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Veterans return to a new front line

Members of the Front Line Project delivering meals to Montefiore Hospital Wakefield Campus in the Bronx.

By Ray O'Hanlon

They served their country.

Now they are serving their community in a time of desperate need.

And on the day that the United States passed the grim milestone of 50,000 Covid-19 deaths they saddled up again and headed for hospitals where the battle against the pandemic is being fought.

Their mission: to deliver ready to eat food to health care workers who these days have scarcely time to think, never mind work out the time and composition of their next meal.

They are veterans of the United States armed forces, and members of the Charles N. Bajart American Legion Post 1122 on McLean Avenue in Yonkers.

They cover a range of ages, served in different branches of the military in different parts of the world, and now they have combined together in the "Front Lines Project," an effort that is making life a little easier for those who are daily battling on the Covid-19 front lines in order to save lives.

On Friday morning, even as the number 50,000 was making sad and shocking headlines, the Front Line Project members were loading up for deliveries for the three area facilities, Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, White Plains Hospital, and the Burke Rehabilitation Center, also in White Plains.

All three are in Westchester County but the Front Line Project extends its operation into New York City, which of course carries the dubious distinction of the being epicenter for Covid-19 in America, so also the world.

"The guys just felt they needed to do something," said Jack Hannon, an army veteran and now a member of the Yonkers Police Department.

"Veterans know about what is needed in a time of crisis, be it food or bullets, and in this case it's food."

Hannon explained that in addition to making deliveries to hospitals, the Front Line Project also delivers meals to homebound veterans.

Project members do the shopping and the Ladies Auxiliary team, wives, sisters and others, up to thirty people, either collect and donate money, or do much of the cooking and preparation in their homes.

The actual delivery teams are comprised of smaller units of veterans based at the Legion Post.

The Front Line Project spends money it raises at area restaurants, and the combined purchasing and home cooking effort results in individual trays of food that are ready to go.

"The doctors and nurses and health care workers simply don't have the time to organize meals for themselves and that's where we come in," said Hannon, who served five years in the U.S. Army, much of that time in South East Asia.

At the core of this veteran corps is Post Commander Sean Deery, a Navy veteran. Others leading the Front Line Project include Thomas Meilis, a Coast Guard veteran, Dan Campbell, who served as a Marine in combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Matt Schumacher, a Navy veteran, and Teddy McCarthy, who served in the Army.

"We phone and alert the hospitals in advance of our deliveries," said Hannon.

The transfer of ready to go trays takes place outside the hospitals, or if inside, in a designated area away from patients.

And for how long will the Front Lines Project run for?

"We'll keep going as long as it's going," said Hannon in reference to the Covid-19 crisis.

Right now the Front Lines Project members are planning for continued action until May 15, the date that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has designated as the current limit for the state's lockdown.

But of course that date could well come and go, with the lockdown extended until later in May, or indeed into June.

If that happens, the Front Lines Project will continue to roll.

"As long as they keep fighting," said Hannon of the heroic health care workers, "we'll support them."

More on the Charles N. Bajart American Legion Post and its work can be found on facebook and twitter.