Temperatures that soared into the 90s, with humidity to match, didn’t stop the crowds at American Legion-Soldier’s Wish Salute and Serve event in New York City. The event – put on in conjunction with HISTORY’s event at Union Square Park – drew lines of people waiting for free smoked sausage prepared by Trace "The Rib Whisperer" Arnold, owner-operator of the 80–foot Ultimate Smoker and Grill.
HISTORY’s Cross-Country Cookout was the backdrop for the event, which also featured interactive games and the Legion-Soldier’s Wish tent. Legion staff and Soldier’s Wish spokesperson Paige Duke manned the booth, handing out Legion and Soldier’s Wish information, answering questions and taking applications for wishes for soldiers and veterans.
Duke took to the microphone several times during the course of the seven-hour event, explaining Soldier’s Wish and the Legion’s involvement. Several Department of New York Legionnaires attended the event, getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the Ultimate Smoker and Grill. New York County Commander Sean Powers got a chance to get behind the microphone to talk about the Legion, while Past National Commander Fang Wong also showed up.
U.S. Army recruiters had a table set up outside the event; Wong and other Legionnaires made it a point to talk with the soldiers.
Wong left the Salute and Serve impressed.
"Our partnership with Soldier’s Wish will allow us to reach out to people we may not normally reach," Wong said. "We may sign some up as members, but we’re going to be able to make all of them aware of the Legion’s many programs and what we’re doing for our veterans, military and their families. It’s a total win for everyone."
Wong said he’d like to see Legion posts involved in the program. "I think our posts should be the gathering points for these wishes," he said. "That would also raise the profile of posts in their communities and bring more awareness to what individual posts are doing."
Legionnaires Richard Jones and Joshua Brackett also showed up at the event. Jones is a senior vice president, general tax counsel and chief veterans officer for CBS, while Brackett is director of strategic planning for the network.
Future Legion-Soldier’s Wish Salute and Serve events are scheduled for:
• July 6-7 – Summerfest; Milwaukee
• July 20 – Chicago
• July 29-31 – Oshkosh Airventure; Oshkosh, Wis.
• Aug. 4-6 – Sturgis Motorcycle Rally; Sturgis, S.D.