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  • 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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  • Marine Veteran Rob Riggle addresses Thousand Oaks shooting

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    By Neil A. Carousso, ConnectingVets.com 

    “Freedom is not free.”

    That was the resounding theme of Rob Riggle’s speech at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Heroes Gala.

    “There is nothing free about freedom and our men and women today sacrifice life and limb to protect those freedoms,” said Riggle to a room filled with veterans and service members from all branches.

    Riggle retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years of service in the Marines Corps Reserve. He served in Afghanistan, earning two Meritorious Service Medals, National Defense Service Medals, the Humanitarian Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, among other decorations.

    He is known for his comedic roles on The Daily Show and films such as 21 Jump Street and The Hangover. His former Daily Show colleague Stephen Colbert was a guest speaker at the gala.

    Stephen Colbert, host of CBS’ “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” speaks at the IAVA Heroes Gala.

    Riggle spoke of his priorities for veterans while praising the IAVA for their unrelenting support of our heroes through education and legislative pursuits. He also emphasized the need for a modernization of an “antiquated” Department of Veterans Affairs system, exclaiming that in this day and age, no veteran should be unaware of the benefits they earned.

    Sporting a full beard for a role in an unspecified project, Riggle addressed the Thousand Oaks, California shooting in which the alleged gunman Ian David Long was a veteran of the Marine Corps.

    Riggle said it’s imperative to emphasize that a veteran carrying out a mass shooting is the exception and that vets are more likely to harm themselves than anyone else. He called on more mental health awareness and resources to reduce the average of 22 veteran suicides a day.

    “There’s a reason I get teary-eyed when I hear the National Anthem. It’s my home. I love my home,” said Riggle. He called for unity around core values at a time when partisans use events to fit their agendas.

    “Our Constitutional rights – be it freedom of religion or speech or due process – we all still enjoy it today hundreds of years later because of what those brave Americans did in their time and what millions of brave Americans are doing right now in their time,” Riggle said.

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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

    Continue reading 48th NYC Marathon Winds Through The 5 Boroughs

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  • Recipe for success: 2 Army vets, 1 part fitness, 1 part passion

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    By Neil A. Carousso, ConnectingVets.com

    NEW YORK, NY — Two brothers – both Army veterans – are expanding their unique meal plan company called Kettlebell Kitchen, which incorporates the fitness and nutritional routines they mastered in the service.

    “It came from a class of mine at HBS (Harvard Business School) where I thought deeply about what I’m passionate about,” said Joe Lopez-Gallego who graduated Harvard after his time as an Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot where he managed three airfields and 80 soldiers, and led a platoon that flied VIP’s such as General Ricardo Sanchez.

    “[The class] tells you to think about what you are passionate about and try to build a career around that, and for me, it’s about helping people and I have a particular passion for fitness.”  Joe was a certified fitness instructor in the Army and he played water polo at West Point.

    He put his class syllabus into practice. He combined his love for fitness and food, which he and his younger brother Andy inherited from his parents.

    “It started by helping my mom manage her weight, putting her on an exercise and nutrition program that gave her significant results – both in her weight and in her energy level,” Joe said.

    Photo Courtesy of Kettlebell Kitchen

    He called Andy and they both agreed there was a need for a personalized meal plan program that they felt no company on the market did successfully. Andy hopped on a plane from California to New York and started the business with Joe in 2013.

    “[We] researched recipes, weights, portions and looked at the really quality match of nutrients that matter in a meal, how they affect the body, how they do their training and what different timing windows that work,” said Andy, a retired Army platoon leader and combat engineer.

    Joe and Andy felt they could fill a void by developing personalized products for specific goals of strength, endurance and cardio – skills they developed in the military.

    “We look to formulate specific meals around those fitness elements,” Andy said, adding, “We’re a brand that’s performance-driven and fitness-based.”

    With the consultation of dietitians, they tested their products in a small rental kitchen in the Bronx. Now, along with Chef and Culinary Expert Greg Grossman, they deliver tens and thousands of heathy, customized meal plans nationally each week.

    Kettlebell Kitchen is expanding to Los Angeles where they will deliver meal kits to trendy fitness gyms for people to coordinate their nutrition and exercise. They found a niche in sending their meals to gyms where trainers can coach their clients on the most effective timing for diet and exercise.

    The mantra that they work by is “Feed the Champion in You” – a motto that motivates and inspires the co-founders and their customers to meet their fitness goals.

    Photo Courtesy of Kettlebell Kitchen

    Kettlebell Kitchen landed on the Inc. 5000 issue of Inc. Magazine of the fastest growing and innovative companies in the United States, earning $12.5 million in revenue last year. Joe and Andy employ about 300 people.

    Photo Courtesy of Kettlebell Kitchen

    Joe said the leadership positions that he held in the service were invaluable experience for his career.

    “They put you as second lieutenant in charge of a group of folks who have much more experience, much more knowledge than you and you learn to lead them and you learn to work with them,” said Joe, continuing, “That taught me how I can leverage the expertise of all the people on the team to build a cohesive unit together and to get results and I think that was a very valuable piece of training that still serves me today.”

    Joe and Andy look back on the birth of Kettlebell Kitchen, when they crafted a diet and exercise framework for their mother, and see their role today as delivering those personalized plans to one client at a time.

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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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