Hoboken Veterans Send Out An SOS, Need Help With Sandy Cleanup

American Legion Post 107 still hasn't been gutted after five feet of water destroyed decades of memorabilia.

Veteran and lifelong Hoboken resident Tom Brereton touches a navy colored uniform with plastic yellow gloves on his hands.

Along the bottom of the coat is a line of film, bits of mud and leaves. Brereton says that's the water line.

While many Hoboken residents and businesses have already done the dirty work of mucking out their damaged basements after Hurricane Sandy, American Legion Post 107 on Second Street still looks like it did a week after the storm had passed.

The storm surge brought roughly five feet of water into the garage where 125 Hoboken veterans normally meet once a month. It destroyed tables, chairs and decades of irreplacable records, photos, letters and memorabilia from World War I up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They've already disposed of many items and papers, but there is still mold on the walls, wet furniture and mud caked on the floor.

Brereton, a Legion member since 1965, said it's overwhelming.

"I'm not a cryin' man, but when I came in here and saw it, I lost it," he said.

JoAnn Peluso, who works with the American Legion's "Adopt A Soldier" program, has been helping as much as she can. She wiped away tears as she sorted through waterlogged care package items that were supposed to be sent to soldiers overseas in time for Christmas.

"I have beautiful [thank you] letters and I'm trying to save them," she said.

Brereton and Tom Kennedy, the post's commander, implored the Hoboken City Council for help at Wednesday night's meeting. They said its aging members don't have the strength to clean out the space and their flood insurance didn't cover the damage.

"I'm sending out an SOS," Brereton said. "We really need the help."

Health and Human Services Director Leo Pellegrini said the city is working to get volunteers from AmeriCorps and other service organizations to help them.

He said more than a month after the storm, the city is still hearing from people who need assistance.

"This is a perfect example where we have these groups that are here and asking 'where can we help' and we didn't know," Pellegrini said. "I had no idea that the American Legion was going through this challenge."

Pellegrini is urging residents, businesses and other groups to get in touch with the city and FEMA for help if they have not already.

Brereton said it wasn't easy for a group of soldiers to ask for help.

"He [Pellegrini] said, 'Why didn't you reach out to me, Tommy? I said, 'What do I know?' We didn't really want to bother anyone."

David A. Liebler December 07, 2012 at 11:27 PM
This was pretty sad to watch last night. I actually left my office and ran over to meet with these guys, but missed them. We need to rally around them. The building is a wreck from the outside. I know a few interested people who want to help...any suggestions on how to reach them?
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