Southern Brooklyn

Sheepshead Bites And Bensonhurst Bean Honor Those Who Have Made The Ultimate Sacrifice

"Reflections" by Lee Teter
“Reflections” by Lee Teter

Today is Memorial Day, the day in which our nation remembers its heroic warriors who died while in the service of our country. Sheepshead Bites and Bensonhurst Bean thank those members of the United States Armed Forces who have laid down their lives in defense of freedom. Our hearts and gratitude go out to their grieving families.

U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards 1917-1918 for William A Brown
The World War I draft registration cards for William A Brown. Source: Click to enlarge

On Veteran’s Day 2011, Sheepshead Bites remembered the life of Sheepshead Bay resident William A. Brown, a World War I soldier who died on the battlefields of France. We will always remember his brave sacrifices. Today, we recall the heroism of two more area residents who perished in defense of freedom.


First Lieutenant Howard Samuel Pontuck. Click to enlarge

Yesterday, Brooklyn resident Howard Paskowitz posted a photo in the “We Grew Up in Brighton Beach Brooklyn in the 60’s and 70’s” Facebook page of a soldier named Howard Samuel Pontuck. The photo of the handsome 24 year old man, who perished on March 8, 1968 in Kien Hoa, South Vietnam, is accompanied by a caption, which reads: “Howard Samuel Pontuck (1943-68). Abraham Lincoln High School, ’61. West Point, 1966. First Lieutenant; gave his life to save his men in Vietnam; posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.”

Further research reveals that, on May 24, 1968, First Lieutenant Pontuck, who lived at 3100 Ocean Parkway at the nexus of Brighton Beach Avenue, was posthumously awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross. He also received the Bronze Star for Valor. Reflecting on First Lieutenant Pontuck, a commenter shares: “He was quite a character in high school & his picture is in the yearbook. He was a wiz on the parallel bars & the pommel horse.”

A wealth of information on the life and distinguished military service of Pontuck can be found here [PDF].


Captain Michael Edward Berdy. Click to enlarge

West Point graduate, army captain and fellow Lincoln High School student, Michael Edward Berdy, after whom Public School 188 at 3314 Neptune Avenue is named, made the ultimate sacrifice on December 26, 1967 — three days before he would have turned 24. Sporting a blond crewcut and bearing the slightest resemblance to Steve McQueen, Captain Berdy perished in South Vietnam’s Binh Dinh Province. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.

An account of the circumstances that led to Captain Berdy’s death is shared on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website:

An eye witness stated that the aft rotor assemble left the aircraft while the aircraft was terminating an approach for landing, then the forward rotor system also left the aircraft. The aircraft came to rest upright and two small fires were extinguished. One crewman, flight engineer SP4 William H. Campbell III, and seven passengers suffered fatal injuries in the crash. Those passengers included CAPT Michael E. Berdy, SP4 Barry S. Kyle, SGT Stephen M Vuga, 1LT Thomas M. Van Zandt, 1LT Daryl L. Ligons, CPL James L. Russ Jr., and SSGT Allen D. Ford. Another 25 personnel aboard the aircraft were injured.


Today we also remember the brave sacrifices made by the 21 residents of Brooklyn who died during Operation Iraqi Freedom: Segun Akintade, Joseph Alomar, Joseph Behnke, Pablo Calderon, Dayne Dhanoolal, Michael Glover, Manny Hornedo, Linda Jiminez, Rayshawn Johnson, Angelo Lozada, John McKenna, Julian Melo, Bobby Mendez, Mario Nelson, Angel Ramirez, Michael Rivera, Yevgeniy Ryndych, Rasheed Sahib, Kimel Watt, William White, and Nicholas Whyte, as well as most of the members of the 14th Brooklyn (a.k.a. The 14th Regiment New York State Militia and “The Red Legged Devils”), many of whom perished during the Civil War’s First Battle of Bull Run. Those who lived went onto to participate in the Second Battle of Bull Run as well as battles in Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg, amongst others.

To those from Brooklyn and beyond who wore the uniform but did not make it home, you will never be forgotten.

Note: We will have a light schedule today.