Monday, August 03, 2015
Norwich Legionnaire Awarded Rider of Honor
NORWICH — Paul “Rizzo” Russo, the director of the American Legion Riders (ALR) Chapter at Lt. Warren Eaton Post 189 in Norwich, has received a special national award – the American Legion Rider of Honor — recognizing his extraordinary work for the Riders and veterans.
In a ceremony at the Norwich Legion Post on July 30, New York State American Legion Commander James Yermas helped previous Rider of Honor recipients ‘Yankee’ Bill Fowler (Post 974, Whitney Point) and Emerson ‘Hornet’ Horth (Post 259, Oneonta) present Russo with the American Legion Rider of Honor Patch.
Noting that the award was created in 2002 to recognize Riders who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, Yermas said: “Paul is a great representative of The American Legion Riders” and “an example of how hard they work.”
Fowler added: “Paul is one of only two awardees from the American Legion Rider Eastern Region for 2015. There are still less than 100 awardees world-wide.” He explained that
nominations were limited and selection was a competitive process completed by a committee of current holders of the honor.
Russo, a past commander of both the Norwich Post and Chenango County, has served on and chaired the Post Corporate Board and has been the Riders’ Chapter director for nearly ten years. He helped organized the Riders in Chenango County and assisted in forming chapters throughout Central New York. A U.S. Air Force and New York Army National Guard veteran, Russo has worked as a local veterans employment representative with the State Department of Labor for the past 15 years.
An example of Russo’s efforts can be seen in a recent event the Norwich Riders hosted on May 16 – the tenth annual Landstuhl Hospital Care Project Ride. “What makes this fundraiser special is helping our veterans that are recovering at the hospital in Germany,” Russo noted.
ALR member Jerry Reyes received a Danbury Mint Marine Corps ring “from a close friend and wanted to donate it for our ride,” Russo said. The group decided to give the ring to Landstuhl Hospital Care Project President Karen Grimord to in turn give it to a marine. She attended the Norwich ride with husband Brian to show their support. Less than a month later she gave the ring to the mother of a marine she met in Germany and who has had several setbacks, including a stroke. The mom put it on the marine’s finger and he woke up and surprised everyone by stretching out his arm to see it and show it off.
“I want to thank Norwich American Legion Riders for allowing me to present the ring to Lance Corporal Justin Reynolds,” Grimord said. “I want them to know that as much as it means to his mom and me, it means more to a young marine who has spent the last nine years battling his injuries he received protecting our freedom.”
Said Russo: “Our ALR Norwich group is proud to ride for a cause and raise money for our veterans and the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project.”