Veterans, friends and family came out this past Sunday to remember the life of Pat Gualtieri, a Vietnam veteran who helped make New York City’s Veterans Day Parade great again.
As they do each year, the Executive Division of United War Veterans Council, along with the Mayor of NYC and other dignitaries, will lead the charge up New York’s famed Fifth Avenue this coming November 11, launching our nation’s largest parade to honor veterans.
Watching their back will be 26,000 veterans, Active Duty Military and patriotic supporters as well as cheering New Yorkers along the parade route, and millions of TV viewers.
The 2015 edition will be different. One significant veteran from the thousands will be sorely missed, Pat Gualtieri, who passed away at the age of 70 on July 21.
“This gentleman is a leader,” said friend and Veterans Advantage TopVet Bill Nelson, tearing up at the end of his speech at the Brooklyn memorial service. “He wasn’t arrogant. He wasn’t nasty. He was a patriot, ethical, and he knew what could be done not only on behalf of our veterans, but our active military.”
Gualtieri’s passion and welcoming presence made him synonymous with the parade.
“It is one of the most inspiring and patriotic events on the planet," Gualtieri told Veterans Advantage in an exclusive 2012 interview. As the Executive Director of the United War Veterans Council (“UWVC"), he and his team, along with the Board of Directors, produced the annual NYC Veterans Day Parade. They will now soldier on without him.
Growing up in post-WWII Brooklyn, there was a strong sense of shared sacrifice among the residents of the community. Childhood experiences were filled with a steady stream of patriotic movies and inspiring stories of military service. “Every Friday night there was an army movie and a moral code – that service equals honor and honor equals freedom. To me it was a no brainer."
Spreading The Message That Freedom Is Not Free
“Freedom is not free," Gualtieri said emphatically. The foundation for his belief is based on two key experiences. He remembers his Italian-born grandmother often saying “God Bless America" – she tasted life with and without freedom, and was deeply grateful to be an American.
Gualtieri’s post-Vietnam war experience, the second key series of events in his life, fueled his sense of purpose right to the end. Returning from Vietnam in the aftermath of the January 1968 Tet Offensive, Gualtieri recalled the public lack of gratitude for his service as well as the “disrespect" for the American flag and the freedoms he held dear.
Though tested, his love of freedom and country prevailed. Gualtieri returned to the simplicity, importance and power of the patriotism he learned as a Brooklyn youth. Working with UWVC for the past sixteen years afforded him the opportunity to 'give back.' “I thank them [UWVC] for allowing me to ‘come home’," Gualtieri says.
In 2012, Gualtieri was named to the New York State Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame. For that patriotic boy from Brooklyn, it was a well-deserved and long overdue 'Welcome Home'.
Rest in peace, Pat.
Image Credit: https://iava.org/blogs/iava-joins-in-saying-farewell-to-our-friend-pat-gualtieri/