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Amvets holding chicken barbecue fundraiser for rifle squad

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MASSENA - The Amvets Post 4 Rifle Squad will be the recipient of the proceeds from a chicken barbecue fundraiser scheduled for Saturday.

Organizer George Curtis says they’re planning to serve up to 150 people who will drop by the Amvets post on Andrews Street, Massena, for the meal, which begins at 12 p.m.

For $10, diners will get a barbecue chicken meal with Irish potatoes, cole slaw and dessert. Irish potatoes are boiled salt potatoes that are drained, deep fried and made even tastier with the addition of garlic butter. Mr. Curtis said they’re raising money to support a rifle squad that travels near and far in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties for funerals and also participates in events such as flag raisings and commemorations of Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.

“They go all over,” he said.

“Whatever people want, we do for them. We do all of St. Lawrence County basically. We have traveled to Franklin County, Lake Placid and different areas - wherever they ask us to go. We like to stay within our own boundaries, but we’re the only ones around,” Rifle Squad Commander Francis “Bud” Byington said.

“We’ve been averaging 50 to 60 funerals a year. It goes up and it goes down. Right now we’re into our spring burials. We’ve got three on Friday and two on Saturday,” he said.

Mr. Curtis, who organized a similar effort in 2013, said the costs add up for the rifle squad, whether it’s outfitting the members or gassing up the bus that transports them from Massena to the cemeteries.

“It’s to offset the cost,” he said. “The bus is getting old. We need to start putting some money aside.”

Mr. Byington said that it costs more than $100 to fill the bus with gas, and about $500 to outfit a new rifle squad member.

“We provide all the uniforms to the guys and we have our annual banquet in the fall,” he said.

They also pay for the ammunition they get from the U.S. government. So the costs add up quickly and Saturday’s fundraiser will help defray some of them.

“Every little bit helps,” he said.

Mr. Curtis and Mr. Byington said they would also like to see new volunteers step forward to be a part of the rifle squad. Some of the current members are in their 70s and 80, and even close to 90, they said.

“We’re pushing to get any younger guys interested in joining the rifle squad. You basically have to be a veteran and commit to it,” Mr. Curtis said.

“We just don’t have any real younger guys,” Mr. Byington said. ““You can’t get younger fellows to commit.”

He said they have gotten a couple of new members, and one of them will be the bus driver.

“Two of us drive it now and it puts a lot of strain on us,” Mr. Byington said.

Those who currently serve on the rifle squad are a dedicated group of men, according to the commander.

“They are one of the most dedicated bunch of people. You call them and they just say, ‘what time’ and they’re right there. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for them. They are a dedicated bunch,” Mr. Byington said.

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