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  • Friday, May 30, 2014

    Legion Charters Post on College Campus

    The American Legion in New York State has chartered a (first ever) college post at Long Island University.

    Department of New York Commander Kenneth Governor presented the charter and installed officers May 28 for Admiral Richard L. Conolly Post 2014 at Long Island University’s Post College (LIU Post) in Brookville, NY.

    Ken Governor at LIU

    Commander Ken Governor at LIU

    Governor took a moment to remind the student veterans about the history of the GI Bill, first enacted in 1944 and today offering expanded benefits for post-9/11 veterans. A former American Legion national commander drafted the original GI Bill, Governor noted, and “in the peak year of 1947, veterans accounted for 49 percent of college admissions.” By the time the original GI Bill ended in 1956, “7.8 million of 16 million World War II veterans had participated in an education or training program.”

    LIU Post — then know as LIU’s C.W. Post College — was established in part to serve returning service members studying under the GI Bill. Then-LIU President Richard L. Conolly, a Navy admiral who served in both World War I and World War II, was there to welcome its first class of students in 1955, including Korean War vets. So it was only fitting to name the Legion post after the admiral. (His nickname, “Close-In Conolly,” came from his insistence that fire-support ships should maneuver extremely close to the beach during amphibious assaults. Ship commanders feared running aground, but Conolly understood that strong beach fortifications could be neutralized only by direct hits, and direct hits could be reliably achieved only from the shortest possible range.)

    Michael Knauer, commander of the new post, told Newsday that student veterans can now draw support from one of the country’s premier national service organizations, and help chart its future.

    “With the number of veterans who are transitioning back to civilian life, it just makes sense to make it easier for us to feel we belong,” said Knauer, 37, of Great Neck, a former Coast Guard petty officer who left the service in 2007. The new post has 20 members, including two former students. All are from the post-9/11 era.

    Ashley Clay, 28, of Kings Park, a vice commander at the post and former Marine sergeant, told Newsday that creating a post on campus would provide an outlet for veterans who want to continue the spirit of service that led many to join the military.

    “We want to reach out and have a positive experience.”

    Commander Governor presides at installation of officers.

    Commander Governor presides at installation of officers.

    Organizers said the new Post would use recreational activities to attract student veterans.

    In February, Knauer and others staged the Medal of Honor Challenge, a physical fitness contest, to raise the profile of veterans during LIU Post’s Greek Week.

    Matt Gabriel, 27, of Commack, a vice commander at the post and the Long Island organizer of Team Red White and Blue, said he would offer that group’s running and outdoor activities as an enticement to prospective Legion members, Newsday reported.

    Other post officers include Vice Commander Dan Pontenzieri, Treasurer Olatokunbo Oke and Chaplain Julio Hernandez.

    Leaders from Nassau County Legion and the Department of New York participated in the chartering and installation ceremony, along with the great grandchildren of Admiral Conolly.

    Nassau County Commander Angelo Gande served as master of ceremonies, and Jackie Nealon, vice president for enrollment, campus life and communications, welcomed everyone to the campus. Also present were Department Vice Commander William Davison, Department Judge Advocate Charles Mills, and  Department Adjutant Jim Casey. The admiral’s great grandson, Navy Lt. Commander Jay Conolly, and great-granddaughter, Victoria Connolly, offered remarks on behalf of the Conolly family. Nassau County Sgt-at-Arms Reginald Butt Jr., a past county commander, escorted distinguished guests. Past County Commander Anthony Paternostro performed the POW/MIA ceremony, and County Chaplain Ralph Casey gave the invocation and benediction.

    Legionnaires, student veterans, Conolly family members gather around as Department Commander Ken Governor presents the charter to Conolly Post 2014 Commander Michael Knauer. Photo by James Randle.

    Legionnaires, student veterans, Conolly family members gather around as Department Commander Ken Governor presents the charter to Conolly Post 2014 Commander Michael Knauer. Photo by James Randle.