The Italian American Veterans Museum took a quantum leap forward on Sept. 28, celebrating its grand reopening with the dedication of a new exhibit celebrating Italian-American Medal of Honor recipients.
State Senator Don Harmon and Stone Park Mayor Ben Mazzulla were among the dignitaries who took part in the noon dedication ceremony, which was attended by nearly 200 well-wishers, including more than four dozen veterans.
The United States Navy Band from the Great Lakes Naval Station and the Marine Color Guard from the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment from Foster Avenue in Chicago graced the event with their presence.
Joe and Ann Marie Quercia of Freddy’s Pizza, Anthony Calderone of Illinois Alarm, the Italian American Police Association, the Italian American War Veterans, Dominic Sergi of Rex Electric, Vito Palella of Season Comfort, and Dominic Verlotta and William Bianchi of Speed-O-Lite Printing were presented with certificates in recognition of generosity above and beyond the call of duty.
The centerpiece of the new exhibit is an actual Medal of Honor, bestowed upon the museum for display purposes by the United States Army. “I can’t tell you how humbled we are to be able to showcase a Medal of Honor,” says Steve Corbo, the museum’s first vice president and memorabilia curator. “To my knowledge, there is only one other Medal of Honor on display in the Chicago area.”
Included in the Medal of Honor exhibit are profiles of all 26 Italian-American recipients. “These are the bravest of the brave,” says museum founder Anthony Fornelli. “Their service above and beyond the call of duty is truly astounding, and we’re proud to showcase that.”
They include heroes from all branches of the service, such as Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, Navy Chaplain Vincent R. Capodanno and Army Captain Humbert R. Versace.
And their heroism spans the decades, from Colonel Louis P. De Cesnola (Civil War), Private Michael Valente (World War I) and Private First Class Gino J. Merli (World War II), to Captain Reginald B. Desiderio (Korea), Sergeant First Class Louis R. Rocco (Vietnam) and Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta (Afghanistan).
The Italian American Veterans Museum is located on the third floor of the Office Center at Casa Italia, 3800 Division St., Stone Park. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday. For details, visit iavmuseum.org.