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  • Thursday, July 16, 2015

    Mayor Draws Laughter and Applause at Convention Opening

    Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown drew laughter and applause as he welcomed hundreds of legionnaires by suggesting they move to his city and enjoy the “historic” revitalization and multi-billion dollar economic resurgence the area is experiencing.

    Maor Brown

    Mayor Brown

    Instead of retiring to “someplace warm,” he said, “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t try to convince you to retire to a place with cold weather, but warm hearts.”

    Brown said an unprecedented collaboration to grow the region is occurring between Erie County and the City of Buffalo, so much so that people have begun referring to city and county government leaders  as Batman and Robin (with both avoiding identifying who’s who).

    Legionnaires render salute

    Legionnaires render salute during opening ceremonies of the 97th Department Convention, being held at the Hyatt Regency.

    County Executive Mark Poloncarz echoed the mayor, pointing to a NEW Buffalo.

    Their welcoming remarks came immediately after opening ceremonies, with posting of the colors by the Department Color Guard and legionnaires rendering a salute to Old Glory.

    Buffalo Restaurateur Honored
    for Charitable Efforts

    Russell Salvatore

    Russell Salvatore receives award plaque from Commander Frank Peters.

    Past Department Commander Tim VanPatten took to the podium to talk about Buffalo restaurateur Russell Salvatore who thinks “giving back is important.” His sponsorship of community events and activities is almost legendary – he once bought 10,000 Buffalo Bills tickets so the game wouldn’t be blocked from airing on local television. More recently Salvatore created Patriots and Heroes Park as a tribute to first responders and military veterans. In recognition of his efforts, Department Commander awarded Salvatore a plaque of his own to rousing applause.

     Linda Yelle Is Legionnaire of the Year

    Linda Yelle of Montgomery Post 912 (4th District) in Rouses Point, NY, is the New York State Legionnaire of the Year for 2015, Chairman Joseph Barilla announced.

    A U.S. Army veteran, Yelle was one of nine finalists who were named district legionnaires of the year.

    Eagle Scout of the Year

    Michael Parker

    Michael James Parker

    This year’s New York American Legion Eagle Scout of the Year is also runner up for the top national Eagle Scout honor, Scouting Chair Stephen Mataraza announced.

    Mataraza and National Vice Commander Doug Haggan presented Michael James Parker of Mayville, a member of Troop 126, with state and national awards, along with a $2,500 scholarship.

    Utica First Responders Named Top Cop, EMT

    Cop of the Year

    Police Officer of the Year John Scaramuzzino

    A cop and a paramedic from Utica, NY are the New York State American Legion’s 2015 Police Officer of the Year and EMT of the Year.

    Officer John Scaramuzzino of Utica Police Department and Firefighter/Paramedic Milton F. Reeves Jr. were honored Thursday during the 97th American Legion Department of New York state convention, being held July 15-18 in Buffalo.

    EMT of the Year

    EMT of the Year Milton Reeves Jr.

    Acting Law-and-Order Chairman Paul Wojcik and Department Commander Frank Peters presented the awards. They cited Scaramuzzino for stopping a gunman who had just shot four people outside a night club. Scaramuzzino heard the shots and chased after the suspect, ordering him to stop and show his hands. The suspect instead pointed a revolver at the officer, and Scaramuzzino took aim and shot the gunman.

    Wojcik described Reeves as a paramedic constantly being thanked for the extraordinary care he provides. He noted that Reeves’ commitment to be one of the best paramedics is evident in the citations and letters commending him on his outstanding professionalism and the extraordinary care he provides.

     Other Top First Responders

    John Murray

    John Murray

    Caledonia Fire Chief John Murray was named Firefighter of the Year for coordinating the multi-agency response to one of the worst fires in the history of Livingston County. An entire complex of buildings, some containing fertilizer, was engulfed in flames, threatening the village. His plan kept the fire from spreading while preventing an environmental disaster from toxic water runoff and toxic fumes if the fertilizer were not allowed to be completely consumed by the fire.

    Scott Delfa

    Scott Delfa

    Scott W. Delfa of Westchester County Department of Corrections was named Corrections Officer of the Year for his long-time mentoring and teaching in the corrections system and for extensive community service.

    Kyle Shane

    Kyle Shane

    Last year’s firefighter of the year, Kyle Shane of C.J. Folger Hook & Ladder Co. in Geneva, was invited back this year to receive the American Legion’s nine-state Northeast Region Firefighter of the Year award. National Vice Commander Doug Haggan (from Dept. of France) presented the award.

    Recruiter of the Year

     Mario J Cristaldi Jr.

    Mario J Cristaldi Jr.

    Mario J. Cristaldi Jr. of Robert Lee Walsh Post 337 in Broadalbin (Fulton County, 4th District) is the Department Recruiter of the Year, Outgoing Membership Chairman Dave Riley announced. Cristaldi signed up 51 members

    Asking someone to join does work, Cristaldi noted. “It’s not just about asking, but explaining what the American Legion is all about; namely, the four pillars, and explaining the importance of their membership…In numbers there is power.”