organization, it’s one cool mission,” said Joe O’Grady, NCFF Operation Wounded Warrior chairman. “It’s just something every community embraces.”
The nonprofit organization’s mission, as its web site states, is to offer material help and morale support to those who have been injured by putting themselves in harm’s way for their country.
O’Grady, ex-chief of the Floral Park Fire Department, said he never imagined the movement he and members of the Stewart Manor and Floral Park Fire Departments started would endure as it has. He credits Danny O’Keefe, ex-chief of the Stewart Manor Fire Department, with the original concept.
“We had no idea where it would go. But we stayed focused on the soldiers,” O’Grady said while attending last Saturday night’s silent auction at New Hyde Park Fire Department headquarters, one of the NCFF Operation Wounded Warrior’s biggest yearly fundraisers.
More than 200 people attended the 10th consecutive New Hyde Park fundraiser to bid on a variety of items donated by individuals and local businesses. The New Hyde Park Diner, the New Hyde Park Deli and Firebones BBQ donated food and beverages for the event.
“It’s something that has progressed every year,” said Tommy Smith, ex-chief of the New Hyde Park department and one of the organizers of the silent auction.
He said the Roslyn Fire Department has an annual 1950s night and Lynbrook Fire Department holds an annual block party to raise funds for the cause.
Members of the New Hyde Park Elks Ladies Auxiliary, dubbed the Does Club, donated 80 handmade blankets, 50 pairs of socks and a check for $2,500 at the New Hyde Park event.
“This is one of our favorite things to do,” said Emily Zizzo, leader of the Does Club. “We believe in a lot of community service.”
Donations to Nassau County Fire Fighters-Operation Wounded Warrior can be made on the organization’s website at www.ncff-oww.org or by sending checks to the organization at 120 Covert Ave., Stewart Manor, NY 11530.
In addition to monetary donations, this year the volunteer firefighters collected all clothing items, basketball shorts, athletic sleeveless shirts, preschool apparel, gloves, white socks, fire department T-shirts, toys for grammar school children as well as diapers and baby care items for infants.
NCFF-OWW is a separate, nonprofit charity and is not affiliated with Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) or any other organization. NCFF-OWW is completely separate and 100 percent volunteer-operated.