By Ted Waddell
LIVINGSTON MANOR March 25, 2003 Freedom doesnt come without a price tag.
And who should know that better than the veterans and the families of vets who are members of the American Legion, American Legion Ladies Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion?
On Sunday, March 16, the Sullivan County American Legion and Ladies Auxiliary held their annual dinner in honor of NYS Department Commander Fang A. Wong and Linda Moseman-Raymond, NYS Department President. It was held at Kings Catering Hall in Livingston Manor.
Judge and Gulf War veteran Frank J. LaBuda served as master of ceremonies. He is a member of the American Legion, VFW, DAV and VVA. In the Persian Gulf War of 1991, LaBuda held the rank of major.
Today is a particularly troubling time for our nation and the world, and for us a veterans, said LaBuda, a father with one son waiting to go to Turkey with the 4th Infantry Division and another in the Army ROTC.
Each of us in our own way has put ourselves in harms way for the country we believe in and the freedom that we have, he told the assemblage.
LaBuda said that freedom is never free.
Our sons and daughters today are paying that price for our continued freedom, [and] the American Legion plays an active part in the support of freedom, he added.
Judge LaBuda recalled getting goodie boxes from home while serving in the sands of the Arabian desert 12 years ago during Desert Storm.
He made a pitch to local American Legion post commanders to encourage their members to put together goodie boxes in support of our American troops overseas on the brink of war against the Iraqi regime.
John F. Bogart, NYS Commander of the Sons of the American Legion (SAL), served in the U. S. Navy after graduating high school. In WWII, his father was a motor machinists mate aboard an auxiliary personnel attack craft in the South Pacific. His grandfather served in the U.S. Army during WWI.
Bogart said the SAL promotes programs the teach patriotism, honor, faith and comradeship.
We have a great need for membership the lifeblood of our organization, he said.
Moseman-Raymond is the NYS American Legion Department President.
Her father was one of those brave men who fought in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII.
She recalled inheriting a box filled with mementos of his military service, a commendation signed by General Patton, photographs of handsome young men in the European Theatre and medals including the Bronze Star with Clusters and the Purple Heart.
Dad was a hero, said Moseman-Raymond.
NYS Department Commander Wong emigrated to America as a 12-year-old, and became a United States citizen in January, 1963. He joined the U.S. Army in 1969, and served in Vietnam for 25 months.
Wong encouraged local commanders to keep programs current and interesting as a way of attracting a new generation of vets those men and women who are serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom to join the American Legion.
The image of the American Legion in the public eye is not very good, he said. We need to overcome the public perception that Legionnaires are a bunch of old vets who hang out at bars, drinking and swapping war stories.
This comment caused someone in the back of the room to remark, So whats wrong with that?
A table for one sat as silent witness before the guest speakers.
It was draped with a somber black POW/MIA flag, and was set with a solitary empty plate and cup.
A single red rose waited silently in a stark white vase as a reminder of those comrades-in-arms left behind in the wake of the Vietnam War.