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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

The founders of the popular Facebook group “Massapequa Moms,” a ‘virtual living room with 6,700 people,’ are leveraging their social media power to create a new discount loyalty card good all over Long Island—including, they hope, in Mineola. 

 

With a hugely popular Facebook community, co-founders Dawn Boyle Kostakis and Stephanie Hartman wanted to “figure out a way that we could help the consumer and the business owner at the same time; keeping commerce going, keeping it all local and having the people get a little bang for their buck,” said Kostakis. They wanted to serve more than just Massapequa, too, and the Long Island Loyalty card was born. 

Educating The Underprivileged Girl

As I tried to make my way through the unforgiving monsoon season, rain pouring as far as the eye could see, dodging puddles I rushed inside the school building. The guard yelled in the background for the children to come in quickly before they dragged in even more mud inside. Trying hard not to slip on the wet dirty floor, I pondered to myself what

exactly I was doing here. The words of Mahatma Gandhi resonated inside my head, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

 

Here I was at a school in Mumbai India, 7800 miles from my home in Mineola, volunteering with “Aseema,” a non-governmental organization whose mission is to empower and educate the under privileged children. Children living on the streets or in slums and in inhuman conditions.


Sports

The Mineola Mustangs varsity football team defeated the Roosevelt Roughriders 47-38 on Saturday, Sept. 20.

 

Senior quarterback James Gerstner led the Mustangs (2-0) to victory by rushing 212 yards and securing five touchdowns on 23 carries.  He also completed 11 of 13 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown.

 

“This was a big game—we were ready and pumped up all week,” Gerstner said.  “We came in ranked third but we knew we could beat them.”

Mustangs Shut Out Valley Stream

The Mineola Varsity Football team’s defense dominated Valley Stream South, winning 21-0 on Sept. 13. The Falcons never got further then Mineola’s 30 yard line. The defense was lead by senior linebackers Eric Guardado (8 tackles 6 assist), Ed Hincapie (6 tackles, 5 assist) and safety John Clancy (tackles, 3 assist).

 

Defensive linemen Anthony Sarno, Luigi Athan, Victor Tineo, Matt Lafaye and Chris Brenes controlled the line of scrimmage. Defensive backs Peter McCormack and Chris Lockwood played very well as they combined for eight tackles and only allowed two pass completions. Linebacker Kyle Dunleavy, Ben Carbone, Matt Kosowski and Brian Smith also played very well.


Calendar

Exercise Class - September 24

Silver Sneaker Fitness - September 25

International Night - September 25


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com