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Pops Concert Aids Disabled Vet

Humbled and grateful is what Sgt. Carl Duda felt after “A Tribute to the American Spirit” on Sunday, April 13 at Chaminade High School in Mineola. The concert honored him, along with two other disabled veterans, playing patriotic classics dedicated to those who fought for the United States military. 

 

“I got the tank chair,” he said. “Each tread is about eight inches wider than a track chair. It has headlights on it. It’s just amazing. It dwarfs the first model. It does everything for me except cast a reel. I love to go fishing.”

 

The concert collected $20,000 for the Independence Fund, which raises money to purchase hi-tech wheelchairs for disabled veterans. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who brought the fund into the national spotlight after The O’Reilly Factor ran a story with a war veteran, co-sponsored the event.

 

“Anybody who needs [a chair] can get it,” O’Reilly said. “They have a great sense of independence because they can do anything from play golf, to go over any type of terrain with these chairs. They deserve this help.”

 

O’Reilly, a Chaminade graduate, called on viewers to donate to the fund. Viewers have raised more than $20 million in the last three years, according to Fox News.

 

“This is a great way to honor the men and women who put their lives on the line for us,” said Maestro Louis Panacciulli. “Look at what they’ve done and look at what they’ve given up. The attitudes they have; they’re still such patriots.”

 

For Duda, this chair will let him continue his love of fishing and interacting with his two daughters and son. Track chairs cost around $15,000, but have a militaristic feature that helps users get around. Duda received the 500th track chair at the event.

 

“My youngest is 13 and for most of her life I was in the service,” he said. “I’ve never taken her camping or fishing. It’s going to open up a new world for us.”

 

Duda served with the Marine Corps from 1989-2005, before switching to the U.S. Army. He was in Desert Storm, Somalia, two tours in Afghanistan with the Marines and Iraq with the Army. It was Oct. 29, 2006 when he became surrounded by the enemy in Iraq.

 

Duda served with the 148th Infantry, working with “high-value detainees.” His unit worked six days a week, splitting time patrolling roads and operating in Camp Cropper, a prison in Baghdad currently under investigation for detainee cruelty. 

 

Duda was swarmed by prisoners and pulled to the ground, being beaten to what he called within an inch of his life. He needed to have every bone from his thoracic spine to his sacral spine removed. The Pittsburgh, Pa resident had a ceramic polymer sheath built around his spine to protect it.

 

“I ended up getting locked in an area [of the prison] with 15 to 20 insurgents and they almost beat me to death,” said Duda. “I had to play dead to get out of there. That’s when they stopped hitting and kicking me.”

 

Duda was on leave in 2009 after he had surgery on his back, when a doctor’s visit revealed an infection in his spine under the sheath. He was transported to Walter Reed Hospital, where he stayed until 2012. 

 

“They could see the infection and to this day, they don’t know what it is,” he said. “It’s bacterial but the Army, the VA, no one knows. They waited too long to get rid of it. They haven’t said the world ‘terminal,’ but I’ve been told by doctors that I may not live another 10 years.”

 

Duda was flanked by Dylan Cannon, an Army specialist and previous track chair recipient and Bryan Dilberian, another specialist and triple amputee, who is in line to receive a chair.

 

The concert featured traditional American classics, including “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” But, it will also feature lesser-played pieces, like “Thin Alabaster Cities Gleam” and “Flight of Valor.” “In Their Honor,” by Carl Strommen, is dedicated to the September, 11, 2001 attacks.

 

“It was such a great afternoon,” Panacciulli said. “It was loaded with emotion. It was an entire patriotic program from top to bottom.”

News

In a typical Long Island community packed with houses and backyards, there are a couple of acres of open land of community gardens where people are growing basil and dahlias and roses and cabbages—people like Terry Dunckey of Westbury and Peg Woerner of Great Neck, tending their small plots and helping to promote sustainable and organic practices.

East Meadow Farm, off Merrick Avenue, is owned by Nassau County and operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Nassau County. Previously it was a family-owned farm that was purchased by the county through the Environment Bond Act Program, a $150 million program that called for, among several mandates, the preservation of 400 acres of open space. In 2009, CCE of Nassau was awarded the lease to the land and in January 2012 took possession of the property. East Meadow Farm is a place where we can get the best advice on how to make our gardens grow without harming the earth. Part of the CCE’s original proposal was the establishment of a farmer’s market and, now, the market is open two days a week, a place to purchase organic vegetables and flowers during the growing season.

Drivers—get ready to slow down. Nassau County is currently in the process of installing school zone speed cameras in an effort to enhance safety by encouraging drivers to travel with caution, as well as support law enforcement efforts to crack down on violators and prevent accidents caused by speeding.

Nassau County officials say they’re still investigating locations in the Mineola School District, while leaning towards installing cameras near the North Side or Willets Road schools in the East Williston School District. Cameras could begin operation in September.


Sports

Nobody wants to make excuses, but sometimes when the injury bug hits, it’s impossible to overcome. Mineola Mustangs football head coach Dan Guido, entering his 28th season at helm, knows the injuries were the cause for their first-round defeat at the hands of the West Hempstead Rams last November.

“There was too many injuries on the offensive line last season,” said Guido. “It was supposed to be our strength and it ended up being a weak link by the end of the season.”

Even with those injuries, the Mustangs went 4-4 during the regular season.

The BU15 Mineola Revolution were crowned champions of the Roar at the Shore Tournament 2014 in West Islip on Aug. 10. After dropping the opener 2-0 against North Valley Stream, Mineola bounced back to beat Freeport Premiere 2-1.

The Revolution’s offense exploded in the third game as they beat West Islip 7-0. Mineola’s final game pitted them against Quickstrike FC, which entered the contest without a loss and within a point of winning the tournament.


Calendar

Zoning Meeting

Thursday, Aug. 28

Mineola Village Meeting

Wednesday, Sept. 3

School Board Meeting

Thursday, Sept. 4



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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