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07-08-06, 06:39 AM
Marines honor fallen comrades
Memorial service held as activities near end at annual convention

By Aimee Milks
Press & Sun-Bulletin

BINGHAMTON -- "J.W. Thurston Detachment -- William R. Chidester Sr.," Chaplain Hank Gotnicki said softly as he read off the scroll that listed fallen Marines from across the state. A bell was rung after Gotnicki announced each name.

The memorial service was one of the last events at the 75th annual Marine Corps League Department of New York State Convention at the Binghamton Regency Hotel and Conference Center.

"We almost had to cancel because of the flooding in Binghamton," said Celestino Catuzza of Lackawanna, commandant of the NYS Department.

But after the hotel made adjustments, the convention still began Wednesday and Al Cavallo, public relations officer for the department, estimated that about 300 Marine Corps League and Auxiliary members were present. "Each year, we just pick a town in the state and get together to discuss business and renew friendships," said the 63-year-old Vietnam veteran from Glendale.

The Marine Corps League was founded in 1923 and today has more than 60,000 members across the U.S. More than 7,000 of them are in New York, each belonging to one of 72 detachments.

The J.W. Thurston Detachment was the host of this year's convention.

"We just helped coordinate the convention with department officers," said Albert Rood, an 80-year-old World War II veteran from Binghamton.

The detachment also hosted a barbecue Friday night for league members at American Legion Post 80 on Main Street in Binghamton.

Since Wednesday, members have been reviewing department programs, nominating and electing state officers and determining future objectives for the department.

The department participates in aid programs for veterans, the national youth physical fitness program and community programs such as Toys for Tots. Funding for the programs comes from individual detachments that have fundraisers in their communities, according to Catuzza.

"We help troops as they come home and take care of each other," he said. "Washington just uses you and forgets you."

Catuzza was nominated for another year as the state commandant during Friday morning's portion of the convention. "Actually, the whole board was renominated, and we're all running unopposed," he said. "We must be doing something right along the lines." Catuzza, a 76-year-old Korean War veteran, was also the state commandant 23 years ago.

The Marines will leave Sunday morning, but Cavallo said anyone who would like to speak or see them can come to the Regency from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. or at 4 p.m. today.