Local Veterans Honored with Brunch and a Job Fair

Yesterday the Bronx Chamber of Commerce held their annual Veterans Recognition Brunch in which they honored Bronx veterans who, not only served their country but serve their communities.

“The Bronx Chamber of Commerce is hosting its 8th annual veterans celebration to show our gratitude to the brave men and women of the Bronx who have served in our armed forces. Without their sacrifices, we probably wouldn’t be here today.” said new President & CEO of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, Nunzio del Greco. In attendance was Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and a representative for Assemblyman Micheal Benedetto.

“Many younger men and women serving our country have been coming back home only to be part of the highest unemployment group in history. In some areas it is around 6% and others it is 20%, this is outrageous. For those serving overseas, the least they should expect is a job waiting for them when they come home.” said Senator Jeff Klein. Senator Klein spoke about H.I.R.E. (Help Identify Real Employment), a program by the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and Senator Klein that connects workers with specialists who will work one-on-one to determine skills, industries, and positions that match the potential job seeker.

After the brunch, the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and Senator Klein’s office hosted a job fair for veterans. Right next door, people had the opportunity to speak to representatives from the office of NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, SUNY Maritime College, AT&T, Metro Plus, and the Lions Project Canine Companions for Independence, among others.

“AT&T took a chance on me, I was a career military guy, got out, and had no idea where I was going. Since 2013 we have hired over 8,000 veterans. Supporting active and retired troops is a longstanding effort of AT&T, and we are committed through our AT&T Veterans to help educate others about veterans and their service.” said Hugh Meehan, National Recruitment Director, AT&T Veterans. After telling a story about his experience with a disabled veteran, Meehan reminded the audience to, “Thank a veteran. But don’t just thank them, continue the conversation. Thank them for their service then ask them how their day is, ask them what they are doing. Do not be afraid to talk to veterans.”

Meet the honorees:

IMG_2444Gene DeFrancis is a Bronx native who joined the United States Navy as a Cryptologic Technician Collector. He served during Operation Enduring Freedom and was stationed on Pearl Harbor during the 9/11 attacks. DeFrancis later moved up in ranks to become a mission supervisor and Petty Officer 2nd Class. “As a poor kid from the Bronx the military has literally saved my life, from the education it allowed me to have to the discipline it gave me.” Presently, DeFrancis is President of Allerton Avenue International Merchants Association. “I am a veteran. I am proud to be a veteran. I will continue to do whatever I possible can to help the community and to help fellow veterans.”

IMG_2462Born in the Bronx, Chris Di Costanzo left school at an early age to join the United States Army. He served with distinction and valor during the Vietnam War. Costanzo is manager at John Dormi & Sons Funeral Home Honoree for last year and presenter of the award, Sal Conforto, recounted the story about Costanzo helping a family with funeral and burial arrangements for their deceased veteran son at no cost. Commenting on the vest he was wearing, Costanzo said, “I have the honor to wear this vest for a military law enforcement motorcycle club called the Nam Knights of America.” The Nam Knights of America consists of both veterans and retired police officers. “It’s not always easy to receive an award when so many others deserve it as well but I will cherish this award forever.”

IMG_2472Anthony Vitaliano has been living in the Bronx since 1967. He voluntarily joined the U.S. Army and served in the Third Armored Division in Germany where his division were tasked with protecting the Fulda Gap from the Soviet Army. “I went down to the draft board at 18, I was not ready for college and still felt immature. But I was really gung ho and enjoyed my time in the Army.” During his military career, Vitaliano received the Good Conduct Medal. After his service in the military, he began a 38-year career with the NYPD, where he served as a Police Officer in the 41st and 78th Precincts, Sergeant in the Public Morals Division, and Detective in the Organized Crime Control Bureau. Vitaliano is currently the Chairman of Community Board 11. “The veterans today who are coming home, there is still not enough being done to help them.”

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