DAY 2: Utica Post at NY Dept. Convention

Times Square Street Vendor:
Freedom Is Not Free

JULY 19, 2010 -- The Legionnaire street vendor who alerted police to the Times Square bomber this past May put it simply:

“I need not have to tell you all, freedom is not free.”

Duane Jackson was a special guest and one of the highlights of the second day of the New York Department convention, held July 15-17 at Syracuse’s OnCenter. It also was a day capped off by an evening parade through downtown Syracuse, featuring over 60 units and contingents from all over the state.

In the wake of the failed May 1st car bombing, Jackson appeared on national TV, proudly wearing his Legion cap, and recounting how he and another Legionnaire street vendor, Lance Orton, spotted the suspicious SUV and decided to say something about it. While Orton couldn’t make it to the convention, Department Commander William Kearsing presented Jackson with an engraved Citation of Honor recognizing the action of both Legionnaires.

The events of May 1 and of 9-11, Jackson noted, make it evident that “there’s a new enemy” and “they’re among us.”

Jackson then presented the department commander with a t-shirt emblazoned with words that have come to be his personal motto: “I saw something, so I said something.”

A few of the other speakers and highlights:

Department Historian Buzz Blevins urged post historians to be active and write up an annual history, even if they don’t enter the history and yearbook contest. “It’ll help the next person who becomes historian.” He announced contest winners, including Oneida County Historian Frank Carletta, who took a first place award for his county year book.

With nearly 1,000 youth at New York’s Boys State this year, the volunteer mentors don’t just give up a week of their time, but spend an untold number of hours in preparation for the annual immersion in civics, Executive Director John Murphy noted. He then introduced the youth who was elected governor of this year’s session – Ronald Taylor, a junior at Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville. The experience made him realize that one can have a positive impact on state government, Taylor said, adding: “I thank the Legion for not giving up on youth… There’s a leader inside of me that I didn’t know existed.” Part of his successful campaign slogan was simple but effective: “The leader you want to see is in the mirror.” And once elected, he exhorted: “Don’t let anything hold your dreams back.” For his accomplishments, Taylor was presented with a plaque and $1,000.

Legionnaires gave a standing ovation to outgoing Department Auxiliary President Karyn Porempski as she made an appearance to “congratulate you on your commitment to veterans-related legislation” and present a $5,000 check for the rehabilitation fund.

John Sampson, chairman of the resolutions committee, presented a number of resolutions throughout the convention, mostly having to do with urging Congress to tweak legislation affecting veterans benefits and rehabilitation. “This department is considered (by national to be) a frontrunner in rehab resolutions,” he noted.

Public Relations Co-Chair Joseph Mondello presented a Certificate of Excellence to Howard Heyel, editor of Westchester Legionnaire, a 4,500-circulation newspaper.

Service Officer Chairman R. Michael Suter presented the Service Officer of the Year Award to Daniel Morea of Dutchess County Veterans Service.

Sixth District Commander Sandra Junker presented the Employer of the Year Award to Schweizer Aircraft Corporation in Horseheads, for employing a high percentage of veterans and providing services for them.

Duane Jackson
Duane Jackson
Times Square street vendor

John Murphy
Boys State director

Ronald Taylor
Boys State governor