“You’re actually holding the marble and steel of the World Trade Center”
For Joe Mondello, these two crosses serves as reminder of the 9/11 attacks.
"You still seem emotional what was going through you?" I asked him. "I think it changed the course of our country and when I open that case, it still gives me hope that we’re rebuilding our country."," Mondello replied.
Joe isn't a survivor but he did help immensely in the aftermath, providing satellite communications and raising money.
“We presented the Port Authority Benevolent Association with about $50,000 that was raised through our post,” he said.
That post is with the American Legion of New York, a nonprofit that brings veterans together to support one another and the community.
“I was in the United States Air Force, I’m a Vietnam-era veteran,” he explained. “Era means non combative, we’re not in country but we serve stateside.”
In the four decades since, he's continue to give back to the city through a Veteran;s Affairs show/program, school flag days, Memorial Day events, parades, benefit concerts and more.
“That’s what it's all about," Mondello said. "The satisfaction of making a difference in someone’s life.”
His service was an extension of his lifelong love for this country.
“My mother’s birthday was July 4th, so we always started that off with a bang and mom was always patriotic,” he smiled. “Why do you love this country so much?" I asked. "It’s the only one I got," he laughed.
A mentality that has earned him the award for 'Legionnaire of the Year.'
“Every year ten candidates are submitted and one is chosen," he explained. "There are more than 100,000 legionnaires throughout the state of New York, it is quite an honor.”
When he's not handing out flags, Joe is hanging out in music room.
“I have some of my veteran friends, we still come in and we kind of jam" he said. "To me that’s my release, this is my vet man cave," he smiled.
But one of his biggest sources of pride is his motorcycle and what he gets to do when he takes it out for a ride.
“I’m part of the American Legion riders which is a very big organization where money is raised to give to fallen veterans’ children for their college education," he said.
Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi