Parents of fallen soldier help veterans in need
The parents of a Long Islander killed in Afghanistan last December are turning heartbreak into hope for veterans in need.
Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa's parents are spending Veterans Day at Temple Ministries in Middle Island giving out boxes of food and toiletries in honor of their son.
The 31-year-old Coram native was one of six American troops killed in a suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan.
Diana and Vinny Bonacasa pledged to honor their son's memory by fighting hunger on the home front. The inspiration came from Louis's last conversation with his parents about his comrades.
"Before he left, he told us how he felt about his brothers and that is important to me to carry on that love to his brothers. He loved his brothers very much. It was an unbreakable bond he told us and he will die for them," says Diana Bonacasa.
They created a food pantry in Louis's name and a ministry called "Bread of Life" to serve veterans and their families. Louis's 5-year-old daughter, Liliana, and 8-year-old-niece Jayla, cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony.
"People could just come here mentally and physically feel better about themselves. That they could walk away with a bag of food and a mind full of the spirit, the spirit of God," says Vinny Bonocasa.
Hundreds of cans and boxes of food were donated by Long Island Cares. The organization says 316,000 Long Islanders go hungry daily and the need is great among veterans and their families.
"Each week, our three satellite centers in Freeport, Lindenhurst and Huntington Station, we're serving between 200 and 250 veteran families on Long Island," says Mike Haynes, of Long Island Cares.
The food pantry is open every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.