By Erik Badia
The scene was not one you'd see everyday in the powerful halls of Washington, D.C.: U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), sitting at a double turntable, spinning records. Israel was picking out some sounds, but not for his own listening pleasure. This was for a very worthwhile cause.
"I am going to be a high-priced messenger in delivering the sights and sounds of Long Islanders." That is how Israel describes his role in the recently launched "Message of Hope" campaign co-sponsored by party 105 (105.3/101.5 FM) and T-Mobile.
On June 9, Israel was presented with 60 Nokia Xpress phones from T-Mobile at Party 105's Ronkonkoma headquarters, where the devices, which also double as MP3 players, will be filled with music. Israel will deliver the free phones during a July visit to the soldiers of the 69th Infantry Regiment in Afghanistan. The division, also known as the Fighting 69th, is made up of troops from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau and Suffolk.
This won't be the first time Israel has visited our troops. He has been to Iraq and Afghanistan on multiple occasions. "The last time I went to Afghanistan, I was able to visit two remote fire bases," he says proudly. "We [Israel and U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.)] were the first members of Congress to be allowed to visit these remote fire bases, so I was right up against the fighting."
It was Israel's feedback from troops overseas that helped inspire the idea, explains John Caracciolo, president of The Morey Organization (which owns Party 105 and the Long Island Press). "[He] told us they really wanted a taste of home in Afghanistan." Earlier this year, Caracciolo and Party 105 radio host Vie Latino contacted T-Mobile, asking if phones could be delivered to the soldiers of the Fighting 69th. Caracciolo noted that people had sent blankets, cookies and phone cards, "but they really wanted some music from home, so Vic and I put our heads together and we came up with sending them some portable music devices."
Latino, operations manager of La Fiesta (98.5/96.9 FM), also owned by The Morey Organization, is charged with putting together the music mix for the soldiers, which surely won't be an easy task. Nevertheless, Latino is confident that what he comes up with will be like a soundtrack of Long Island. "Basically, the mix is going to be a sample of what Long Island music is about. We'll throw in some hip-hop, some dance, some rock music. It's going to be the full genre of Long Island, the full landscape of the music spectrum." Music isn't all that the devices will feature.
During the month of June, Party 105 will be promoting a special phone number so that listeners can call in and record messages for the troops. In addition, those who want to send their love to our soldiers can go to select T-Mobile locations on LI, which will be announced on Party 105, and record a special message for the men and women overseas.
"You'll be able to go in and make a phone call from that location that will record the message to the troops. So we encourage family members, we encourage neighbors, to go in and send a message to the folks that are supporting us," explains Terry Hayes, regional vice president at T-Mobile.
"It's a great thing. It's for-a good cause and we're going to have a lot of fun with it," says Caracciolo. Latino agrees. "Anytime we can lend a helping hand to the guys who are keeping us safe on the other side, it's a great thing."