During its annual review and awards ceremony at Valley Stream American Legion Post 854 on Sunday, the New York Naval Cadets received an award from the Village of Valley Stream for their participation in the village’s Memorial Day remembrance ceremony.
The certificate was presented by George Schuchman, past commander of American Legion Post 854 who served in the U.S. Navy. The award, which was signed by Mayor Fare, expressed the village’s appreciation of the group’s contribution to the community.
The volunteer youth program, which is based in Queens, found a second home at American Legion Post 854 during the pandemic. Although the Cadets Corps previously met in P.S. 14 in Corona, the facility was closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. After the cadets were no longer able to practice outside when the weather became colder, Schuchman helped them secure a place to meet at the American Legion. Now, the organization has become part of the community of Valley Stream.
“Some of these kids were with us when they were nine years old. And really they’re staying out of trouble, they’re respecting their parents at home, we make sure they do their … homework and … they’re learning how to respect their elders, they’re learning how to acknowledge their officers,” Daniel Flores, a commander with the cadet program who has participated in the program for 25 years said the group provides many benefits and helps to ensure the children are on the right path.
The Cadet Corps, which trains the young people in Navy drills, customs, and military discipline meets each Saturday at the American Legion for four hours of basic training. In addition to the memorial day ceremonies, the group participates in various other events. Recently, the cadets also participated in birthday parties for two World War II veterans.
“The benefit [of the program] is . . . bringing them out, making them productive, putting them through boot camp, giving a bit of peace of mind for the parents,” Donny Ponce, lieutenant commander and a founder of the program said.
Dawn Samuel, who served in the U.S. Air Force, explained that the program isn’t only about how well the young people do with drills, but it is also about honing leadership skills.
“As they show responsibility and as they show that the different responsibilities we give them we try them with leadership positions,” Samuel explained. “If they do well with the leadership positions they keep them, and when they’re ready to move on, they go on to a higher level.”
Samuel also said she appreciated that the group was able to find a home in Valley Stream.
“It was a high honor for us to be recognized by Valley Stream and that . . . we’re part of the community,” Samuel said of the award given to the Cadet Corps by the village.