RED HOOK — VFW Post 5195 in Red Hook stood dark and empty Sunday and Monday, its Veterans Day ceremonies canceled for the first time in 51 years due to widespread damage and ongoing blackouts caused by Hurricane Sandy Oct. 29.
"It's sad," said Sal Meglio, 78, who sat next to a window in the VFW bar on Van Brunt Street, working on a crossword.
"They might have put more names on the wall, the memorial outside. A lot of people come from far away to see their father's name on that wall."
The post, however, had little choice. Like thousands of other homes and businesses in Red Hook, a waterfront neighborhood in southwest Brooklyn that saw some of the earliest and most serious flooding from the hurricane, the post's basement and ground floor sustained heavy flooding that destroyed piles of food, cooking equipment and memorabilia.
Members' houses were also devastated.
"We would've had a barbecue," said Army veteran and VFW Post 5195 member Eddie Acosta, 66.
"But everybody got their homes destroyed. So they're there."
"My house was under water for two days," said post commander Mickey Chircison, who also lives on Van Brunt Street.
"I'm so tired right now. My whole house was flooded."
Acosta, who lives on the second story of an apartment building, said he escaped the worst of Sandy's wrath.
So while other VFW members were forced to attend to their own homes, Acosta got to work at the post, emptying water from the basement bucket-by-bucket and hauling waterlogged debris to a growing pile of Sandy-related garbage.
"Us veterans, we never give up. We do not give up," he said. "I put my music on — I'm a doo-wop man, I'm from the '50s — then I get to work. I don't let nothing stop me."
Just after dawn Monday morning, Acosta headed to the building's basement, flashlight and garbage bags in hand, his breath misting in the cold air even as temperatures outside climbed above 65 degrees.
"It was wet, my feet were cold," said Acosta, who moved to New York from Puerto Rico in the 1950s. "I'm not bragging, but there are some things I saved."
Acosta managed to salvage photos of post members from the 1950s, an electric fryer, a slicer for cold cuts, and some other cooking equipment. Dozens of water-logged flags were crumpled in a pile nearby, many of them brought by neighborhood residents.
Those the post will burn at a ceremony later.
"One day at a time. We're alive. We'll fix it up," he said. "We'll start over again."