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Friday, January 03, 2020

Our "Telling the Navy League Story" series takes a look at what makes our members so passionate to volunteer their time and support the sea services. This interview took place in late 2018.

Name: Frank Russo
Navy League Council: New York Council
Council Location: New York
Years a Member: 14 years

What’s your personal connection to the sea services before you became a Navy League member?

I'm retired Navy, spent nine years active duty, 17 in Reserve.

How did you first learn about the Navy League and end up joining?

Like a lot of us, you'd make port visits. In this particular case, it was down to Port Everglades [Florida]. The Navy League council met us, hosted a little reception for us and you got to meet the members, and that's how you learned about them. Then when I left active duty [I] became interested, you know. How can I start giving back? I was in the Reserves, which can join [the Navy League] and several of my shipmates and Reserve units were members. I'm affiliated down into the Houston, Texas, Council and then over to New Orleans and now up here in New York.

I became active in New York Council about three years ago. After about a year after I moved up to Connecticut, I looked at various councils, and New York's very, very active, a lot of things going on. It's a short train ride in from Stanford, and that's how I became and now I'm the council treasurer and sit on the board of directors.

Can you tell me about a time or event you recall where you felt like your work as a volunteer made a real difference?

We recently hosted USS New York upon a return visit to the city, and it was great meeting the Sailors on the ship. They were good enough to give us a tour and just meeting, not just the CO [commanding officer], the XO [executive officer], the command master chief, but also other officers in the wardroom, other enlisted Sailors and their enthusiasm for what they're doing and our ability to be able to support their mission. In particular, we helped their families with their halfway through deployment party, their return party and we're looking forward to helping them again next year.

How have you personally been affected by your work through the Navy League?

In a lot of ways. One, being involved in the New York Council gives you an opportunity to really interact with Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen. It reminds you of what you went through, so it brings back good memories. It also makes you realize the importance that these people and the sacrifices that they're making and not just them, but also their families in supporting the security for our country and what their mission is. To me, that's where I get a lot of satisfaction out of working with them.

If someone's not a Navy League member why should they join?

I think there's a misconception about people in the Navy League that we're all former military, and we're not. We're a civilian organization, and this is a way that anyone can support the military, in particular, like I said, the Navy, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and Merchant Mariners, but in particular, those who are away from their hometown, away from families and support what they're doing in keeping the U.S. safe all the time. To me, it's a way of giving back to these individuals and the mission that they're doing for us. It's not about us; it's about them. It's about being part of something bigger than you.