Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Honoring American Immigrants: Family, Neighbors, Heroes

America is a land of immigrants who enrich our nation with their talents, sacrifices, and character.

Immigrants represent the ideals, principles, and freedom of our country and are represented by our families, neighbors, and heroes.

Prior to sharing these words, I held in my hands a document very sacred to me. It is a detailed copy of my family tree, complete with names, dates of birth as well as deaths where applicable, and a meticulous layout of the connections between each family member.

This family tree begins with Joseph Nicolosi Cirrito, one of my great grandfathers, who was born in 1858 and died in 1941 at the age of 83.

Adjacent to his name is the name of his wife, my great grandmother Gaetiena (maiden name of Boscarelli), who was born in 1875 and who died from Spanish Influenza in 1918 at the age of 43.

Both of these great-grandparents (my grandmothers parents) were immigrants, representative of millions who came to America, beckoned by the words inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Joseph and Gaetiena had the fire of America’s greatness in their souls, inspired by our nation’s promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” memorialized as inalienable rights. This promise is the heart of our Declaration of Independence, one that demands protection by our government and respect for human dignity.

The grandparents on my grandfather's side of the family were also immigrants from the city of Afragola, Italy.

My great-grandfather Luigi Rufino and his wife Maria Rufino (maiden name of Pannone) also came to America and lived their dream of devotion. They were great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, and dedicated members of their community of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

As memorialized by documents in the possession of his grand-daughter Bonnie, Luigi Rufino was always working hard to provide for his family. His profession is listed as a mason, but he also had a candy store and peddled vegetables.

Luigi's last job was the fireman at United Hospital on 189th Street in the Bronx. He was responsible for shoveling coal into the furnace to keep the fire burning before oil and gas heat became so prevalent.

After a heart attack, Luigi retired from this job of serving the patients, staff, and visitors of the hospital.

The Bronx: A Melting Pot

Although privileged to have outstanding educational credentials, I believe growing up in the Bronx with the richness of its diversity is one deserving notation on a curriculum vitae.

This experience allowed the world to be at my doorstep, expressed through countless encounters with classmates, friends, neighbors, and community.

My neighborhood was a melting pot with international representation. It was filled with people of every conceivable religion, culture, and language.

The goodness of these people, exemplified through their smiles, courtesy, and countless acts of charity is eternally etched in my memory.

Immigrants Securing America

During one of my career experiences, I managed security professionals for over 12 years at sites demanding extreme professionalism, vigilance, and commitment.

Before employment, these security professionals, many of whom were immigrants, went through a rigorous hiring procedure including meticulous review of government credentials, federal and state fingerprint checks, previous employment verification, an integrity exam, and drug testing.

I personally interviewed and conducted checks of these requirements for hundreds of security personnel and then assigned them to secure some of America’s most well-known clients. These clients represented corporate and residential properties, banks, hospitals, media, and retail enterprises.

A world map was proudly maintained in my office with pins representing these security professionals working for me who were from around the world.

These officers, many of whom were eventually promoted to supervisors and managers, protected property, people, and information. They provided leadership for emergencies including evacuations. Essentially, they protected our homeland, with many receiving commendations at award ceremonies for exemplary conduct, meritorious actions, and outstanding service.

Immigrant Medal of Honor Recipients

America must be forever grateful for the many heroes who died serving our nation, including those not born on our soil.

Over 20 percent (over 700) of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients in U.S. wars have been immigrants.

The official guide to this medal notes, “Those who have received the Medal of Honor since it was established in 1861 as the nation’s highest decoration are as different as the melting pot of our country.”

One recipient was Mercario Garcia from Mexico who after recovery from a D-Day wound, single-handedly took two enemy machine-gun nests on Nov. 27, 1944.

Only after protecting his unit from this danger, despite being shot in the shoulder and foot, did Mercario allow himself to be evacuated for medical care.

Final Reflections

Today, there is a frenzy of emotion on immigrants and the role America must play with this issue that involves the security of our borders.

Solving this issue is achievable and critical to reawakening the nation. But the fact remains that America is a great land because of the values, vision, and service of countless immigrants.

Immigrants are our families, neighbors, and heroes and we must be forever honor their contributions to America.

Note Well:
Linkedin: Vincent J. Bove Consulting, Speaker Services, Publishing

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As authored for Vincent’s weekly column titled “Reawakening the Nation” for the Epoch Times, 35 countries, 21 languages and growing. This blog was updated from its original publication on Aug. 24, 2016 to include a photo of my grandmother's parents, Luigi and Maria Rufino. Both of them immigrated to America from Afragola, Naples.


Photos

1. Statue of Liberty, (Dominique James)

2. My great grandparents Joseph with his second wife. His first wife was Gaetiena Cirrito (maiden name of Boscarelli). Joseph was born in 1858 and died in 1941 at the age of 83. Gaetiena was born in 1875 and died in 1918 at the age of 43 from Spanish Influena. Joseph and Gaetiena are the parents of my grandmother Catherine, who was married to my grandfather Vincent Rufino.

3. An illustration of immigrants on the steerage deck of an ocean steamer passing the Statue of Liberty from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, July 2, 1887. (National Park Service)

4. Luigi and Maria Rufino (maiden name of Pannone) with their daughter Maggie. They were the parents of my grandfather Vincent whose had brohters named Mario and Joseph, and a sister named Maggie. (Courtesy of Cissy Rufino)

5. President Harry Truman awards the Congressional Medal of Honor to Mercario Garcia in 1945. (Photo Credit National Archives and Records Administration

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