Philip J. Gioia

P_Gioia_pic_2016Philip J. Gioia
Captain – Infantry, United States Army
Vietnam War (1967-1977)

Phil Gioia’s dedication and commitment to America, his community, family, education and his career are an inspiration to us all. He fought in the jungles of Vietnam, commanded American soldiers in fierce battles, is highly educated, and saved a woman from a burning car.

He has also served as Mayor and Town Councilman of the town of Corte Madera, California. This biography reveals a man who has made huge sacrifices in his life to serve his country, and try to make the world a better place.

He was born on April 12, 1946 in New York City. He grew up in an army family, living in Japan, Italy, Australia, Alabama, Virginia and New York. His father was a career Army officer; his mother was an “Army mom”. His grandfather served in World War I, but was not a professional soldier. Family forebears have been in the military since the Spanish American War.

During this interview, Gioia discussed America’s conflict in Vietnam prior to his military involvement. He explained that the Vietnam War ‘officially’ lasted 10 years but US involvement began much further back. The US became involved by supporting the French during their war in Indochina, after World War II. In 1954 after the French left Vietnam, the US prevented the implementation of the Geneva Accords, which had mandated an election to be held to determine if Vietnam was to become communist or democratic. Instead the US supported the creation of the Republic of South Vietnam, with its anti-communist government. For the next ten years the US sent advisors and military aid to South Vietnam, to resist communist infiltration from North Vietnam.

The US marks the “official” date of the beginning of its involvement in the Vietnam War as 1964, with the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. That was when two US Navy destroyers clashed with North Vietnamese fast coastal patrol boats. US ground forces began to be sent to Vietnam shortly afterwards, but Gioia’s own service in Vietnam began in 1968.

Americans from this generation had strong feelings about the war, Gioia recalls. “There were those who supported it; those who opposed it; and soldiers who were in the middle, sent to Vietnam by the government. As a soldier you don’t get to pick your war; you go where your government sends you.”

To become a professional soldier, Gioia went to a military college and became a Regular Army officer like his father. Growing up, he wanted to be like his dad, who had served in the OSS (Office of Strategic Service) in World War II in northern Italy, leading partisan forces against the German army. He recalls, “My father sat me down when I was in high school, and told me if I was interested in soldiering I was going to be an officer in the US Army, and that was the end of that.”

He wanted to focus on history as a major, graduating as a DMG (Distinguished Military Graduate) from Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1967, with a Bachelors in American and Modern European History, and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in Infantry in the Regular Army.

Four days after graduation he reported for active duty with the 82nd Airborne division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. To be an officer in the Airborne he needed to win his parachute wings, so was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for the three-week parachute course. The day after he received his wings, he reported to the Ranger Department for more training to qualify as a Ranger. The Army’s ‘Ranger school’ is a special, intensive leadership program that ran 24×7 with no breaks or rest, for nine weeks. The objective during Gioia’s course was to put the Ranger trainee up against his physical limitations to see how he might do in simulated combat. Gioia’s Ranger class started with 251 men and graduated 169 with the Ranger tab; the others were washed out or did not qualify for the tab.

Gioia recalls, “Of all the things I did in Vietnam, nothing was as physically or mentally demanding as Ranger school.” The Ranger course had three phases. The first “Benning” phase of three weeks was at Fort Benning, Georgia where his class learned hand to hand combat, had small arms training, map reading, demolitions, land navigation day and night and received a lot of physical harassment, constantly running and doing push-ups. The Benning phase was centered at Harmony Church, site of a former Baptist country chapel, and elsewhere on the huge Fort Benning reservation. During parachute and Ranger training in the summer of 1967, temperatures were in the high 90’s every day, with almost equally high humidity.

The three-week Mountain Phase was next at Dahlonega, in north Georgia. There Gioia and his classmates learned mountaineering: rope work, rappelling, free and belay-climbing, and did a lot of night operations. A massive hurricane battered the southeastern US when they were in the mountains; everything except Ranger training was called off.

The three-week Swamp Phase was next, in Florida. His class worked in the swamps at Eglin Air Force Base so they would have experience for possible operations in the delta in Vietnam. His Ranger class graduated at Eglin, on the same airfield where the Doolittle Raiders of 1942 had trained to fly Army bombers from an aircraft carrier, in their raid against Japan. That’s where the Ranger Tabs were awarded; Gioia said; their boots were on the same white lines still visible on the runway, marking the outline of a 1942 aircraft carrier deck. What helped Gioia cope with the training, he said, was coming from an Army family, and his experience in forest and field craft and map reading, on the way to becoming an Eagle Scout.

Gioia’s first assignment with soldiers was in 1967 in the 2nd Battalion of the 505th Parachute Regiment, in the 82nd Airborne Division. This is the same unit that on D-Day in 1944 dropped by night onto the town of St Mere Eglise in France, becoming one of the first Allied units to liberate a French town from its German occupiers.

In early February 1968 the entire 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, with his unit in it, was flown to Vietnam with little notice, in response to General Westmoreland’s call for more soldiers to help counter the “Tet Offensive”, which had taken everyone by surprise. His unit wound up being assigned, or OPCON, to the Third Marine Division, and participated in the fighting in and around the city of Hué, which had been occupied by the North Vietnamese. Hué was the ancient Imperial capital of old Vietnam, and many of its buildings and streets had been designed by the French, during the many years they held Vietnam as a colony.

On this first combat assignment Gioia was 21, and a rifle platoon leader. All his non-commissioned officers were older, and most had previous combat experience. Many of the senior officers and NCOs of the Division at this time were veterans of World War II and some had fought at Normandy, so everyone looked up to them. The 82nd was considered an ‘elite’, all-volunteer unit; many of the officers and NCOs had been through both Airborne and Ranger School.

Gioia said his men knew he had come from VMI, and he was definitely ‘on trial”. “It was easy to make a wrong decision or a mistake and have people killed or wounded”, he said. “What I did was get together with my platoon sergeant, who had been with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam previously, and told him, “I’m in command, but you have much greater experience. I encourage your input; if you think I’m making a wrong decision, or if you have any suggestions, quietly let me know and we’ll discuss it’. He did, and I didn’t lose a man on that tour.”

On this first assignment Gioia’s unit flew from North Carolina to Vietnam via Alaska and Okinawa, on four-engine C-141 ‘Starlifter’ jet transports in a journey that lasted over 24 hours. They were to land at a big base area at Chu Lai, on the coast of Vietnam, at 0200 (2:00 AM) but his plane had to orbit over the South China Sea because the base was under rocket attack at the time.

There were 140 paratroopers on his flight and Gioia was the only officer. The aircraft commander called him up to the cockpit and told him he was going to land and put the tail ramp of the aircraft down horizontally; he wanted the men aboard to get off the plane while it was still moving. Gioia said there were no lights anywhere as they jumped off and it was incredibly loud with all four engines going. The pilot taxied slowly down the strip as the men jumped off with all their gear, then ran to the drainage ditches on each side of the runway. The pilot kept taxiing down to the end of the strip, then turned the plane slowly around and came straight back up, at full takeoff power.

Gioia recalls, “Of course my first impression was the noise and the humidity, which hit you right in the face. Vietnam was incredibly hot and so humid. We had jumped into ditches full of scummy rainwater, and when that plane took off its huge wings passed directly over our heads. I was thinking, ‘This isn’t exactly the way I expected to go to war’, but that’s the way it goes.”

The next day his unit was flown in twin-engine propeller C-123s about 200 miles north up to Hué-Phu Bai, and into a completely different climate. It was very cold and “sheeting down rain” as the pilot came down into the airstrip at Phu Bai, near Hué. As they descended, Gioia looked out the porthole in the troop door at the back of the aircraft. He could see the pilot was making a steep descent to avoid enemy ground fire. As the aircraft broke through the clouds he saw rice patties and fields flash by, then more sheets of dark rain, barbed wire and bunkers, and then they slammed down onto the runway. When the pilot lowered the tail ramp of their plane, there was a Marine CH-46 helicopter nearby; it had just landed from Khe Sanh, which was under siege by the North Vietnamese. The crew of the helicopter was unloading bodies of dead Marines, in bags.

The morale of his soldiers was good but there was obviously high anxiety. The men were all well-trained volunteers and most of the officers and NCO’s were good. There was, however, a new battalion commander who was clearly over his head. He made some bad decisions; a number of soldiers were killed. He was eventually relieved of his command. Gioia’s little platoon discovered one of the first of the mass graves of civilians who had been executed by the North Vietnamese during their occupation of the city, and buried outside Hué. Years later, his relating this incident was made the topic of a BBC World Service podcast.

On this first tour the only way to communicate with home was by letters. It took about a week for a letter to get home and another week for a response. There was no postage required in a combat zone. You wrote ‘FREE’ on the letter where the stamp would go, then dropped it in one of the red nylon mailbags found at base areas, or carried to the field by resupply helicopters.

Gioia was wounded in early April 1968. He stated “It doesn’t take any real skill; you only have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was doing what my job required – trying to organize a firefight, and I got hit. I was talking on the radio and I’m sure the enemy thought ‘he must be a leader so I’m going to nail him’. And that’s what happened. I received a Purple Heart for it.” He was evacuated to the States via Japan for surgery, then reassigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina for 10 months, during which period he commanded an Infantry company as a First Lieutenant. He explained that “Once you came home from a tour in Vietnam you had nine months before going back, whether you wanted to go or not.”

Since he had been wounded, he was able to request the unit he wanted to be reassigned to. For his second tour from 1969-1970, he requested and received assignment to the First Air Cavalry Division, and onward to the 1st Battalion, 5th US Cavalry Regiment, one of the oldest in the army. The 5th Cavalry had been reorganized as a light infantry unit, carried by helicopter.

During his second Vietnam tour his unit operated in the III Corps area, north of Saigon along the Cambodian border. Having been in action on his previous tour, Gioia had a better idea of what to expect. He recalled, “The big question you have when you’re a young officer is, “Am I going to stand up to this; will I be able to handle it? Going back on my second tour, I knew how easy it was to get wounded or killed; I had seen soldiers during my first tour get hurt, but thankfully none of my own.”

Still a First Lieutenant, Gioia was given command of an Infantry company. Shortly afterward, he was promoted to Captain. Helicopters carried his company into the jungle, where they were dropped off in what were termed ‘combat assaults’. Once the helicopters left his unit stayed in the jungle for weeks at a time. They were resupplied by air every six days or so, but moved and fought on foot. They were known as a ‘rucksack outfit’. The army gave them everything they needed: food, water and ammunition. Gioia describes they were like ‘domestic pack animals’ and lived and slept in the jungle. Because they were in an airmobile division, his company was picked up and moved around the battlefield by helicopter. They were dropped off where they were needed most, often into heavy fighting, so Gioia saw much more combat during this second tour. He logged 23 combat assaults in the 10 months that he commanded his infantry company.

During this second combat tour his unit’s mission to “find the enemy, ‘fix’ them, fight them, and kill them or take them prisoner.” He described how looking for the enemy in the jungle was difficult. There was a jungle floor thick with underbrush or bamboo, thousands of trees, and everything in between them. The trees branched out into a first canopy, then went up a little more branching out to a second canopy, then still more, branching out with the final canopy. The light came down through the canopy like being in an aquarium. Blue-green light would shine down underneath all those trees. It was very hot, very humid, and dark beneath.

The enemy would build bunker complexes in the jungle and could live and fight from them. They would also move by day and night, and his company would literally bump into them in the jungle. The army called these tactical collisions “meeting engagements”. They could quickly build up into fierce firefights. Once his company found the enemy, they “fixed” them by engaging them in a shootout, then called in artillery and air support. They would try to pin the enemy down; it was then their job to kill them or take them prisoner. Gioia said the enemy was “…always prepared to do the same thing to you.”

In World War II, he said, it was different because you would gain ground and hold it. In Vietnam he explained, it was your job to find the enemy, deal with him, and move on. He stated, “I have severe doubts about that strategy, which was to ‘attrit’ the enemy by killing more men then he could resupply down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. To me, there seemed there was no end to that. I didn’t know what the ultimate object of the war was.”

Gioia remembers details of this tour. The unit was out for weeks at a time and resupplied every six or so days, by helicopter. The daily routine was to always move, patrolling and carrying everything needed. The men carried M-16 rifles, M-79 grenade launchers, 90 mm recoilless rifles (a very heavy, short bazooka-type weapon), M-60 machine guns, and extra ammunition for them. Supplies were divided up: radio operators carried radios, and extra batteries. Everyone, in addition to his own weapon, ammunition, and rations, carried spare batteries, sandbags, small mines for ambush, and trip flares. They also carried small folding shovels. They had no body armor for personal protection. They wore steel helmets with canvas covers, jungle fatigues, and jungle boots.

They carried C-4 plastic explosive for demolitions, pieces of which were also used for cooking food. The army issued heat tablets for cooking, but they didn’t generate enough heat. The army also never issued anything like a small stove for cooking. So his soldiers took an empty C-ration can and the ‘church key’ that everyone carried, punched a few holes in the bottom of the can, took a piece of the plastic explosive and lit it inside the can where it burned with a very hot flame. Another can full of food was placed on top of that ‘field stove’, and stirred with the plastic spoon that came with the C-rations. That is how the cooking was done in the jungle, in Vietnam.

During the day, Gioia said the company constantly patrolled, moving in a two-file column because you couldn’t spread out in the thick jungle. Visibility was 10-15 feet on either side. They would keep looking for signs of the enemy and stopped every 200-300 meters to send out a pair of patrols which would go out 50-100 meters, each of the patrols turning to its right so they didn’t collide with each other, and return to the main body of the company, which would then move another 300-400 meters and repeat the process.

In the jungle Gioia said it was necessary to know exactly where you were at all times, because if you made contact with the enemy you had to call in artillery or air support. In his company headquarters Gioia had two radio operators, an artillery forward observer and his radio operator, the company’s senior medic, and a ‘pace man’. Besides Gioia, the pace man was the best map and compass navigator in the company. Gioia kept a length of parachute cord tied to his jungle fatigue shirt. Every 100 meters he tied a knot in the cord, then counted the knots, keeping track of the compass bearing, and periodically marking the location on his map when they stopped for map check. There were no hills in the area they operated in on this tour, only relatively flat ground under triple canopy, so there was nothing to relate to for navigation. Knowing where you were at all times was almost an art, he said, in those days before GPS.

Gioia remembers, “If you hit the enemy it could be really fierce, depending on how big they were, the weapons they had, and how fast the volume of fire built up. And when the first burst of fire broke out, everybody disappeared. They hit the ground. In the jungle, once that happens you can’t see anybody.”

His job was to keep the company organized, and make sure they were firing and moving in the right places. To do this it was necessary to talk to the battalion on the command radio net, talk to the platoon leaders on the company net, and to the artillery, air support, and medevac helicopters if you needed them. While you did all this you had to move around and make sure where your people were, and if necessary physically get them moving and coordinated.

If they didn’t find the enemy, he said, they would stop at about 1600 (4:00 PM) and put in a night defense perimeter. There would be 3 men in each fighting position. Every man would dig. They carried empty sandbags and would take the dirt from the holes they dug, fill the sandbags, cut overhead cover from trees and cover them with the filled sandbags, so the fighting positions would be lined with sandbags, with firing ports. They put loose brush over that and then another layer of sandbags so if they got mortared at night they would have a protected place to fight from in the hole. The enemy was very good with mortars.

As they were digging in, they also sent out ambushes along trails. They stayed off trails; these were danger areas. The enemy used the trails; that’s where they found them. Many night ambushes were very effective, catching the enemy unaware.

Gioia’s company also fought in rubber plantations, which were quite different from the jungle. The rubber plantations were very orderly, with rubber trees planted about 20 feet apart in a precise geometric grid. In the rubber plantations, one could see about 50 yards in every direction all the way around, but the enemy could also see you. If they bumped into the enemy in a rubber plantation it was a very interesting fight, he said, because the lanes of fire were clear. During one fight, Gioia and two other soldiers were literally pinned down behind a termite mound. Termites in Asia build mounds 5-6 feet high and 4-5 feet across, and hard as rock. An enemy soldier shooting at them with an RPD (a light machine gun) was blasting away at the other side of the mound. The enemy was also firing rockets into the trees over their heads, and rubber sap, which is caustic, was raining down on Gioia and his men, burning their hands and arms. There also were very angry termites, as big as your thumb, coming up off the termite mound, biting them. Gioia stated with a grin, “Somehow they didn’t go into detail about this at Fort Benning. It gets really humbling when nature takes over.”

In another incident Gioia had a very close encounter with a giant sloth. There was a lot of wildlife in the jungle: Gioia remembers sun bears, barking deer that sounded exactly like dogs, big tree lizards, giant geckos, and huge brown sloths. One afternoon during the monsoon season his unit stopped for a map check at the base of a big tree. Suddenly a giant brown sloth came crashing down through the canopies, and hit the ground next to Gioia so hard it bounced. If the sloth had hit Gioia, his neck would probably have been broken. The sloth was stunned, but eventually climbed very slowly back up the tree.

Overall, morale during this assignment was high. Communication with family was important, but it was limited to letters sent and received while in the field. During this tour, soldiers were also able to ‘call home’ from major bases via the MARS (military amateur radio system) network. Amateur (HAM) radio operators in the US assisted in ‘patching through’ radio-phone calls from bases in Vietnam to telephone numbers in the US. In order to make a MARS call home, the men could only sign up during the brief time when they returned to the base from the jungle, for 15 minute MARS time slots.

Vietnam was eleven hours ahead of the US, and there was never any guarantee anyone would be at home in the States, or at the number the soldier gave the operator.

The process went like this: the base operator would try to connect you with a HAM operator located close to where you wanted to call in the States. If you made that link, the HAM operator would then try to put a call through to the number you provided. If your call went through, you and the person on the other end would speak while the operator switched the circuit back and forth; only one person could talk at a time, saying ‘OVER’ when they were finished speaking each time. If there was any talk about military information, the line would be cut off.

In one instance Gioia was waiting for his turn for a MARS call to his mother while at Quan Loi, a big First Air Cavalry Division base near the Cambodian border. The base was blasted by a heavy mortar attack. All the men who had signed up for MARS slots were lined up for the phone. All the ‘rear echelon’ men ran for the bunkers. The combat men who were waiting for their calls hit the ground where they were. Nobody moved. They waited until everything was over and could hear the mortars hit on the other side of the base. When the firing stopped, they picked themselves up, dusted off, and stayed waiting in line for their 15 minute phone call. That’s how desperate they were to call home.

Gioia said this was in the days before answering machines, and many soldiers went through the entire process to either hear the phone at the other end ring until the HAM operator broke the connection, or they heard the dreaded ‘busy signal’, which was also before the days of ‘call waiting signals’. In that case it was ‘Sorry, Charlie.’

Gioia’s highest rank in the military was captain. He received a second Purple Heart for another wound during this assignment. He also received two Silver Stars which are awarded for ‘gallantry in action’ and a Bronze Star with ‘V’ for valor and leadership. He stated, “I received those because I was simply doing my job; they were combat awards.”

He also received a Soldier’s Medal, which is awarded for saving human life while not in combat. One night in November 1972 while he was a student officer at Georgetown University in Washington DC, a woman drove her car into a lamp post so hard it knocked over the light stand, which shattered. Sparks came down and landed in the gasoline which had spilled out onto the ground. The gas exploded, and the whole car was on fire with the woman inside, and the door locked. She was in shock. Gioia, who had been on a nearby sidewalk, ran to the car and tried to get the door open, but couldn’t. He was forced back by the fire, but returned and broke the window. He opened the door through the broken glass. The woman’s clothes were on fire as he pulled her out, then rolled her on the ground to put out the flames. They were both burned. Of this incident, he said only, “Somebody had to do something.” He didn’t think anything of it until several weeks later when he was summoned to the Pentagon, and presented with the award by General Westmoreland, the Chief of Staff of the Army.

When he returned from Vietnam in 1970 the men who had been drafted were not well received by America. It was an unpopular war and people didn’t support them. Gioia was insulated from this because he was a career officer in the military. He didn’t care how he was received by fellow Americans because the army and his family were proud of what he had done. Overall, however, he wasn’t pleased with how the war was managed. He recalls, “The strategy was horrible; there was no real objective. I couldn’t understand where it was going.”

After he returned he was assigned to Fort Knox, in Kentucky, where as an Infantry officer he became secondarily qualified as a tank unit commander, since the US still had to prepare to fight against the Soviets in Europe. He also received training as a commander and planner for combined armor-infantry teams.

The Army’s attitude was that he had done a very good job in Vietnam, and desired that he obtain a graduate degree. He attended Georgetown University, earning a Master’s in Science with Distinction from the School of Foreign Service, in international policy and economics. He was assigned to West Point for a year, then was recalled to Washington DC to join a project on the Army Staff reporting to Dr. Fritz Kraemer. He was later reassigned to the Presidio of San Francisco.

He was selected early for promotion to Major in 1975 but at the same time was accepted to the Graduate Business School at Stanford. He called the Office of Personnel Assignment in Washington to tell his assignments officer of his acceptance to Stanford, which that year had been named the number one business school in the country. He was told “…the Army didn’t need an infantry officer with an MBA from Stanford or anyplace else.” His options at that time were to go to Stanford or stay in the Army and go to Korea. He resigned his commission in 1977 and entered the MBA program at Stanford. He recalls, “I felt I had done good service to my country, and I never looked back. I made the right decision.”

Gioia graduated with an MBA from Stanford in 1979, then worked for Morgan Stanley in New York and San Francisco. He went into the venture capital business and was in the technology industry for 33 years. He was founder and CEO of two technology companies developing wireless communications and biometric identification technology, and served on the boards of several other companies. He is co-founder and partner of Pathfinder Partners at the Presidio of San Francisco, providing advisory service to clients in the defense and national security sectors. He is also co-founder and CEO of Duty Bound LLC, providing specialty food items to our armed forces worldwide.

Men from the Infantry Company he commanded in Vietnam get together almost every year for a reunion. They talk about funny stories like the sloth, the time giant termites ate their ground sheets, and other less amusing experiences, such as the time his entire company narrowly escaped being hit by an ARCLITE bombing strike, carried by three B-52 bombers. Discovered at the last minute, Gioia and his men were instructed by radio to ‘…run until told to get down!’ Gioia states, “If we hadn’t been warned at the last minute, we would have been the biggest ‘friendly fire’ mistake in the war.”

He says, “My former senior medic and I are like brothers; a very special bond. He saved my life when I came down with 106 fever and malaria on that second tour. Combat friendships are far different than the ones you develop working for corporations here in the States.”

Gioia feels his service wasn’t wasted. He stated, “We lost the Vietnam War; there is no question about it. 57,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines dead; hundreds of thousands wounded; millions of Vietnamese dead, both South and North. And in the end, at the time of this interview (2016) we’re selling weapons to the Vietnamese. The reason is China is more of a concern to us today than Vietnam, Vietnam and China are traditional enemies, so in the geostrategic sense it’s potentially important for us to have Vietnam as an ally. The Vietnamese have asked us for weapons. How do you think that makes those of us who fought in Vietnam feel, after all the heart, effort, and lives we put into it?  As a realist and historian, I understand. As a soldier and combat veteran, I’m very sad.”

He isn’t sorry he went to Vietnam. The question for him is, what impact did that war have on the United States? He believes the Vietnam War changed the way the American people looked at their government. Their loss of faith and mistrust in the government which began then has stayed with us for years, and haunts every foreign policy decision today. It was a very important period in American history. Gioia explains, “If you asked any one of my soldiers what they were fighting for, they would say they weren’t fighting for Vietnam; they weren’t fighting for mom, the flag, or apple pie. They were fighting for each other. They bonded with each other, watched over each other, and tried to keep each other alive.”

The toughest part of Gioia’s military service was combat leadership, in the battles and firefights in Vietnam. What he had wanted to do most was lead American soldiers in action; he was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do it. His outlook on life changed after the war. When he sees people complaining about trivial things, he thinks “just suck it up and get on with it”, but that’s a message, he believes, that most wouldn’t understand.

He feels America should never commit its soldiers to action unless they’ve been given clearly defined objectives in terms of expected results. The military deserves that clarity. His advice for men and women who are about to serve is they should think it through very, very carefully. He states, “Things are very different today. The army is all-volunteer. In 1977 the army was still a draft army; women had minimal roles and were in the WACs (Women’s Army Corps) which performed administrative jobs, or in the Army Nurse Corps, and nothing else. Today the whole picture has changed.”

His advice for future generations is to always remember their freedom comes with a heavy price. He feels we shouldn’t ever take this for granted, and look carefully at history. If we get complacent and drop our guard, he states, “There are those out there who want to destroy our way of life. The only thing that stands between them and us is our military. If we didn’t have that, your life and mine would vastly different.” He hopes Americans will always remember the sacrifices of those who have fought and died to keep our country safe. Memorial Day and Veterans Day aren’t just holidays; they are times for reflection.

In closing Gioia adds, “I’m very proud to have served, very proud to be an American.”

This interview was conducted by Anna Lonsway on May 27, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

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