Vets’ Families Define “Courage”

Armed Forces Day 05-16-15Today is Armed Forces Day, when we honor those who currently serve, or previously served, in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reserve units. The national theme of this years’ recognition events is “Honor those who answered the call to serve.”  To commemorate, Suffolk County held an inspiring event at the H. Lee Dennison Building, facilitated by the County’s Veterans Service Agency Director Tom Ronayne.

As a culture, I think we have diminished the definition of “courage.”  We associate courage today with acts of being truthful and forthright, being outspoken, a presence on reality TV shows, making winning plays on an athletic field, or simply doing our daily job responsibly.

Colonel Francis Kestler, who is also a Gold Star parent, reminded the gathering of the courageous service of those who have made their stand for our country “in the arena,” preparing, facing, or even succumbing to live fire.   Meanwhile, their families provide support, understanding, and grief knowing the unique, courageous call to service of their loved one.

So, as we observe the holidays this year that give honor and recognition to our Veterans, their military accomplishments, and the freedoms that we as Americans enjoy, let’s also consider the “high bar” the families of our servicemen and women have set for determination and courage, and how their service allows us to experience what is truly possible for human achievement.


Michael Stoltz has been at the agency’s leadership helm since 1990, first as Executive Director of the predecessor organization, Clubhouse of Suffolk, and since July 2014, the CEO of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness (MHAW). MHAW is the result of the merger of Clubhouse with Suffolk County United Veterans and the Mental Health Association in Suffolk County.                                                                                                                                             Under Michael’s stewardship, the agency has grown to one with an $10 million annual operating budget, 150 employees, servicing more than 3,000 people each year through its Ronkonkoma, Riverhead, and Yaphank facilities. A social worker by training, Michael received his MSW in 1982 from Adelphi University, where he has served as an Adjunct Professor teaching Social Welfare Policy and Human Service Management. He served as a Program Supervisor, developing and implementing the Suffolk County Intensive Case Management Program, as well as positions in management and direct service at several Long Island outpatient clinics.

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