Honoring our veterans: Re-enactments help one Service employee show his gratitude

Wildlife inspector Damian Martelli serving in Desert Storm. Photo credit: USFWS

Wildlife inspector Damian Martelli serving in Desert Storm. Photo credit: USFWS

Damian Martelli currently works as a wildlife inspector in our Amherst, New York, law enforcement office. He began his military career in 1990, joining the U.S. Army and serving in Operation Desert Storm while being stationed in Germany. He then continued in the military from 1997 to 2010 serving with the Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve.

Today Damian shares with us his story about participating in World War II re-enactments and his interest in educating others of the sacrifices our forefathers endured to ensure the freedoms we continue to have as American citizens.

I’ve always had a strong passion for American history. As a kid, I listened intently as my grandparents told stories about the second World War of which both my grandfathers served. Then, as a teenager growing up near Washington D.C. I frequently visited the Smithsonian museums and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I set my sights on being a history teacher or a soldier. I chose the latter.

View of the beach where the re-enactment took place. Photo: Damian Martelli

View of the beach where the re-enactment took place. Photo: Damian Martelli

My first impressions of a re-enactment were always that of colonial or civil war battles, which is why I was surprised to come across a living history group portraying a weapons platoon of the First Infantry Division. I learned that mock World War II battle events occur year round in various places but the big shocker for me was learning about an actual event that recreates the D-Day landings in Normandy! Held annually each year, the D-Day tribute takes place on the Lake Erie shoreline in Conneaut, Ohio, which bears some resemblance to Omaha Beach.

Damian and his group disembark from the landing craft. Photo: Damian Martelli

Damian and his group disembark from the landing craft. Photo: Damian Martelli

On the morning of the event, World War II veteran John Bistricia who was in the first assault wave of the Normandy landings, conducted an inspection of our company. At the conclusion of his review, Mr. Bistricia delivered a heartfelt and sincere message of gratitude to see people, many of whom several generations removed, to be honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Damian (standing on the far right) gathers at the re-enactment with members of Dog Company, 16th Infantry,  1st Infantry Division. Photo: Damian Martelli

Damian (standing on the far right) gathers at the re-enactment with members of Dog Company, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Photo: Damian Martelli

The mock beach landing was a spectacular display of pyrotechnics and simulated strafing runs from four P-51 mustangs and one B-25 bomber. It was not only a tremendous experience to participate in, but to meet some great people and pay tribute. I am currently working on a living history project which focuses on honoring the sacrifices many soldiers made during the Vietnam conflict.

When I joined the Army in 1990 and later the Air Force in 1997, it was awe-inspiring to know I belonged to something great with a long legacy of distinguished service to the United States. Today, the same holds true for my job as a wildlife inspector: I know I belong to a great organization which performs a unique mission in support of our country.

This photo captures Damian's actual days serving in the military. Here, Damian and his squad get ready for a helicopter insertion training exercise. Photo: Damian Martelli

This photo captures Damian’s actual days serving in the military. Here, Damian and his squad get ready for a helicopter insertion training exercise. Photo: Damian Martelli

View our photo gallery of veterans from across the country

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One Comment on “Honoring our veterans: Re-enactments help one Service employee show his gratitude

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