Veterans Day is Friday, Nov. 11. The federal holiday is a day to pay respect to those who have served our nation. One such veteran is Matt Simoni. Simoni served four tours in the Navy from 2006 to …
Veterans Day is Friday, Nov. 11. The federal holiday is a day to pay respect to those who have served our nation. One such veteran is Matt Simoni. Simoni served four tours in the Navy from 2006 to 2016 and is one of the founders of Bay Shore-based not-for-profit Bravo Foxtrot United Veterans Inc. The overall goal of Bravo Foxtrot is to establish a residential program to provide temporary and stable housing and holistic therapy to veterans so that they may successfully reintegrate into their families and communities after service. Along the way towards this goal, Simoni and his partner, Jade Pinto, have helped countless veterans with food and clothing drives, doctors’ appointments and finding housing, as well as providing a listening ear. In addition, they recently premiered a documentary titled “Long Island’s Forgotten Heroes” at the Bayway Arts Center in East Islip. The documentary shined a light on veterans struggling on Long Island.
For many combat veterans, including Simoni, the return to civilian life can be jarring. When Simoni returned from overseas in 2016, he had served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn. In 2011, he was ranked first out of 156 other highly qualified service members in his pay grade and he maintained a Top Secret/Secret Compartmented Information Level 4 clearance for four years. Coming back to civilian life after all of that was not an easy adjustment, and Simoni was fired from five construction jobs within a six-month period. He was homeless for over a year, living behind a gas station, and attempted suicide several times.
Bravo Foxtrot was created to help returning veterans and to give them a support system that can assist them. In the last year, Bravo Foxtrot’s administrative offices relocated briefly to Sayville from Bay Shore. In March, Simoni and a small group of veterans held a rally in downtown Bay Shore to highlight that the organization was looking for a new home.
The organization was able to find a home on the Sunrise Highway Service Road in Sayville before moving back to Bay Shore at 126 and 128 Railroad Avenue near the train station. In September, the organization received a small school bus from Suffolk Transportation that they refitted to use as transportation for veterans who need to get to appointments.
“This is also saving me,” Simoni said of the nonprofit last year. “It’s giving me a reason and a purpose to live again. This is not a hobby. I don’t even like to call it a charity because it’s saving me just as much as it’s saving anyone else, potentially and God willingly.”
For more information about Bravo Foxtrot United Veterans Inc., visit bravofoxtrot.org.
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