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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

Senator Jack Martins discussed education, business and drug use among other topics in a an exclusive interview with this newspaper and FiOS 1 News. He’s currently seeking re-election in November, being challenged by Democrat Adam Haber. Pointing to what he called “key legislation,” particularly the tax cap legislation passed in 2011 and prescription drug bill he helped shepherd to enactment, Martins feels New York State is on track to continue fiscal responsibility.

 

“In these last four years, we’ve had four balanced budgets, we’ve cut taxes working together, we have paid off debt, streamlined government, kept spending below 2 percent each one of those years,” Martins said.

A contingent of 80 Mineola runners embarked on their first trek to lower Manhattan last year for the Tunnel To Towers 5K Run through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel toward the World Trade Center site. This year, the United Mavericks, a networking group of local business people that support local charities and causes, are gearing up surpass that number.

Mavericks reps say they’re half way to gathering 1,000 people to run in the event’s 13th year on Saturday, Sept. 28.

 

The run honors a fireman Stephen Siller, who was enjoying a day off planning to play golf before he learned the Twin Towers were hit by two airplanes during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He was one of the 343 firefighters who died when the towers collapsed.


Sports

Though it had already hosted the series of lacrosse games during the regular season this past spring, Chaminade High School’s new Gold Star Stadium was officially christened on Saturday, Sept. 6, named in honor of the 56 alumni who had perished during combat.

 

“Tradition holds that when one dies in the service a gold star is given to the family,” said Chaminade President Bro. Thomas Cleary. “Our 56 Gold Star Alumni are honored for their selflessness, courage, and integrity.”

Although the expectations for the 2014 Mineola Mustangs boy’s varsity soccer season may be somewhat measured, the team enters the season with the goal of a berth in the Nassau County playoffs. The team is young and inexperienced but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

 

There is considerable talent on the horizon. There are only four starting seniors and five sophomores on the roster. Four year starting senior forward Daniel Pardo returns (19 goals in three seasons) as does senior standout goalkeeper Andrew Pereira.


Calendar

Town Zoning Meeting - September 17

International Night - September 18

Bereavement Support Group - September 19


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