May 17 2019 Quinto Vicentino, Italy
Remarks from the Guest Speaker Mr. Umberto Mucci
Good evening and thank you for your kind invitation to join you tonight. It is for me a honor to be here. Colonel Berdy, Mr. Lands, I consider it a privilege to be your guest speaker for the 3rd Annual Garrison Ball, and a significant step along a personal path marked by respect, honor and gratitude for the United States military since I was born.
I am also grateful for the opportunity to address this special audience of Americans and Italians, military and civilians, and their families. You represent a special group of approximately 15,000 people that are served by the US Army Garrison Italy.
Your presence here is a testament to the U.S. Army and Italy relationship, both in Vicenza and Darby, and allow me to express thanks from the Italian community.
Speaking of Italy, I would like to tell you briefly who I am and why I am here tonight. I am a true Romano de Roma -- that means Roman from Rome, as I was born and raised there. A very proud Italian; and also very proud of the ringtone of my smartphone, The Star Spangled Banner.
Back in 2013, I founded a media company that I named “We the Italians”. The name is a tribute to the first three words of the American Constitution, "We the People". We are the Italians who celebrate the relationship between our country and the United States; who describe the Italian excellences to the United States in a new, enthusiastic and winning way; and we also represent the 18 million Italian Americans living in America today, their community, their interests and their passion for Italy. We do it with a daily press review, a monthly magazine, a monthly newsletter, more than 200 interviews, and 5 books, and a constant presence on the main social media. Our motto is: Two Flags, One Heart.
Apparently people are showing some interest in “We the Italians” and it happens that there are readers interested in the books I penned. On the occasion of my last book presentation back in November, I had the honor of meeting your deputy garrison commander Mr. Frank Lands at Villa Cordellina where the Province of Vicenza organized an event about “Vicenza and the Americans, i.e. Italians in America”.
Frank was invited to offer welcome remarks on behalf of the Vicenza Military Community. He shared his interesting views of his love and respect for Italian history, art and food.
Frank admitted right off the bat that he was one of the few Americans he knew that had no Italian heritage. He also confessed that his first exposures to Italian culture was through interesting culinary experiences such as Chef Boyardi. May be some of you can relate.
Later in life, Frank worked hard to be assigned to Vicenza, where he got a deeper appreciation of the Italian culture, to include, of course, real Italian food. Good job Frank!
This is how I came in touch for the first time with the Vicenza military community. So you can blame Frank for my presence here tonight.
People always asks me why I am so in love with America, and why I’ve always strongly defended, cherished and promoted the United States of America.
There’s plenty of motives, of course, but one for me is special. My father was as old as I am now when he and my mother had me. I remember as a child sitting on his lap, listening to his stories about how he survived World War II.
Let me tell you the main one.
In 1940 my father was 18 years old and escaped from the Fascist regime, who then put a target on his back: he was sentenced to death as a traitor, because he didn’t want to enlist in the Fascist army. He was hurt, sick, wandering in Tuscany hoping to survive: and the Americans from the 5th Army found him. I remember him telling me: “The Americans saved me, cured me, dressed me, fed me, armed me, freed me and my town and my country … and then they even gave me a medal.”
Of course my father spoke no English, but there were many Italian Americans in the 5th Army. Those Italian-Americans had enlisted in great numbers, and many of them asked to be sent to free their motherland that had entered the war against their new homeland, America. Three of those Soldiers in particular remained good friends of my father’s: Sal Di Marco, Anthony Tiso and Eddie Gastaldo, my personal heroes.
I would like to thank them, here, now, because without their kindness and dedication I wouldn’t be here enjoying this evening with you. They are now resting in peace, as my father is.
A few weeks ago, as you might have noticed because the stores were closed and your Host Nation colleagues were not at work, on April 25, Italy celebrated its liberation from fascism. There is always controversy over this day, but I've always had clear who to thank: the American soldiers who saved us, freeing our country and our people. 7,858 of them rest in the Sicily Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, along with 3,095 missing in action whose bodies were never recovered; another 4,393 rest in the Florence American Cemetery, along with 1,409 missing in action. Our thanks to them does not have an expiry date: we will never forget.
And I also want to thank the Soldiers and Officers of the Vicenza Military Community, who this last April 25 have participated in several ceremonies here in Vicenza and in the many towns of the Province where Americans have found their home in Italy. Some of whom are here tonight. You attended, next to Italian military, proud to represent the country that liberated us: you are the best proof of the fact that the love between Italy and the United States is destined to last forever.
While the focus might be on June 6th D-Day, Italians look at June 4th and this year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Rome. “We the Italians” is preparing a small but symbolic ceremony at the Sicily Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno. We will always be there to defend the winning relationship between Italy and the United States, and to remember why we Italians have a debt of gratitude to the United States, a debt that comes from afar and is still represented by the different parts of Italy who are proud to host American bases like Caserma Ederle or Del Din.
Over the years I have often said that “Italy needs more America”. Of course this is my opinion, and not everyone agrees. And that’s fine. But I always say to people who do not share my thoughts: don’t take my word for it. There are 18 million people who are the best demonstration of this: the Italian Americans. They are successful people, winners, with a passion for Italy: people who have the same DNA as us Italians living at home, but who have seen their talent, creativity, and hard work rewarded by American meritocracy and by the United States’ spirit of freedom and entrepreneurship.
But I dare also say that “America needs more Italy”. In 1988 President Ronald Reagan commemorated Christopher Columbus for his spirit, with these words: “He was a dreamer, a man of vision and courage, a man filled with hope for the future and with the determination to cast off for the unknown and sail into uncharted seas for the joy of finding whatever was there. Put it all together and you might say that Columbus was the inventor of the American dream.”
Before I end my speech, I would like to tell you briefly about a few interviews I have done during these years.
Italy has provided several heroes to the US Army, the Marines and the other branches of the United States Armed Forces.
In Chicago there is a museum which pays the due respect to the Italians and Italian American War Veterans. When I met Paul Basile, one of the founders of this beautiful place, he showed me how the museum remembers that Italian Americans have signed the Declaration of Independence, turned the tide in the war against the Barbary pirates of Tripoli, made up the largest ethnic fighting force in the two World Wars, earned more than two dozen Congressional Medals of Honor, held the top three spots on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In his museum is of course celebrated the most famous and decorated Italian American soldier in history, United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone. But the museum is more focused on the unsung heroes: the men and women who served anonymously in the defense of their country.
Another person I’d like to mention who I interviewed is Anthony Ficarri, President of the association called “Italian American War Veterans”. He taught me that in World War I the Italian American servicemen made up approximately 12% of the total American forces, while it was over 1,5 millions the number of the Italian Americans who fought in World War II, almost 10% of the entire force: two very disproportionately high percentages with respect of the percentage of Italian Americans in the American population of those years.
I hope you’ll allow me a couple of minutes more of your attention. Let me tell you about two other interviews I was lucky enough to do, with two great Vicenza personalities who have had considerable success in the United States.
Alberto Zamperla leads the company that took his father's name: the head office is in Altavilla Vicentina, the American branch is in New Jersey. If in the last 8 years you have been to Coney Island, the most famous amusement park in the world, the place where the name "Luna Park" was invented, you might have enjoyed the visit and have fun thanks to him: but it is possible that it has happened even in other major amusement parks in America. Zamperla is the Italian who entertains Americans in the amusement places invented by America, with the creativity and ingenuity that only we Italians possess.
Talking about creativity, Vicenza is home to one of the most prestigious technical high schools in Italy that graduates the future stars of macrotronics at Silicon Valley.
The name of this school is Istituto Tecnico Rossi and it is halfway between Caserma Ederle and the San Bortolo hospital. This is where Federico Faggin, the designer of the first microchip, graduated. It is thanks to him that any electronic device we use every day works. Faggin is also one of the inventors of touch technology, a fundamental presence in every smartphone and tablet we use. In 2010, Mr. Faggin was awarded with the National Medals of Science, Technology and Innovation by President Barack Obama.
Of course this is not the only link between Vicenza and the United States. You certainly know better than me that as an architect, President Thomas Jefferson will always be connected with the figure of Andrea Palladio, the most famous Vicentine ever. President Jefferson considered “The Four Books of Architecture” by Palladio his bible.
The American Consulate in Florence is celebrating this year the 200th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Tuscany and the United States, with the hashtag #200together. I am gonna steal this motto and thank all of you for being here together: Italians and Americans, military and civilians, celebrating our two beautiful countries. If you ask me the two most amazing places in the world.
I hope the stories I shared gave you a better appreciation of the value of the relationship between Italy and the United States, its history and its legacy.
I thank you again for your kind invitation to be here tonight before this special group of guests. You keep me optimistic about the bright future of our two Nations.
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