Best Of

  • Why A WWI Vet’s Daughter Cherishes This Golden Crucifix 100 Years Later

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    By Neil A. Carousso, WCBS Newsradio 880

    PORT JEFFERSON, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — It’s called the forgotten war, but a hero’s daughter will never forget the sacrifices of her father, Private First Class Walter E. Decker, during his time in the Army in World War I. A special golden crucifix passed on to her keeps him first place.

    “I was close to my dad growing up, and I always remembered in the summer, he’d be wearing these long johns, and the tissue on his skin was so thin, that he’d bleed through,” said Carol Fazio, 77, of her father. “He suffered ‘til the day he died from mustard gas.”

    Decker’s hand-written discharge papers notes he was gassed on October 15, 1918 while serving in France for just under 10 months.

    He entered the service at 16, just before his 17th birthday, after his father died. He mailed each of his allotment checks to his mother.

    “He was a communication expert. His company would go up to see the enemy and to send back [intelligence] to his troops,” said Fazio. “On the way back, that’s when the enemy got them and shot them.”

    German troops attacked Unit Company B in the 303rd Field Signal Battalion of the 78th Infantry Division in the French forests with mustard gas.

    “My father was left for dead. They thought he was dead,” Fazio said, adding several of his cohorts were killed.

    Decker was 20 at the time of the gas attack. He died in 1980 at the age of 82. He is buried at Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island where local soldiers from all the wars are buried with their spouses.

    Private First Class Decker received the Purple Heart in the first year the award was instituted, 1932, on the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.

    He also received the Distinguished Service Cross – the second highest decoration for valor.

    But it is a different cross passing through the generations that’s revered by Decker’s daughter.

    “At the time, the French monks used to go through the forest when they knew it was safe and call out to find out anybody who was alive. And, they heard my father, and what they did was they placed this cross on each of the bodies that were ready to go back, back to a hospital,” said Fazio while holding the golden crucifix.

    Fazio just learned of the cross last year when she visited her niece and nephew in Wilmington, North Carolina. The cross made its way to Decker’s step-son Daniel who was a Marine, and then, Daniel’s brother Alfred when he died. The family wanted Carol to have it, as she is Decker’s biological daughter.

    “I had no idea. It was really overwhelming, it really was, to think I was holding something that was 100 years and it stood on my father in the forest,” Fazio said.

    When Carol was growing up, it was common for disabled veterans to be at her house. Decker was active in the Disabled American Veterans Charity (DAV) after leaving the Army and would visit wounded soldiers at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Veterans Affairs facilities.

    “My father would walk them through it,” said Fazio who saw her father as a caregiver, serving throughout his lifetime.

    Like many WWI veterans, Decker did not talk about his service, what he saw overseas or the gas attack in France that left him suffering until the day he died. The stories were passed on through family members who gleaned information over time.

    “One thing I asked him about the war and about his involvement, everything with the VFW, I asked him, if he had to do it all over again,” said Fazio. “I said to him, ‘Dad, would you do that?’ I said, ‘Would you go into the service?’ And he said, ‘Without a doubt.'”

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  • 48th NYC Marathon Winds Through The 5 Boroughs

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    NEW YORK (AP/WCBS 880) — Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia has won the New York City Marathon, holding off countryman Shura Kitata by 1.99 seconds.

    Desisa finished in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 59 seconds. Last year’s winner, Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya, finished third.

    Mary Keitany of Kenya became the second woman to win the marathon four times, beating countrywoman Vivian Cheruiyot by 3 minutes, 13 seconds.

    Keitany ran the race in 2:22:48, the second fastest in history. Margaret Okayo of Kenya holds the record of 2:22:31, which was set in 2003.

    The victory was Keitany’s fourth in New York in the last five years. She won in 2014, 2015 and 2016 before coming in second last year to American Shalane Flanagan. Keitany joined Grete Waitz as the only women to win the marathon four times. Waitz, a Norwegian, won the marathon nine times between 1978-1988.

    Flanagan finished third.

    More than 50,000 runners began their 26.2-mile journey across the five boroughs on a sunny Sunday morning as part of the 47th New York City Marathon.

    They trained in darkness and rain, and through pain, for this day, which starts on Staten Island, winding through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, before ending back in Central Park.

    2018 New York City Marathon in Photos

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  • Entercom and Anthony and Deidre Scaramucci Launch Podcast on Radio.com

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    “Mooch and the Mrs.” Exclusive First Access on Radio.com Starting on September 18, Neil A. Carousso Tapped as Producer in Charge of Content

    PHILADELPHIA, PA – September 18, 2018 – Entercom, the #1 creator of live, original, local audio content in the United States, announced a partnership with former White House Director of Communications Anthony Scaramucci and his wife, Deidre. As part of the agreement, Radio.com, the exclusive digital home for all Entercom content across the company’s robust portfolio of 235 radio stations, will launch “Mooch and the Mrs.” Exclusive first access to the podcast will be available to listeners nationwide on the Radio.com app, beginning September 18, 2018.

    The new weekly podcast, available at radio.com/moochandthemrs, will feature the couple discussing the world we live in from opposite sides of the political spectrum, while offering an intimate look into the strength of their marriage.

    “Anthony Scaramucci’s first-hand political experience from his time in the White House, combined with his and Deidre’s unique points of view, will provide Radio.com listeners with a compelling podcast experience,” said Pam Russo, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Entercom. “We’re committed to providing a forum for diverse points of view and look forward to hearing Anthony’s and Deidre’s differing perspectives on the political landscape, through the unique lens of their personal relationship.”

    “Radio.com provides a broad national platform for a wide range of conversations about American politics and American life,” said Scaramucci. “My first-hand experience and insights about the president, the White House and what happens inside gives added context to what we hope will be an engaging review of the events of the week.”

    “I know Anthony, I love Anthony, and I also know that many in the country disagree with him,” said Deidre. “I’ll be there for them to make sure their side is represented. I’m confident it will make for some interesting listening.”

    Anthony Scaramucci is a frequent commentator on current events. He and Deidre have previous on-air experience together, having joined programming on KNX 1070 News Radio (KNX-AM) in Los Angeles. Based on feedback and interest in these appearances, it’s clear that there is an appetite for a candid and refreshing look inside how this couple manages differing perspectives within their relationship.

    Radio.com is now the fastest growing digital audio app in the United States. The recently reimagined Radio.com mobile app and website includes a user-friendly design to provide an enriched user experience and increased value for advertising partners. Radio.com currently has over 300 stations and more than 1,100 podcasts, with more added continuously, on its rapidly growing platform. It is available on home and auto-connected devices, including Amazon Alexa, Amazon FireTV, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Google Chromecast, Roku, and Sonos.

    Radio.com is a part of Entercom, a leading American media and entertainment company and one of the two largest radio broadcasters in the country.

    CONTACT:
    Jennifer Morales
    Entercom
    212-649-9685
    Jennifer.Morales@Entercom.com
    @EntercomPR

    About Entercom Communications Corp.
    Entercom Communications Corp. (NYSE: ETM) is a leading American media and entertainment company reaching and engaging over 100 million people each week through its premier collection of highly rated, award winning radio stations, digital platforms and live events. As one of the country’s two largest radio broadcasters, Entercom offers integrated marketing solutions and delivers the power of local connection on a national scale with coverage of close to 90% of persons 12+ in the top 50 markets. Entercom is the #1 creator of live, original, local audio content and the nation’s unrivaled leader in news and sports radio. Learn more about Philadelphia-based Entercom at www.entercom.com, Facebook and Twitter (@Entercom).

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  • Horseback Ride Through NYC Heals Vets, Families

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    By Neil A. Carousso, ConnectingVets.com and WCBS Newsradio 880

    NEW YORK, NY — Sometimes horsing around is therapy.

    For Gold Star father Ken Boyd and U.S. Army veteran Mary Ballengee, equestrian therapy has been instrumental in survival.

    “When you become a Gold Star parent, it’s probably the darkest, deepest day of your life,” said Boyd whose only child C.J. served as a U.S. Marine Corps corporal. He died in Afghanistan. “We found some solace through equine therapy, working with horses. [It] truly saved my life from suicide and other bad things that go on and happen.”

    C.J. Boyd (Photo Courtesy of Ken Boyd)

    Boyd’s wife joined a Gold Star mothers retreat hosted by BraveHearts where they went horseback riding. Boyd saw progress in his wife’s spirits, but he was reluctant to join. Eventually, she encouraged him and he has never looked back.

    “In horses you have to build trust, and the horse will trust you, you trust the horse. It’s just this amazing thing that happens with a horse,” Boyd said, adding he now volunteers several days a week with BraveHearts, which is a non-profit organization that aims to reduce the veterans suicide rate of 20 deaths per day.

    “I love going there because we do retreats for veterans and you see some of these kids that come in that they don’t want to be there. They get off the bus from the VA and they don’t really care about a horse, they don’t do anything. Two hours later they have a smile on their face, there’s brightness in their eyes, they’re talking, they found something that trusts them, that they can trust. It’s just amazing to see a transformation in how they want to come back and how they want to do things,” said Boyd. “So, we’ve dedicated our lives and our future to pay it forward on our son’s behalf to help all the other veterans, to help take care of these kids when they come back.”

    Boyd will be join Ballengee and many others on BraveHearts’ “Trail to Zero” – a 20-mile horseback ride around Manhattan on Saturday, September 15 to raise awareness of the high veterans’ suicide rate. Participants will ride through the heart of New York City, including Times Square, Central Park and the World Trade Center. They both hope to bring that trail down to zero.

    BraveHearts

    Ballengee served from 1975-78. She battled with trauma from active duty for nearly two decades before she was introduced to equine therapy with a fellow veteran.

    Photo Courtesy of Mary Ballengee

    “I was really shut down and this mustang, he saved my life,” said Ballengee who now goes by the nickname “Mustang Mary.” “He actually taught me many things. He taught me how to breathe out, how to slow down, he taught me patience, he taught me not to be so hard on myself. He gave me life, itself.”

    Mustang Mary felt a bond with Pecos instantly.

    “In the process of me gentling him, and letting down my walls for the first time in 40 years and discovering myself, I also felt a responsibility that he had to be auctioned off and I could not imagine that but I had to have him believe in people,” Ballengee said of Pecos, which was initially owned by the U.S. Government.

    Mustang Mary said the night Pecos was set to be auctioned, she was planning on killing herself. But, the person who bought Pecos gave the horse to her and she was rejuvenated.

    Photo Courtesy of Mary Ballengee

    “[Pecos] just told me you have to do something. You have to do something for the other mustangs and you have to do something for the other veterans such as yourself,” Ballengee said.

    Since then, Mary helped launch an all-female veterans riding group in Texas where she lives with Pecos. She is now a PATH certified instructor through BraveHearts’ training and certification program for veterans.

    Mustang Mary will proudly ride “Mighty” around the Big Apple “Trail to Zero.”

    For her and Boyd, the task is quite mighty, but they’ve saddled in for a determined equestrian mission to help our heroes like they were healed through the power of horse.

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  • ‘It’s Not My Flag, It’s Ours’

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    An Unsung 9/11 Hero and the Journey of an American Flag

    from Ground Zero to Iraq and Afghanistan to The White House

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

    PATCHOGUE, N.Y. — A hero-maker serves heroes.

    On Sept. 11, 2001, Donato Panico watched in horror as al-Qaeda hijackers crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center.

    He felt he had to do something right away, and as the owner of a Smithtown deli for more than three decades, Panico knew he could provide a needed service.

    “(My friend) was telling me that all kinds of commanding officers were killed down there and that they had no food system and it was in total chaos,” said Panico.

    He then prepared his catering trucks with sandwiches and drove to Ground Zero the next morning. He got through most of the tight security checkpoints in Manhattan, but he was still far away from the Trade Center when commanding officer Louis Pacheco recognized Panico from his Long Island deli and ushered him into site so he could fill a void serving starving, dehydrated, weary, angry and saddened First Responders.

    “A couple months later, (Pacheco) presented me with a flag that they hung in front of the Millennium Hotel,” Panico said. The hotel, which is adjacent to One World Trade Center, suffered significant damage in the terrorist attacks.

    Heros 4 Our Heroes, via Facebook

     

    Heros 4 Our Heroes, via Facebook

    “He presented it to me and I presented it to a friend of mine in the store whose son was getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan. He hung it over his camp,” said Panico, continuing, “He had the flag commissioned by President (George W.) Bush and he returned it to me 4 years later.”

    Panico continued to lend the gifted flag to local police, fire and veterans organizations on Long Island.

    “You can’t hold onto something if you don’t give it away,” said Panico when asked why he felt so strongly about imparting such a meaningful and emotional souvenir to patriotic organizations. “It’s not my flag, it’s ours.”

    His foundation Heros 4 Our Heroes was born from tragedy. Today, Panico aims to keep a “constant awareness” for the need to take care of police officers, firefighters and our veterans who make sacrifices to keep us safe and free. He is currently undertaking a project to re-build the patio at the Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Northport, Long Island.

    Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) was the only local politician to show up at Donato’s fist Heros 4 Heroes Foundation event after 9/11; Panico said his first impression of Zeldin was he’s “special.”

    The Republican congressman was deployed to Iraq in 2006 with the 82nd Airborne Division and is currently in the Army Reserves. In a sit-down interview with him, Donato and this reporter, he praised Donato as a selfless patriot while he engaged in the same type of organic camaraderie he has with fellow soldiers. Zeldin said Panico has the “type of character, values, ethics and beliefs” that guided his selfless actions on 9/11.

    “If he was on the first floor of the Trade Center that day, he would have went straight up and started rendering first-aid to people even though he wasn’t NYPD or FDNY,” Congressman Zeldin said. “That’s his character.”

    Recently, Panico had one particular person he wanted to lend “our” Old Glory that flew in front of the Millennium Hotel on September 11 to: The President of the United States.

    Congressman Zeldin invited Panico to President Donald J. Trump’s first State of the Union Address in January. Panico brought the flag to Washington with him in hopes to give it to the President. That’s when Rep. Zeldin learned of the sentimental history of that American Flag. Donato did not get to meet Mr. Trump that day, but Mr. Zeldin held onto the flag for the right time, and on June 20, the Congressman received a phone call from The White House for a last minute policy meeting with President Trump and several representatives.

    Zeldin recalled, “All I was thinking of was ‘where’s the flag?’”

    After the meeting, Congressman Zeldin told President Trump about the flag.

    “You could tell the story was impacting him, he was deeply moved by it, he was moved by Donato’s story, the first responders, the journey of that flag from the Trade Center, overseas being flown over a base to back home,” said Mr. Zeldin, adding that the President brought him into the Oval Office where he had an aide write down Panico’s story for a museum, and posed for a picture behind his Resolute Desk to send home to Donato.

    Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

    Congressman Zeldin says when he meets with the President like he did when he rode in his motorcade with him to a GOP fundraiser in Southampton last month, President Trump asked about Donato.

    Donato feels an unspoken bond with the current Commander-In-Chief, a man he has never met, but respects as a patriot, as he does his fellow New Yorkers and Americans who still suffer pain, sorrow, and illness from 9/11.

    Panico still shakes when the calendar turns to September. He and we will Never Forget.

     

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Neil A. Carousso is the producer in charge of content for the "Mooch and the Mrs. with Anthony and Deidre Scaramucci" podcast, exclusively via the Radio.com platform.
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