A local veteran was recently named the American Legion’s Department of New York ‘Legionnaire of the Year.’
The honor was bestowed upon Waterbury-LaSalle resident Joseph Mondello during the organization’s New York State convention, that took place from Wednesday, July 13 to Saturday, July 16 in Binghamton, NY. Ten legion districts from around the state had submitted a candidate for consideration.
The award was presented as recognition of his years of volunteer activism as a legionnaire since 1996.
He is a member of Theodore Korony American Legion Post #253 since 1993, and has twice served as its commander.
“It was nice to receive the award; my peers made me feel honored,” said Mondello, adding that he saw the award as a ‘pat on the back’ for his hard work.
“I accepted the award on behalf of all legionnaires, we are all volunteers,” he said.
Mondello is a Vietnam-era veteran who was inducted into the U.S. Air Force in April 1975, just weeks before the war ended. He served four years in Mississippi, Japan and at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., he said.
The former military man said he joined the American Legion because it gave him the opportunity to use his talents in audio, sound, video and communications on behalf of veterans.
He operates a small business called Wide Area Communications that specializes in installing satellite communications, security cameras, sound and related equipment.
The legionnaire developed and produced a public access talk show called Veterans Focus in 1996 and 1997. Many of the guests on the show were American Legion members from around the state, he said.
Mondello was also affiliated with the American Legion Department of New York Public Relations team from 1998 to 2008, where he taught veterans the latest technology.
Additionally, he’s also been active since 1998 in organizing an annual Flag Day assembly at P.S. 14.
He started the tribute to Old Glory when his son was a student, and the resulting presentation, called The History of Our Flag, has been held every year since with the American Legion’s blessing.
The program, which promotes patriotism and Americanism on or around June 14, has expanded to other schools.
He provides sound services for the City Island Memorial Day Parade and the Throggs Neck St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
He helped coordinate a Manhattan concert for veterans who had served in Afghanistan, he said.
Mondello is humble about his accomplishments.
“I don’t talk and brag, I just like to do things,” he said. “I am glad when things work out and I accomplish something.”
He encourages fellow veterans to join the American Legion, if for no other reason than to give veterans issues a voice on Capital Hill.
“Even if you don’t become an active member, part of your dues goes to lobbyists who advocate for veterans rights,” said Mondello. “If you join, and then you don’t want to be active, just pay your dues and you will be helping yourself and fellow veterans.”