By Lenis Rodrigues, Media Relations Staff
The U.S Navy Seals are regarded by many as the best-trained of all the military’s special forces. On Saturday, a team of Seals – joined by two members of the PAPD Emergency Services Unit — put their training to the test to honor victims of 9/11 and those who fought in the wars that came after.
PAPD Officers Andrew Vignapiano and Brian Fink volunteered for the three-mile Hudson River swim, with stops at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, performing 100 push-ups and 22 pull-ups to recognize the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day. Police officers and firefighters from other departments, as well as a member of the “Fox and Friends” television crew, also took part.
Funds raised during the event, the second year it has been held, go to benefit the GI Go Fund. Launched in 2006, the fund is dedicated to finding places for homeless vets to live and providing them with job training and entrepreneurial support. The fund also assists veterans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The men and women who work at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are among the most patriotic I have ever worked with,” said GI Go Fund CEO Jack Fanous. “They stepped up to provide volunteers for the event and support at every step of the way. Without them, there simply would not be a SEAL Swim.”
Vignapiano, who has been competing in triathlons for the past few years, said he saw in GI Go an opportunity to make a difference after being exposed to homelessness during his more than a decade as a PAPD officer and learning that many are veterans.
“They provide veterans with job training, employment opportunities, essential needs, and outreach programs,” he said of GI Go. “I am proud to support such a cause, as well as our nation’s veterans.”
After a tiring but exhilarating swim, the SEALS, PAPD officers and other participants retired to the 9/11 memorial pools, where they paid tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice nearly two decades ago.