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  • Proud Air Force Vet of 4 Decades Pays Lifelong Homage to the American Flag

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    By Neil A. Carousso, Special to and WCBS Newsradio 880

    VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. — Whenever James Cunningham sees the American flag, he salutes.

    Cunningham is a retired senior master sergeant with the U.S. Air Force. His 41 years of service to our nation spans active duty and Air National Guard service.

    “I know the history of our country, I know what went into the first flag when it came up, and it’s always been a symbol of our country and the way that we live and I’m proud to be part of that,” Cunningham said.

    Congress authorized the United States Flag on June 14, 1777, which is now observed as Flag Day.

    The flag was first flown during the American Revolution at Fort Stanwix, on the site of the present city of Rome, New York, on August 3, 1777. It was first under fire for three days later in the Battle of Oriskany.

    “I’ve seen a lot of flags and a lot of people who are as proud as I am and I see by the way they display it,” Cunningham said.

    When the American Flag is not displayed “properly,” Cunningham politely speaks up because presentation of the flag is essential to the veteran as a representation of our republic.

    Recently, Cunningham was going into a restaurant when he noticed the flag on a home next door was “disreputable” because it was in “tatters.”

    “When I left the restaurant, I stopped and I rang the doorbell and the homeowner came to the door and I said, ‘Ma’am, I’m sorry to bother you, but I’ve noticed that flag flying there, but it really isn’t a good idea to keep it up the way it is because it’s torn,’” Cunningham said.

    Cunningham told the woman that she was “embarrassing” herself by displaying the American flag in such a poor condition. “You’re not giving it the proper respect,” Mr. Cunningham recalled telling her.

    She told him that she had a new flag, but she was unable to replace it herself, so Mr. Cunningham put it up for her, replacing the old flag and giving the ripped flag a proper retirement.

    “I told her, ‘You can be proud of that flag now and I’m proud that I was able to help you with that,’” Cunningham recalled, with a smile on his face.

    When Mr. Cunningham walks in parades with the Knights of Columbus, he marvels at the American flag and salutes the 13 red and white stripes – representing the 13 British colonies that declared independence from Great Britain – and the 50 white stars on the sea of blue that symbolizes the 50 states.

    Cunningham lights up when he spots the flag like the solar-powered landscape spotlight that shines on his flag at nighttime from the edge of the bushes on his manicured lawn.

    “I salute when I come home,” said Cunningham, whose children used to tease him when they were younger, but now, they understand why he pays his respects to the flag.

    As he gazed at Old Glory delicately waving in the breeze in front of his Valley Stream, Long Island home, as the sun set on a beautiful spring Friday evening, Mr. Cunningham turned his head slightly, so he could still see the flag, flashed a smile, and exclaimed, “I’m proud it’s my flag.”

    Ret. Sr. Master Sgt. James Cunningham proudly wears his uniform that still fits nearly 23 years after he was discharged.

    A Life of Service

    Cunningham was discharged in July 1995 when he turned 60 years old. His tailor-made Air Force dress uniform still fits today at age 83; he proudly wore it in his Nassau County home, where he started a life with his late wife Mary, eight miles from where he was raised in Queens.

    “I wish my wife were here to share this moment with me,” Cunningham said while visibly holding back tears. “We were married for 47 years, we didn’t quite make 50, but she was my inspiration, and as far as the service went, she was with me 100 percent.”

    Mr. Cunningham has kept the last rose that was by Mary’s bedside when she passed 10 years ago. He keeps it in a tea cup with “Mary” inscribed in script. A blessing to Mr. Cunningham, the rose has not disintegrated. The rose and tea cup sit atop his living room fireplace adjacent to pictures of his loving family, including his eldest daughter who fell ill from a 9/11-related cancer as she worked on Wall Street and inhaled the smoke that engulfed Lower Manhattan.

    Far from despondent, Cunningham is proud, especially of his country that has afforded him a sense of purpose, joy and gratitude. He keeps himself busy with the American Legion and Knights of Columbus organizations, while also serving as an extraordinary minister at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, which is down the street from Cunningham’s home in Valley Stream.

    “My service life endeared me for the rest of my life. It taught me things that came very handy in civilian life,” said Mr. Cunningham.

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  • WCBS Small Business Breakfast Showcases WeWork, AI Company & More

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (WCBS 880) — Small business owners from the Tri-State area gathered at the Meadowlands Hilton in East Rutherford, New Jersey for a morning full of networking and business tips Thursday at the WCBS Delta Dental Of New Jersey Small Business Breakfast, hosted by WCBS 880’s business reporter Joe Connolly.

    “I just love these days because we get so much energy and ideas from the people here, exchanging what’s working for them and whose business is up and why,” Connolly, host of WCBS 880’s Small Business Spotlight mini-series, said.

    Joe Connolly is live from the WCBS Delta Dental of New Jersey and Connecticut Small Business Breakfast with WCBS Newsradio 880 Meteorologist Todd Glickman and Ramon Ray of Smart Hustle Magazine at the Meadowlands Hilton! Ramon was a guest on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight. #WCBSBizBreakfast

    Posted by WCBS Newsradio 880 on Thursday, June 14, 2018

    The theme of the breakfast was “How To Think About Your Business in New Ways.”

    Special guests at the event included Rui Barros, Senior Vice President and Head of Operations US/Canada East/Tri-State of WeWork, as well as Tyler Mathisen, CNBC Business News Anchor. Before the breakfast kicked off, Mathisen spoke to WCBS 880’s Steve Scott on air with Wayne Cabot and Paul Murnane about the positive economic atmosphere the country has been experiencing recently.

    “I am hearing optimism. I think when you hear the chairman of the Federal Reserve yesterday say that the American economy is great that is not usually what you hear from the very circumspect heads of the U.S. central banks. So when he says something like that that sets the tone and you can see it reflected here. More businesses are hiring than not hiring,” Mathisen said. “More businesses are expanding than not expanding. And so you see a lot of sort of optimism in the crowd today the turnout is good, the turnout is great.”

    Among the many successful small businesses showcased at the event was Satisfi Labs, an artificial intelligence company that “made physical location a live search engine.” Founder and CEO Don White explained how he found his unique idea and turned it into a reality.

    “We saw an opening, and we looked at physical locations like a Jet game, a Broadway show, musical concert, retail store. A comment was mentioned about personalization of trying to find a person. Well when you walk into a place like that how easy is it to try and find a person? So you use artificial intelligence to enable a mobile device to locate and find things, services or purchase decisions you want to make in large physical areas. So we leverage artificial intelligence to essentially make a physical location a live search engine,” White said.

    Satisfi Labs CEO and Founder Don White says his artificial intelligence company “made physical location a live search engine.” His high-end clients include the New York Mets. #WCBSBizBreakfast ‬

    Posted by WCBS Newsradio 880 on Thursday, June 14, 2018

    Satisfi Labs, which has high-end clients including the New York Mets, has created software that allows users to find what they want when they want it directly from the source. Whether you’re a fan in a sporting arena looking for the closest peanut concession or a shopper looking for a certain shirt at the mall, users can log onto Satisfi Labs and search for their products. White explained this as training the “perfect employee,” then placing it into consumers’ phones, allowing them to find what they need immediately and without any issues.

    “So it’s like training your perfect employee, putting it in your phone and then that property or asset owner is telling you what they want you to know, not a third-party search engine that scrapes websites,” White said.

    To showcase his business model, White presented the “fan in a stadium” example, explaining that with Satisfi Labs spectators do not have to search all over the arena for a specific concession. Rather, they can search on Satisfi Labs’ venue information to find the exact location.

    “Provide a way for you to get what you want on demand from your seat or when you’re going to the stadium so you don’t have to find a person, and you can get it all on your phone,” White said.

    In addition, Gary Stout spoke about his company Buzzworthy Studio, which helps consumers expand and establish their digital brands.

    This year marks the 23rd year that the WCBS 880’s Small Business Breakfast has been connecting entrepreneurs in a professional setting. It now stands as the longest running small business event series in the New York area.

    For more pictures and information from the event, visit #WCBSBizBreakfast on Twitter.

    Neil A. Carousso produced WCBS Newsradio 880’s multi-media coverage of the Small Business Breakfast and assisted in organizing the event in East Rutherford, NJ on June 14, 2018. All WCBS 880 videos and social media posts were written, edited and published by Neil A. Carousso.



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  • Parade Of Ships Kicks Off Fleet Week 2018

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Anchors aweigh!

    Fleet Week 2018 kicked off Wednesday with a parade of ships up the Hudson River.

    Marla Diamond reports live from Battery Park where the U.S. Navy Parade of Ships is passing by up the Hudson River during Fleet Week New York.

    Posted by WCBS Newsradio 880 on Wednesday, May 23, 2018

    Eleven ships carrying 2,300 sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are in for a week of tours and celebrations.

    As WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported, an FDNY fire boat welcomed the sailors to New York Harbor with sprays of water. The amphibious transport dock U.S.S. Arlington from Norfolk, Virginia led the parade with Marines in their dress blues and sailors in white manning the rails past the Statue of Liberty – and saluting at the 9/11 Memorial.

    Vincent Catalano of Babylon, Long Island was watching. His son, Michael, is the ship’s lieutenant commander.

    Catalano said his son was a fan of Fleet Week long before joining the service himself.

    “He loved Fleet Week. He always came down here. As a matter of fact, when the JFK was still commissioned, that’s the aircraft carrier that used to come up here, we went every year on the JFK,” he said.

    Diamond earlier was scheduled to join the Marines from Camp Lejeune aboard the Arlington, but her mission out to the ship was scrubbed because of heavy fog and she watched from the Battery.

    “The ceiling was too low for the pilot to take us out to the ship,” Diamond reported.

    The ship received cannon salutes at Fort Hamilton and Fort Wadsworth before headign heading toward Lower Manhattan.

    Ships will be docked on Manhttan’s West Side, Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Merchant Marine Academy and the Bronx CUNY Maritime College for the 30th annual Fleet Week in New York City.

    This is a chance for the men and women in uniform to get a taste of New York — the ballgames, the Statue of Liberty and of course Times Square.

    Participants said they always have a fantastic experience in New York.

    “This is actually my third personal Fleet Week, and each year, it just keeps getting better,” said Lt. Justin Vitalis, who is in charge of all helicopter operations for Fleet Week.

    He said it was a great opportunity for the sailors, Coast Guard officers, and Marines to experience “the best city on the face of the earth,” as well as an opportunity for people in the Tri-State Area to get a feel for what it’s like to be in the service.

    The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum will host a series of events including a free screening of Top Gun on the flight deck, a Battle of the Big Bands music and swing dancing event, and the annual Memorial Day commemoration ceremony, featuring the unfurling of a 100-foot American flag, the playing of Taps, a ceremonial wreath laying and a 3-volley rifle salute.


    Neil A. Carousso produced WCBS Newsradio 880’s digital content from Fleet Week on May 23, 2018.

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  • Campaign Urges Veterans To Get Mental Health Care If They Need It

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    NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a campaign to urge veterans to get help for if they need it.

    The campaign is called “Mental Health Means a Stronger You.” It aims to reshape the perceptions and treatment by outlining the success stories of vets who have reached out for mental health support.

    WCBS 880 Producer Neil A. Carousso talked about the campaign this week with Marine Corps veteran Moses Maddox – now veterans retention counselor at California State University San Marcos – and Dr. Wendy Tenhula, director of innovation and collaboration at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

    It is part of the “Make a Connection” program, the VA’s ongoing national mental health outreach effort.

    “While the conversation for mental health has gotten better, there’s still this stigma that, you know, either you’re weak or you’re crazy – a variety of things that people say when it comes to seeking, you know, mental health, that frankly just aren’t true, and that treatment is something that should be thought out, and that recovery can be achieved as long as you take your treatment seriously and as long as you actually go out there and seek that help,” Maddox said.

    Maddox said some veterans might not seek out mental health care because of the stigma, some are concerned that it might limit their employment opportunities, and some don’t want to admit they need help because they feel like they can go through anything after having gone to war.

    “And then they come home, and something as simple as a college class is extremely difficult because they’re cycling through things,” Maddox said. “So there’s a variety of reasons why people don’t go seek help, and this movement that we’re trying to do; this message is to say, ‘Hey, OK, people have been there before. We’ve gone through it. You’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up and get that help.”

    Tenhula said the “Make a Connection” program was launched a few years ago “to raise awareness about mental health conditions and to inform veterans, as well as their family members and other loved ones, as well as their country at large, that mental health conditions are treatable.”

    She said hundreds of veterans have come forward and talked about their own difficulties, the treatments they have received, and how those treatments have made a difference.

    “There are effective treatments available, and that recovery is possible,” Tenhula said.

    Maddox said there are many factors that go into an effective mental health care treatment program.

    “One is having a really good counselor who is very honest about the process; who told me that some days are going to be better than others; that there’s going to be sessions where I might leave the session feeling worse than when I started, but it was all part of the process,” he said.

    He added that the first step is just to get help and understand that doing so can be scary and stressful – particularly since a therapist will start out as a stranger to whom a veteran is assigned.

    “But keep in mind that it is OK; that it is a process, and you have to stick with it. There’s going to be days where it’s incredibly difficult. There’s going to be times when it’s going to be hard to go out of bed, and there’s always an excuse; a reason not to go. You have to not listen to that,” Maddox said. “Once you take that first step, you have to follow through, and those stressors tend to go away once you get comfortable with the process; once you start to see little incremental changes.”

    The VA has also expanded the methods veterans can use to access mental health care, Tenhula said

    “We’ve expanded the use of telehealth for mental health conditions, so a veteran can be in one location, and their doctor or therapist can be in another location, and they can work together using video conferencing technology. VA also has a number of mental health-related mobile phone apps,” she said.

    Maddox’s message for other veterans was that he has an idea of what they’re going through – and he said veterans like openness, honesty, and frankness.

    “It’s natural. But you’re not weak for going to seek out mental health treatment, and in fact, saying that I do need help is a great sign of strength, and that’s what we really encourage,” Maddox said.

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  • Google’s Wendy Gonzalez Gives Advice On Sharpening Your Digital Skills At WCBS Small Business Breakfast

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    STAMFORD, Conn. (WCBS 880) — Participants learned how to take full advantage of the digital tools available for their business at the WCBS Small Business Breakfast Wednesday morning.

    Joining WCBS 880 Morning Business Anchor Joe Connolly at the Stamford Hilton was Google Small Business Marketing Expert Wendy Gonzalez. Guests heard tips on how to grow their business online and to sharpen their social media strategy.

    How do you leverage your business using video on social media? Google Small Business Expert Wendy Gonzalez explains the importance of compelling video content and what that means for business owners who understand video on social media is important, but don’t know how to visually portray their businesses. Joe Connolly uses a real example from a small business owner at this morning’s Small Business Breakfast.

    Posted by WCBS Newsradio 880 on Wednesday, March 28, 2018

    Among the pieces of advice Gonzalez passed along was how to make the social media presence for a business engaging and personable – even if the business itself might seem to be on the dry side. Connolly mentioned one man he knew who worked as an accountant, and engaged potential clients on social media by showing himself coaching his Little League team on the weekends.

    Google’s Wendy Gonzalez is answering business owners’ questions on digital marketing. #SmallBusinessBreakfast

    Posted by WCBS Newsradio 880 on Wednesday, March 28, 2018

    “For a lot of people, the whole world in accounting is very scary, and it’s something that is the last thing on your to-do list to deal with. But everybody has to deal with taxes and business. You’ve got to deal with your finances – of course, you’ve got to deal with your finances,” Gonzalez said. “So you want to work with somebody who seems personable. The video can show that.”

    Our Joe Connolly is live from the WCBS Small Business Breakfast with our featured guest, small business expert Wendy Gonzalez from Google. ‬

    Posted by WCBS Newsradio 880 on Wednesday, March 28, 2018

    She noted that no matter what the business, there is always something in that lends itself to video and social engagement.

    “The first step, really, is to take a step back and say, ‘What’s our goal here?’ Because I think you can also see a lot of YouTube channels where they have a lot of videos, but none are very interesting. None feel very authentic. None feel like you’re getting information,” Gonzalez said. “So I think the first step is to say, ‘Well what’s the point? What am I really trying to do here?’ So in the case of that accountant, I think my goal would be, I am trying to show that I’m somebody that you want to hang with. I’m somebody that you can relate to. I’m coaching Little League. This is what I do on weekends. That is going to lead to a different video strategy and social media strategy, and someone who wants to show these products, or someone who wants to show these customer stories. It all depends a little bit on what your goal is.”

    Joe Connolly is live at the WCBS Small Business Breakfast in Stamford, CT where the theme is “Expanding Your Digital Presence.”

    Posted by WCBS Newsradio 880 on Wednesday, March 28, 2018

    Following the discussion, Gonzalez said the most important takeaway was that businesses are looking for ways to find customers the same as ever, but with new tools at their disposal.

    “To me, it’s still the bread and butter of business that people are looking for customers. And people are looking for customers now on all sorts of different platforms, and approaches and strategies on how to find those customers, but ultimately, that is still what people are looking to do, and digital is a great way to find those customers now,” she said.

    Gonzalez noted that when it comes to digital strategy, businesses are going well beyond the “hours and directions” box on Google.

    Joe Connolly and Google small business expert Wendy Gonzalez, our featured guest at the WCBS Small Business Breakfast, discuss what they learned from small business owners this morning on how to “expand your digital presence” and transcend it into sales.

    Posted by WCBS Newsradio 880 on Wednesday, March 28, 2018

    “When a business pops up on the right-hand side, that’s run through a program called ‘Google My Business.’ So business owners can claim that listing, and they can add their hours, and they can add photos, and respond to reviews, and we have a new feature called ‘local posts,’ where people can post information that’ll last for about a week, including videos – so just more engagement; new ways that people can – as a business owner – engage with their customers, right at those moments when customers are looking for them,” she said.

    Google AdWords were also a major topic of interest at the breakfast. One man noted that if AdWord number one is too expensive, taking the second slot is not a bad idea.

    “Ultimately, we are always trying to deliver a relevant experience to a user, so looking at your search term; looking at the ad text; looking at your website; finding what is relevant to whoever is searching, and sometimes that is the number two ad position,” Gonzalez said. “So of course, number one is great, but I think he made a great point that he sees a lot of success by sometimes being the number two search result.”

    Now in its 23rd year, the WCBS Newsradio 880 Small Business Breakfast is the longest running small business event series in the New York area.


    Neil A. Carousso produced WCBS Newsradio 880’s multi-media coverage of the Small Business Breakfast and assisted in organizing the event in Stamford, CT on March 28, 2018. All WCBS 880 videos and social media posts were written, edited and published by Neil A. Carousso.

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