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May 24, 2016 6:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Boy Scout Is Close To Completing Wall Of Honor For Local Veterans

Andrew Hanna is making an honor wall with the names of 500 veterans as part of his Eagle Scout project. AMANDA BERNOCCO
May 27, 2016 4:54 PM

Andrew Hanna is always looking for ways to honor local veterans.Every Memorial Day, he and his fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 483 in Hampton Bays visit Calverton National Cemetery and help place small U.S. flags near the headstones of the country’s veterans—recognizing them for their service to America.

But this year Andrew decided to kick things up a notch, collecting the names of approximately 500 hamlet residents—both living and deceased—so he

can construct a Wall of Honor at the American Legion Hand-Aldrich Post 924 on Ponquogue Avenue in his hometown.

“I knew I wanted to help the veterans,” the 17-year-old said, noting that his project, which he expects to finish within the next few weeks, will also help him earn his Eagle Scout award—the highest honor in Scouting.

Andrew said during a recent interview that his inspiration for creating a Wall of Honor came after helping a fellow Scout, Charlie Schneider of Hampton Bays, with his own Eagle Scout project last year. Charlie, who earned his Eagle Scout award in September, spent many hours in Good Ground Cemetery in Hampton Bays locating buried gravestones and resetting them so visitors would have an easier time locating their loved ones.

When it was time for Andrew to pick his Eagle Scout project last year, he felt compelled to follow in Charlie’s footsteps in honoring Hampton Bays veterans. After a little brainstorming, and discussions with the leaders of the local American Legion, Andrew decided to build an honor wall to show his appreciation.

Richard Steiber, commander of American Legion Hand-Aldrich Post 924, said he is grateful to have Andrew and the other Scouts researching the names of Hampton Bays veterans. While the post features a framed plaque honoring the hamlet’s veterans, it has not been updated in about four decades, according to Andrew.

“The work he’s doing is going to save us hours upon hours of work to get it done,” said Mr. Steiber, a former member of the U.S. Navy who fought in the tail end of the Vietnam War. “I don’t think he actually realized how daunting the task would be when he took it on, but I can tell you the end result is going to be amazing.”

Alan Schneider, Charlie’s father and the Scoutmaster of the Hampton Bays Troop, said he is proud of his Scouts for their enthusiasm in honoring local veterans.

“The Scouts love working with the legion,” Mr. Schneider said, noting that the entire troop was involved in assisting both his son and Andrew in completing their respective projects.

The names appearing on Andrew’s list include veterans dating as far back as World War I.

To start gathering names, Andrew inspected all of the American Legion’s DD214 forms to make sure all of the veterans from the Hampton Bays post were included in his Wall of Honor. Before they can join the American Legion, veterans must provide the post with a copy of their DD214, a form issued by the U.S. Department of Defense that notes a veteran’s condition of discharge—honorable, general, other than honorable, dishonorable or bad conduct. It also includes other information, such as the individual’s military job specialty, military education and awards received.

To get more names, Andrew enlisted the help of his fellow Scouts, reached out to the Hampton Bays Fire Department and the Hampton Bays Volunteer Ambulance Corps, talked to locals in the community, and even wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the April 7th edition of The Southampton Press—all to make sure he did not overlook anyone.

“The hope is when the list is finalized, it’s the most accurate list we could possibly gather,” Mr. Steiber said.

As part of his research Andrew said he met many veterans with interesting stories. He noted that he met a few who lied about their ages so they could enlist and fight for their country.

On a personal note, Andrew said he was surprised to learn how many families in his hometown boast veterans. The realization was surprising, he explained, because he does not have any immediate relatives who served in the military.

He noted that it was also interesting getting to know the members of the local American Legion, including 1st Vice Commander Christopher Ramos, who helped Andrew come up with the idea for the project. Mr. Ramos was a medic in the U.S. Army toward the end of the Vietnam War. He joined in the early 1970s, immediately after graduating from high school.

“I volunteered during a time where it wasn’t cool to be in the service,” Mr. Ramos said. “Nobody went into the service; everyone was getting out because the war was so unpopular.”

Mr. Ramos said he is especially looking forward to seeing Andrew’s finished project.

The estimated 500 names that Andrew has collected thus far will be engraved on 2-inch-by-3-inch plaques, so they can be hung on a wall inside the American Legion post. Andrew said he wanted individual plaques so they could be easily relocated when the post wants to add additional names to the wall. He noted that all of the names he has collected were entered into an Excel spreadsheet that he intends to share with the post once his work is completed.

To purchase the plaques, Andrew and members of his troop hosted a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at the post on April 2, raising about $800. The legion also pitched in, donating $1,000 to the effort. Andrew said his project is running slightly over budget, noting that he originally thought it would cost about $1,600 to complete. The price went up, he said, because he underestimated the number of veterans in the hamlet.

After watching Andrew work endlessly on the project, Mr. Schneider said he is proud of the Scout. “He’s a great guy and I’m looking forward to seeing his project completed.”

Piggy-backing off Andrew’s project, the American Legion is planing to engrave the names of Hampton Bays veterans in a wall in front of the post. Mr. Steiber said the organization is hiring Alan E. Fricke Memorials in Ronkonkoma to engrave the names in the black granite wall facing Ponquogue Avenue.

Mr. Steiber said earlier this week that he did not know how much the work would cost, adding that members will start their fundraising efforts at Monday’s Memorial Day service.

He also said the initiative would not have been possible without Andrew’s research.

As for Andrew, he said his project has been a rewarding experience, even though he grew frustrated at times. “I would do it again because of how much I respect the veterans,” he said.

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AMAZING !! This young mans family must be so very proud of him!
By toes in the water (884), southampton on May 25, 16 8:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
God Bless you Andrew your one of the special young people living on Long Island.
By greeneyedlady (55), East Quogue on May 25, 16 4:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well done Andrew! - let's remember this weekend is NOT about bbq's and where the hip party is - take a moment to THANK a veteran and pray for our current servicemen/women. GOD bless America!
By Bond007 (22), Hampton Bays on May 27, 16 11:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
What a tremendous person Andrew is. Thank you for being such a great citizen and an inspiration to every American. Boy Scouts rock!
By BillWillConn3 (180), Southampton on May 27, 16 8:04 PM