For 40 years, Americans stationed in missile silos and Berlin checkpoints, remote B-52 bomber bases and Navy submarines, were all defenders in the Cold War conflict.
But those veterans never received a parade for their courage or professionalism, or even a public word of thanks. Until now.
On Friday, Richard Nicolello, presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, came to the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage to dedicate two Nike missiles similar to those that defended New York from Soviet bombers, to all the Americans who served during the Cold War.
“Each American generation has faced dangerous threats to our nation’s future,” Nicolello said. “Some events, such as Pearl Harbor, were immediately recognized as defining moments. The four decades of the Cold War did not produce such an event. There were no victory day parades. There was no opportunity to say thank you to those who stood vigil on behalf of freedom. We intend to remedy that omission with this ceremony.”
The Armor Museum’s founder and president, Lawrence Kadish, said, “Most Americans do not understand the role these veterans played in being part of the first and last line of defense during the forty years of ideological conflict between Democracy and Communism. Our effort addresses the need to pay tribute to them, and our need to better understand our history.”
Armor Museum senior trustee Michael Sapraicone said that few New Yorkers remember that they were on the front line throughout the Cold War.
“Soviet submarines sat offshore, within easy missile range during the Cuban missile crisis,” Sapraicone said. “Nuclear tipped Nikes at Rocky Point were poised to detonate in the air to bring down Russian Bear bombers. Interceptor fighters sat in Westhampton and New Jersey, always minutes away from `scramble.’ In short, we were an armed camp, and very few of us knew it then or recall it now.”
Several Cold War veterans and their family members attended the ceremony at the Armor Museum, located inside Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Round Swamp Road.