The slogan of Wounded Warrior is “The greatest casualty is being forgotten.”
Kaity Iaquinta took that slogan to heart on December 15, holding a Wounded Warriors fundraiser at the Park Place restaurant for veterans, including an active service member, her life-long best friend who she met in kindergarten at Stewart Manor Elementary in Garden City, Patricia “Patty” Vollmer.
Currently serving with the United States Army in Jalabad, Afghanistan with the 1st Airborne, First Lieutenant Quartermaster Vollmer Skyped in to thank everyone at the fundraiser.
“She really took the bull by the horns,” Iaquinta’s brother John said of his sister’s efforts at coordinating the entire event that raised $3,500.
“I had a vision and thought we would get maybe 50 people, $1,000, we’ve almost doubled that,” she said during an impromptu speech.
Iaquinta, 23, recalled that she had a dream “that I was wearing a fancy dress and having a fundraiser for Patty,” and approached Vollmer’s father, Barry, asking what charity for which she could hold a benefit and receiving the recommendation of the Wounded Warrior Project.
Vollmer’s father first became involved with Wounded Warrior as she had told him not to watch a particular video, which naturally, he viewed.
“It was Trace Atkins at the American Music Awards, he was singing with the West Point Glee Club,” he said. “They were introduced by a marine with his legs blown off in Iraq. He had said Wounded Warrior helped him out. It was the first time I took notice of it. It was a very emotional scene.”
While the fundraiser honored Lt. Vollmer it also was held to benefit some Vietnam veterans present: Rudy Genovesi and Carl Johnson.
Best friends since being drafted together Genovesi served with the Army for 18 months before being medically discharged due to injuries he sustained from a landmine blast.
Genovesi didn’t solely serve in a combat role, continuing on in civilian life and attending Hofstra University before dedicating 36 years of his life to working with the VA, only retiring in December 2011.
He began by assisting “vets and families with claims,” before looking out for veterans who couldn’t look out for themselves.
“My job was to go out and interview someone to be appointed as a fiduciary for their funds,” he said. “If there was a wife, I’d interview the wife. Maybe a son or daughter.”
Johnson also served with the Army First Calvary, spending 11.5 months in the “deep jungle” of Vietnam.
Both men spoke noted how they didn’t initially acknowledge their service as Vietnam vets due to the stigma attached to it.
“Condemn the war but not the warrior, these guys are heroes,” Johnson said, noting for how much longer and frequently today’s troops serve tours. “It’s a special situation, a bonding. Whether it be someone from World War II or Afghanistan, when they find out you served there’s an appreciation and love.”
Their friendship mirrors the one between Vollmer and Iaquinta, which the two women maintained through college as Iaquinta attended Mount Saint Mary while Vollmer was accepted to West Point to play tennis while completing soldier training. The relatively short distance allowed Iaquinta to watch Vollmer’s matches and also attend her graduation. While overseas Vollmer is also pursuing her Masters degree through online classes.
New Hyde Park Village Trustee Lawrence Montreuil was also in attendance with his wife. Montreuil has become well acquainted with the Vollmers as his son is currently serving as a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. who is currently stationed at Camp Legune in North Carolina and will be deployed in March 2013.