Americans of Italian descent are used to getting short shrift from the media and manufacturers of pop culture phenomena.
Chicago and Al Capone can only be mentioned in the same breath.
Fashion and the Dapper Don went together for years.
Half of America thought Vito Corleone was real. "The Sopranos" won award after award and became the face of the New York / New Jersey Italian American. I heard every mafia joke.
The next tough guys showed up on Jersey Shore. "The Situation" and Snooki became the new pop culture Italians. We were so proud.
In real life the thuggish Carl Paladino ran for Governor.
Even our supposed "good guys" Scalia and Alito carry the authoritarian streak and seem to care more for corporations than people.
And then out of the heartland comes Salvatore Giunta.
A self effacing young man who could not be more different from the pop culture idols, he took the opportunity available to him. He traded in the job at Subway;s and joined the Army. He did his best with the hand he was dealt.
Seven years later he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Whether you support the Afghan War (I don’t) or not or view the volunteer Army as defender of freedom or mercenary enabler of empire, this man is one of whom we can all be proud. He was prepared to lay down his life for his friend and comrade. There is nothing more honorable than that.
I remember the "old timers" when I was a boy. Nanas leaning on their elbows out of tenement windows; men loading their push carts or delivering ice with a horse and wagon; young kids playing on Broome Street.
They traveled here for a better life for their kids. Left their families. Left their friends. Left their language. There was no hopping a jet for a quick trip home.
Today Broome Street is gentrified. Nice bars. Heath Ledger died on Broome Street.
But the ghosts of the oldtimers are still on Broome Street.
Can you hear them?
"You did good Salvatore!"
"You made us proud Salleyboy!!"
Yes. You did.