U.S. Army veteran Leo Cohen, 94, was immediately noticeable to anyone who walked in the door of a Tuesday event that celebrated a substantial gift by insurance company LTC Partners to Veterans Count, an Easter Seals program that provides funds and resources to veterans, service members and their families.
Cohen, a New York City resident wearing a World War II veteran’s hat and a casual suit, was one of the most animated people in the room.
“We’re celebrating,” he said with a grin, waving a hand at the crowd in LTC Partners’ building at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth. “We’re celebrating all these people and the wonderful care they give.”
Cohen, a former private, first class, served with an Army supply unit that brought arms and supplies to the front lines during the invasion of Normandy, France, and later during the Battle of the Bulge. He was 24 when he landed on Utah Beach on June 15, 1944.
On Tuesday, he walked slowly through the crowd at LTC Partners, shaking hands and chatting with everyone who approached him.
In opening remarks at the event, LTC Partners CEO Paul Forte said he “was very pleased to learn” of the $16 billion Veterans Affairs overhaul President Barack Obama signed into law last week. But Forte acknowledged the VA’s highly publicized struggles, as well.
“No government agency, even a reformed one, can do everything that needs to be done for America’s veterans,” Forte said.
After the reading of laudatory statements from Gov. Maggie Hassan and all four members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, who weren’t able to attend the event, Forte handed a plaque commemorating LTC’s three-year commitment and gift of $150,000 to Greg Whalen, Veterans Count’s Seacoast chairman, as board members for the charitable program applauded.
LTC Partners is a John Hancock subsidiary that administers BENEFEDS — a benefit program for retired federal employees — and the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, with oversight by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Veterans Count was created in 2007 to support veterans, service members and their families with funds and services in times of critical need. Information can be found online at vetscount.org or by calling 623-8863.
Earlier this summer, LTC sponsored a trip to Normandy for Leo Cohen and his son, Robert Cohen, for the 70-year D-Day commemoration.
“He got to spend time with the guys he went over there with,” Robert Cohen said Tuesday. He noted that his father met many brothers in arms for the first time, and realized they had scores of shared memories from serving alongside each other, even though they hadn’t met before.
“They all started remembering things they hadn’t talked about for 70 years,” Robert Cohen said.
Leo Cohen on Tuesday described the trip, and remembrance at the battle site, as “beautiful.”
“It’s something that everybody should visit,” he said. “It’s something that you’ll never forget.”