Yesterday the Bronx Chamber of Commerce held their annual Veterans Recognition Brunch in which they honored Bronx veterans who, not only served their country but serve their communities.
“The Bronx Chamber of Commerce is hosting its 9th annual Veterans celebration to show our gratitude to the brave men and women of the Bronx who have served in our armed forces. Without their sacrifices, we probably wouldn’t be here today.” said President & CEO of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, Nunzio del Greco after leading the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Greco went on to introduce the Mercy College Veterans Scholarship, headed by Dr. William Farber, Associate Professor of Mathematics Education.
“Our military service members and Veterans have fought to preserve this country’s freedom. Many come back to face struggles, including finding employment. The H.I.R.E. program at Senator Jeff Klein’s office along with the Bronx Chamber of Commerce work together to connect Veterans with employers.” said Michelle Dolgow Cristofaro of Senator Jeff Klein’s office. Ms. Cristofaro spoke about H.I.R.E. (Help Identify Real Employment), a program by the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and Senator Klein that connects workers with specialists who will work one-on-one to determine skills, industries, and positions that match the potential job seeker.
After the brunch, the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and Senator Klein’s office hosted a job fair for Veterans. Right next door, civilians and Veterans had the opportunity to speak to representatives from the offices of 2014 recipient of the Veterans Hero award, Sergeant Gonzalo Duran, Devil Dog USA, Inc., Mercy College, The Federal Savings Bank, New York Public Library, the Big Apple Honor Flight, and Black Vets for Social Justice, among others.
This year’s honorees were:
Yanitza Betances-Leger, United States Army Sergeant First Class, is a native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. She enlisted soon after graduating from high school where she began as an Automated Logistical Supply Specialist. Awards that she has received are Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Metal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device, the Black Recruiting Badge, Drivers Mechanic Badge, and expert rifleman qualification badge. Currently, Sergeant Betances-Leger is the Center Leader of the Harlem Recruiting Center, Master Resiliency NCOIC for the NYC BN, and a member of the 1st BDE Female Engagement Team for the USAREC FET Team.
A Bronx native, retired Lieutenant Colonel Ron Watson of the United States Marine Corps served for over 22 years. Lieutenant Watson had a lustrous career as a Fire Direction Officer and Platoon Commander for the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, CA, an Executive Officer and Plans Officer in Okinawa, and served under the Special Operations Units in Camp Lejeune. He was later transferred over to NATO HQ in Brussels, Belgium. After three deployments, he continued at Camp Lejeune as an Operations Officer, Special Operations Training Group, and for the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Before retiring from the Marines, Lieutenant Watson served as an Inspector/Instructor training a reserve Battalion for deployment in Iraq. Recently retired, he worked as a Business Development Principal for Lockheed Martin Corporation this year.
Staff Sergeant Allan Ray Hipol is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah and joined the United States Air Force in 2008. Deploying twice to locations in Southwest Asia, he has been a Refueling Unit Operator, Fuels Service Center Controller, Supervisor Fuels Distribution, Supervisor Fuels Service Center, and an Air Force Recruiter. Currently Staff Sergeant Hipol is an Air Force Advisor where he responsible for 66 high schools in uptown New York while raising awareness and community support for Air Force recruiting programs. He works as an Enlisted Accessions Recruiter to the 313th Recruiting Squadron for the Harlem Air Force Recruiting Office.
Bronxite and retired U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Dexter Hendon enlisted in the military in 1968 after graduating high school. Training at Camp Lejeune, he became a Heavy Equipment Mechanic before being deployed to Quang Tri, Vietnam and serving a 12 month combat tour. Afterwards, he served a 36 month tour in Okinawa, Japan and a year stationed in the Philippine Islands. Sergeant Hendon ended his career as an Inspector/Instructor at Fort Schuyler. He resides in the Bronx with his wife, Roseann and his sons Christopher, Joseph, and Andrew.
Retired Specialist Jeremy Warneke enlisted in the Army National Guard at age 17. He was then assigned to the 333rd Military Police Company to which he was deployed to Chicago O’Hare Airport and in 2003 he was deployed to Iraq. After coming back home, he received his undergraduate degree at Sarah Lawrence College. Beginning his career in politics and community, Warneke worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and for Councilmember James Vacca. In 2010 he became District Manager for Community Board 11 and was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame in 2012. Currently, Warneke works on a series he created called, Voices From War, “The Craft of War Writing” at the Morris Park Library.
In 1970, Al Befiore joined the Naval Reserve at Fort Schuyler Navy Yard in the Bronx. As a 3rd Class Commissary for the U.S. Navy, he was assigned to the USS Springfield CLG-7 heading to Gaeta, Italy. He was part of the “Mess Crew”. Spending most of his time at sea, he executed maneuvers, received food and supplies by helicopter, and refueling tankers in the water. While serving on Shore Patrol, he rode the ship back to Norfolk, Virginia and spent the rest of his service at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.