Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 25 April 2014 00:00
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.”
Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00
Only once a year a 25-foot movie screen sits in the middle of Wilson Park in Mineola, ready to entertain residents. This year’s Movie Night in the Park feature The LEGO Movie, sponsored by the Village of Mineola and Mineola Chamber of Commerce on Friday, July 18.
The event, which was free of charge to all of the moviegoers, was meant to help promote local Mineola businesses, according to president of the Mineola Chamber of Commerce Bill Greene.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the American industry, and we feel that this is a great way of giving back to the community with hopes that they’ll remember to shop locally,” said Greene.
Thursday, 24 July 2014 00:00
Mineola resident Frank Zuniga and his wife, Charlotte, were heartbroken. It was bad enough that they had to take Mollie, their rescued beagle/terrier mix to the veterinarian on July 4, but it wasn’t until last week that they found out what happened to her until last week.
It started on Independence Day when Mollie, who the Zunigas adopted in February, started vomiting. Their regular vet was closed for the holiday, and the couple found that the Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center of Westbury would see them.
Thursday, 24 July 2014 00:00
Runners from all over Long Island came to run at the fourth annual Katie Oppo Memorial 5K on Sunday, June 15. The runner first across the finish line was Mineola resident Michael Mariotti, general manager, owner and host of the famous local restaurant Cafe Continental in Manhasset.
The day was glorious as the runners and walkers began their trek through Flower Hill from the starting line at Flower Hill Park. Organizers of this year’s event made the race a USATF Certified 5K race, timed by Long Island Race Timing.
Thursday, 17 July 2014 00:00
Mineola Hurricanes lost a battle of the bats on Sunday, June 29, at St. Joseph’s Field in Kings Park, falling short in a 9-8 ball game against the St. Joseph’s Saints in the first game of a doubleheader.
The top of the first saw the Hurricanes take an early 2-0 lead. The runs came home for the Hurricanes when T.J. McManus scored on an error and Connor Eakin scored on a fielder’s choice. The Saints never surrendered the lead after the first inning, scoring five runs on two errors and an RBI single by Jonathan.