Friday, July 20, 2012

94th Department Convention - Day 2

'Serve, Serve, Serve' a Strong Theme


Charles Burkes
ROCHESTER -- The charge to "serve, serve, serve" struck a chord on the second day of the Department Convention July 20.

That's how Charles Burkes put it when he accepted the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) of the Year Award. The Marine Vietnam-era veteran works out of the New York State Department of Labor's Albany office.
Edmond Torrence

Local Veterans Employment Rep (LVER) of the Year Edmond Frank Torrence, a Vietnam-era Army vet with the Labor Department's Flushing office, continued that theme as he spoke of dedicating himself to veterans and their loved ones. "This country would not be as great as it is were it not for veterans and their families."

Nelson Rivera
The Service Officer of the Year -- Nelson Eddy Rivera -- made a similar point: "First, I have to thank God for putting me in a place like this to help my fellow veterans." The 20-year Navy veteran -- whose service included Desert Storm, Desert Shield and the first Gulf War -- is director of the Dutchess County Veterans Service Agency.

R. Michael Suter, who announced the service officer of the year as veterans affairs chair, put it more directly to the 561 delegates and alternates in the room: "I challenge each and every one of you to find a veteran who needs help, and HELP him…Believe me, you won't have far to look."

A guest speaker, William Kraus, continued the charge: "I challenge you…to make the difference." 

William Kraus
The deputy director of the New York State Division of Veterans Affairs repeatedly asked, "Are we ready to serve the veterans who are still coming home?" Returning veterans, he said, need educational opportunities, employment opportunities, access to healthcare, and adequate housing, among other things.

"It's not just the government's job," said Kraus, a Legion member himself from Rensselaer County. "It's all our job."

He urged Legionnaires to get involved with their local veterans service agency and become familiar with the issues -- everything from housing and employment to post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

"No veteran should be alone. No veteran should be without a job. No veteran should be homeless. No veteran should suffer…We can make a difference."

A number of other awards also highlighted the convention.

Ken Governor, Mike Duggan, Cmdr Mike Bowen
Public Relations Chair Kenneth Governor presented the Department Outstanding Public Relations Award to Michael Duggan, citing his long years of service on both the state and national levels as a driving force behind the American Legion Press Association.

Department Membership Chair David Riley Sr. reported that 240 posts were at 100 percent or better along with three counties -- Seneca, Putnam and Wyoming. Five districts were at 95 percent or better, including, in order, districts 7, 5, 8, 10 and 4. Department of New York was at 95.6 percent.

Riley also announced that 19 legionnaires earned the Top Ten Membership Award for recruiting 10 or more members. Two recruited 50 or more -- Department Commander Mike Bowen, who signed up 51, and Elmo M. Kearsing of Joseph E. Zaloga Post 1520, who signed up 50. Two signed up 27 -- Donald G. Gerling of Charles J. Love Post 406 and Dennis McCarthy of Hamburg Post 527. Two others recruited 25 members -- Membership Chair Riley and Nicholas M. Yaworski of Elmont Post 1033. The other award recipients are: Thomas L. Hollingsworth Jr. of Munnsville Post 54, Raymond A. Hoxie of Randolph Post 181, Stanley B. Grela of Warner-Van Riper Post 435, Robert A. LaPrade of Manning-Lilla Post 463, Donald L. Brookley of Earl J. Manning Post 490, Dennis J. Daly of Ellicottville Memorial Post 659, Cassandra A. Gould of  William C. Dexter Post 673, Timothy J. Ambrose also of Post 673, George R. Musclow of Cottreall-Warner Post 942, Donald H. Linborg also of Post 942, Robert T. Riordan of Merrick Post 1282, Richard T. Grace of Joseph E. Zaloga Post 1520, and Edward R. Lupian Jr. of Gerald O’Neil Post 1683.

Rick DeVolder
Rick DeVolder, vice president of manufacturing for Garlock Sealing Technologies in Elmira, makes sure the entire company shows its appreciation for veterans. For Veterans Day and Memorial Day observances, for example, "I shut down the factory so every employee can go."

That wasn't the only reason Garlock Sealing received the Legion's Large Employer of the Year Award. Some sixteen percent of the 500 workers are veterans. "You know what's really great about (Garlock)?" he said. "It's our veterans."

The Mid-Size Employer of the Year Award went to Lowes Home Center in Norwich, where over 10 percent of the 122-person workforce are veterans.

Oratorical Chair Anthony Paternostro announced that Caitlin Kennedy of St. Pius V School in Melville on Long Island is the 2012 New York oratorical champion. She enjoys singing and acting, is a Red Cross lifeguard and swim instructor, and plans to study emergency medicine. Even though she couldn't attend the convention due to a family trip abroad, Caitlin left a message for Paternostro to read. "This competition offered me enrichment on so many levels…," she wrote. "I thank God and every man and woman who dedicated their lives to protecting our country." Her oratorical topic was, "America's Future."

Bowling Chair Richard Milton noted that the Department's 63rd annual bowling tournament, held in April and May, saw 80 teams, 199 doubles, 398 singles and 366 six-game combos.

With $8,280 in prize money handed out, along with trophies, the top bowlers were:
  • Team champs: LeRoy Post 576, with a score of 3,416. The team included Adam Philip, Steve Meyer, Ryan Kretchmerl, Rob Sease and Norm Bialuski. They also took the A.A. Bell Memorial Trophy for High Team Game, with a score of 1,169.
  • Doubles winners: LeRoy Post 576, with a score of 1,407. The players were Mickey Hyde and Rob Sease.
  • Singles champion: Mike Tygart of LeRoy Post 576, with a score of 769.
  • Combo winner: Rachel Scutt with a score of 1,520.

Department Historian Raphael Buzz Blevins announced the top county and post history books. Erie County took first place with a book by Susanne Qurik, and Orchard Park Post 567 took top honors for a post history book prepared by Dave Rebmann and assisted by Tammy Cowan. The Post 567 book goes on to national competition.

Auxiliary President Ann Geer and Cmdr Mike Bowen
A total of 1,030 young men completed Boys State this year, program executive director John Murphy announced. He mentioned theyj're ironing out some wrinkles in the new online registration process. Christopher Watson of Gansevoort in Saratoga County was elected Boys State governor, and was representing New York at Boys Nation, July 20-28, in Washington, D.C.

Department Auxiliary President Ann Geer arrived to a standing ovation, and was given another one as she left. She presented a $5,000 check to Department Commander W. Michael Bowen for the veterans rehabilitation fund. "You dedication and service to veterans in your communities in beyond compare," she said.