A true American hero finally got his due at a ceremony last Thursday. Joe San Pietro, whose life has been dedicated to service, was honored at Father Giorgio Catholic War Veterans Post for his commitment to the people of the United States, New York City, and Brooklyn, his family, friends and faith.
San Pietro’s service career began in 1942, with his induction to the United States Army. After fighting in the Pacific Rim during World War II, he was honorably discharged and returned to Greenpoint, where he married his wife Kay, had two children and joined the New York City Police Department. He later went on to become President and is now Chairman of the Society of St. Mary of the Snow.
He never, however, formally received the ribbons and medals he earned for his WWII service, including the Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and Bronze Star, the World War II Victory Medal, WWII Honorable Service Lapel Button and Marksman Badge with Carbine and Rifle Bar. That inexplicable oversight was rectified at Father Giorgio’s with a surprise testimonial dinner in his honor.
The well-deserved road to recognition was a long one for the modest hero, who was told Thursday’s event was to honor the US Marine Corps. “Before I knew it, I was the guest of honor,” said San Pietro. “It was a night to remember for my family and me. I had no idea what was in store for me.”
San Pietro’s testimonial dinner began with Julie Parker, whose father was assigned to his combat unit, the 241st Signal Operations Company, during WWII. The two served together in Okinawa, but never got to know each other in the 200 man company. After her father’s death, in January 2011, Parker and San Pietro became “cyber pals.” When she discovered, that 66 years later, he still hadn’t received his WWII honors, she contacted the proper authorities and succeeded in obtaining the medals.
Paul D’elia, Commander of Father Giorgio Catholic War Veterans Post hosted the event, while Monsignor Joseph Calise of Our Lady of Mount Carmel provided the benediction and Assemblyman Joe Lentol presented San Pietro with his honors.
“When I think of Mr. San Pietro four words come to mind, For God and Country,” said Lentol. “No one epitomizes these four words more than him. His lifetime has been characterized by a never-ending desire to help others. Not only did he protect the people of New York City, he actively practiced his faith, as President and Chairman of the Society of St. Mary of the Snow.”
The event honoring San Pietro, also served as a fundraising event for Toys for Tots, which was why the guest of honor thought the Marines were attending. When he discovered the gathering was for him, he was “flabbergasted. They made me feel like I was Audie Murphy!”