“Teacher of the Year” Amy Graffeo-Rastetter had a brilliant idea surrounding Veterans Day on this, the 100th Anniversary year of the founding of American Legion, and American Legion Auxiliary: Why don’t we hold an indoor “Veterans Parade” with our Henry Viscardi School students and our local veterans? Flyers were created and the word went out through American Legion Auxiliary Williston Unit 144 member, Dianne Karl, who is the unit’s education chairperson, and who also works at Henry Viscardi School. Dianne spread the word to the American Legion 144 Post members as well as the Albertson VFW members, who gathered on Friday, Nov. 8, for the festivities. WPIX-TV Channel 11 was there shooting video that appeared on the 5 o’clock news that day.
The parade was led by the older students, members from the RAMP Program (RAMP stands for “Reaching All My Potential”), who coordinated the event and baked cupcakes and cookies. Frank Fitzgerald, who works at Viscardi School, created a special red, white and blue mailbox which was placed in the hallway for the students to insert letters they wrote to the veterans in appreciation for all they have done for our country. Even the newest resident, Sunny, the Special Needs yellow lab retriever, (who is the first guide dog to be placed in a school facility on Long Island by the Guide Dog Foundation), accompanied the students, showing due respect. The students lined the halls waving flags, saluting and thanking our veterans as the veterans marched through the halls. One of Dianne’s students saluted with a very serious facial expression and said, “Thank you for your service.”
“I could not stop smiling, even though I had tears in my eyes,” Dianne said. “It’s enough to make a grown-man cry, too, and it did as the veterans were seen showing grateful tears of appreciation!
In addition, Williston Post 144 Legion member, Bob Valentine, recruited a brand new member, Frank Fitzgerald (mentioned above), a Navy veteran, to join the Post. Although this is the first year that this special indoor veterans parade took place at Henry Viscardi School, Ms. Graffeo-Rastetter reassured all that they will repeat this tradition next year.
As of August 2019, membership in the American Legion has recently been extended to include all honorably-discharged veterans who have served during any period since Dec. 7, 1941. This closes the eligibility gaps. Prior to this change, membership was contingent upon service during specific periods. This amendment to American Legion’s Congressional charter allows for increased membership, and will open up eligibility to an additional 6,000,000 veterans nationwide.
In addition, as of August 2019, membership in the American Legion Auxiliary, which up to this time has been an all-female organization, has been extended to include all spouses (female or male) of U.S. veterans and service members who meet the American Legion eligibility requirements, i.e. married to an active or honorably-discharged veteran who is a member of the American Legion. This amendment makes the American Legion Auxiliary the largest and most inclusive volunteer organization supporting our veterans, and children and youth.
With these improvements in eligibility rules, those interested in joining either the American Legion or American Legion Auxiliary should contact their nearest or any American Legion Post for further information.
—Submitted by Rosanne Spinner, American Legion Auxiliary, Nassau County Committee, Williston Unit 144