Lou Baer, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968, during a turbulent era. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert Kennedy were both assassinated, and there were protests of the war around the country.
Baer had gotten married, returned from his honeymoon and received a letter from Uncle Sam saying, “We want you!” He crossed picket lines of protesters to get to the draft board in Bay Shore.
“I was told by the draft board I would probably get nice stateside office job — being the only name-bearer in the family, a college graduate and just married,” he said Sunday at the second annual East Moriches Veterans Day Parade, where he was honored as the grand marshal. “Imagine my surprise when, after basic training, they assigned my MOS (military occupational specialty) 11B20 light arms infantry.
“I asked the drill sergeant if that was a mistake. After he got done laughing, he said, “No.”
Baer went on to additional training and led a helicopter assault platoon, earning multiple medals, including the Purple Heart.
Following his discharge, he and his wife Deborah, both from western Suffolk, looked east to buy a house. They’ve been in East Moriches for 47 years, raising three children: Christopher, Aimee and Deidre.
He’s also been an active member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that whole time.
Hundreds of people lined Main Street to honor Baer and the area’s other veterans yesterday, as marchers included groups stretching from Center Moriches, East Moriches, Eastport, Manorville and beyond.
The event was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of the Moriches.
Brookhaven Town named Nov. 9, 2019 Lou Baer Day.
“We love the community, its caring for one another and our hometown spirit,” Baer said.