For the first time in the 100-year history of the Rockville Centre American Legion Post 303, a U.S. Coast Guard ensign was commissioned at the post on Maple Avenue on May 20. A ceremony was held for Joseph Warren Busching, a 2016 graduate of South Side High School – the first SSHS alumnus to graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academy as an ensign – with several dozen people in attendance. Held outside the entrance to the post, members of Busching’s family, the Rockville Centre Fire Department, the American Legion Post 303 and Mayor Francis X. Murray gathered – spaced apart – to witness the historic event.
“This is the first time in the history of our post, over 100 years, that we’ve had a member get commissioned at the post,” Frank Colon, Past Commander of the RVC American Legion Post 303, told the audience. “It’s quite an honor.”
Under normal circumstances, Busching’s commissioning and graduation would have taken place at the academy in New London, Connecticut, the culmination of a week long string of events that would have included a formal ball and a barbecue. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, the large ceremony was canceled, and the Village of Rockville Centre stepped up to provide a memorable event for Busching, which included a drive-by parade of fire trucks.
“Being in Rockville Centre for many years, I’ve had the privilege of watching Joe grow up,” Murray said, noting that Busching used to spend Sundays at the firehouse with his father John Busching, a 36-year member and former captain. “There are many paths a young man can take in this world, and in this village; some choose the wrong one, some choose the easy one. Joseph has not chosen the easy one. He took the right path to excellence and has done a great job.”
Busching graduated from SSHS with an IB diploma with Regents honors in mathematics and science. At the age of 13, he became an inaugural member of the Rockville Centre Fire Department Juniors Program.
“He rose through the ranks from second lieutenant to first lieutenant,” Murray said, “and became a two-
Busching worked as a Town of Hempstead lifeguard from age 16 until he left for college and joined the American Legion two years ago.
Murray presented him with a proclamation from the Village of Rockville Centre, telling him, “This village was behind you before and is behind you now and everything you go through as an ensign in the United States Coast Guard.
“I recognize this bright and outstanding young man for his many accomplishments,” Murray continued, “and specifically for his graduation from the prestigious U.S. Coast Guard Academy.”
Busching, who earned a bachelor’s degree in occupational research and computer analysis, and his fiancé Gabrielle Dinsmore, who also graduated from the academy on May 20, will be stationed in Key West, Florida. The two will be married on May 31 at a small ceremony in Illinois, where Dinsmore’s family lives.
Busching was sworn in by Paul Casazza, lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army and treasurer of the post, and the traditional first salute was given by Bruce Schwarting, who is a cousin of Busching’s mother’s. Though not the type of graduation he had anticipated, Busching said he appreciated everyone for attending.
After the ceremony, Busching, his parents, grandmother and Colon watched the livestreamed graduation ceremony inside the American Legion hall. His father said that, overall, it was the ultimate “turning lemons into lemonade” scenario because it was much more personal: The family would have only been given four tickets to attend the graduation at the academy, so holding the commissioning in Rockville Centre allowed more friends and family to participate, even if it was only for a short period of time.
“The fact that they were able to do this for Joe made such a difference,” John Busching said. “It made it so much more unique and really meant a lot to us.”