Veterans invited to special luncheon at Cranbury restaurant

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Putting smiles on their faces by providing a three-course dining experience, Jewish War Veterans Post 311 and Zinna’s Bistro served as the co-hosts to a veterans luncheon.

Seated around a long wooden table, 10 veterans from the New Jersey State Veterans Memorial Home in Menlo Park, along with their nurses, attended the luncheon on April 13 at Zinna’s Bistro restaurant in Cranbury.

Post 311 Commander Ira Roth said, “We are one of the most active veterans posts in all of New Jersey. We take veterans to five minor league Somerset Patriot baseball games. We take them to three college football games and three college basketball games.”

The post was founded in 1946 in South River.

“The name of the post is called Sergeant Sheldon Sheinfine Post 311 and he was a Jewish soldier who was a pilot during World War II that was shot down and killed. The post was named in his memory and in South River, there is a street called Sheinfine Street in his honor,” Roth said. “Sheinfine’s father was also a doctor in South River, but today the post is based in East Brunswick.” 

Roth said he often goes to eat at Zinna’s Bistro and knows Chris Zinna, the owner of the restaurant.

“[Chris] knows I do a lot of things with the veterans, and he said, ‘You know my dad is a World World II veteran and if you ever want to have a lunch for the veterans, I’ll host the lunch,'” Roth said.

Excited about the idea of coordinating a luncheon for the veterans, Roth said that after getting approval from the Menlo Park veterans home, a date for the luncheon was set. He said that Chris Zinna paid for each of the veteran’s meals.

Roth said the post often visits and takes veterans out on trips from Menlo Park and the Lyons campus of the Veterans Affairs hospital. The veterans from the Menlo Park facility are on average 82 years old and many of them served in World War II and are highly decorated.  

“At the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home and Lyons Veterans Hospital we play bingo there [and] we donate new clothes there once a year. We donate about $1,500 worth of clothes and there are [more than] 300 patients there and some are men and there are women needless to say that are serving in the military now,” Roth said. “A lot of the older ones who served by themselves and some of them are spouses [who live] with their husband because they can’t take care of themselves anymore. Menlo Park is run by the United States government and they take care of them.” 

World War II veteran Mary Bennett was one of the veterans who attended the luncheon. She served in the United States Army as a decoder.

“When we first started we had physical training [and] that was kind of hard because I had never been away from home. When I first went in we learned how to march, learning how to clean up our rooms, make our beds and how to take care of our uniforms,” Bennett said. “We had exercises every day at six in the morning. Once you got up you were just going. … At the time I was only 19 [years old] and now I’m almost 90.”

While serving in the army, Bennett said that she went to school and learned how to ride a Jeep.

“In other words, you would train for a little bit and you [went] to school for the subject that you’d pick and I picked encoding and decoding,” Bennett said. “We learned how to take a piece of paper with a message on it and turn it into letters. I went over to Germany … we went to school again. It was very important because we were writing to generals during the war and we were writing whatever messages Washington sent out. If a general wanted to get in touch with another general we [decoded] because we had the machines and the books that made these messages turn into a bunch of letters, it was fascinating.”

Roth said he lived in East Brunswick for 37 years and currently lives in Monroe. There are currently 13 members who make up the Post 311, according to Roth.

“A lot of veterans that served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and [Persian Gulf] War literally don’t want to join veterans groups,” Roth said. “They don’t want to discuss what they did when they were in the military.”

Due to enduring many hardships while serving, Roth said that is why a lot of the patients that the post entertain from the hospitals are being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“[Menlo Park] is the last place that they will live. These are soldiers that served their country, they’re up in years, they have issues medically and they don’t have family members that can take care of them,” Roth said. “They can’t drive, they can’t go to the supermarket, they can’t do things for themselves. So at Menlo Park, they are being taken care of extremely well, you could eat off the floor there, and they get three good meals a day.” 

Roth said many different organization comes to the home to visit and entertain the veterans who reside there. 

“So when we take them to a ball game and we serve them lunch or we serve them dinner and we give them candy bars, chicken fingers and fries, and give them a drink and their seat to watch a game … and they’re out of that environment for five or six hours, that’s the pleasure that we get that we know we are doing the right thing for them because they deserve it and nothing less,” Roth said. 

Korean War veteran Tony Parisi, who also attended the luncheon, said he was only 18 years old when he was drafted into the United States Army.

Being at Zinna’s Bistro for the first time, Parisi said he was glad he came at the urging of his friend.

For more information about the Jewish War Veterans Post 311, call Roth at 609-860-9600.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.