Local bridge renamed to honor Vuono
Monongahela officials hoped to honor retired Gen. Carl Vuono Saturday.
But during ceremonies marking the renaming of the city's bridge for Vuono, they also humbled him.
“Today has special meaning,” Vuono said during ceremonies in Chess Park unveiling signs renaming the Monongahela Bridge as the General Carl E. Vuono Bridge.
“Never in my wildest dreams growing up on Park Avenue did I think that I'd have a day like this.”
As Vuono started his remarks, four military jets conducted a fly by.
Vuono said the veterans swapping stories in the clubs in varioua Mid-Mon Valley communities have a great legacy.
“They were special because of their patriotic, selfless service to their country,” Vuono said. “They were special because they were protecting our way of life and the Constitution.”
Vuono said he hopes that when people cross the bridge daily, they are reminded about the sacrifice of those who gave their lives to defend the country.
State Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, introduced the legislation to rename the bridge. His efforts were supported by state Rep. Peter J. Daley, D-California, and state Sen. Timothy Solobay, D-Canonsburg, who were also in attendance.
Saccone noted that the bridge and Chess Park are just blocks from Vuono's boyhood home.
“His distinguished service has made our commonwealth proud,” Saccone said.
Saccone said Vuono's purpose in joining the Army was “simple and noble” - to serve his country. He said such service by all who serve promotes and protects “freedom, liberty and allows for a better tomorrow.”
“As long as America continues to produce people like Gen. Vuono, we remain a beacon of hope for nations across the globe,” Saccone said.
During the ceremony organized by the Monongahela Veterans Council, the Mon Valley Shipmates conducted a two-bell ceremony. The Mon Valley Leathernecks presented and later retired the colors. The Mon Valley Honor Guard conducted a rifle salute and taps was played. Kim Van Voorhis sang the national anthem.
Those in attendance included Mayor Bob Kepics, who welcomed the audience, and city council members, including Tom Caudill, who initiated the move to have the bridge renamed.
Many of those filled Chess Park for the ceremonies autographed a sign which read: “You Are Our Hometown Hero.”
As he closed his remarks, Vuono recognized his family in attendance, including his two sons, Col. Timothy Vuono and Col. Jeffrey Vuono; daughter Kathy Coldiron; daughter-in-law Eleanor Vuono, a former JAG officer; wife, Patricia; and grandchildren, Allison, Ryan, C.J. and Alex Vuono and Marc and Michael Coldiron.
“It is truly something when you have a special day for an old soldier and all of his friends come out and you do it on Veterans Day,” Vuono said.
Carl Vuono admitted Saturday that he had been following weather predictions for the Valley all week.
The former Army chief of staff was preparing to return to Monongahela, where ceremonies had been planned to mark the unveiling of signs renaming the city's major bridge in his honor.
“When I work up (Saturday) morning, I was a little surprised to see it was raining,” Vuono said. “But I knew it was going to be a good day because, as Aldo Bartolotto used to say, ‘It's never a bad day when you're from Monongahela.”
The memories poured out for Vuono as he drove into Monongahela with his family in tow.
The general and his family drove up to the area Friday night. They stayed in Pittsburgh before driving to Monongahela early Saturday morning.
Vuono, who retired in 1991, lives in the historic city of Alexandria, Va. But he felt at home in the Valley.
“My home is here. My home is Monongahela,” Vuono said.
As people approached Vuono after the ceremonies, the general recognized family names. “I knew you were a Pileggi,” Vuono said as he greeted local resident Jim Pileggi.
Then speaking out of ear's length of the crowd, Vuono said with a laugh, “You know you're getting old when you meet all of the daughters and granddaughters of the people you knew.”
Vuono said being back in Monongahela was nostalgic for him.
“During dinner with my family (Friday) night, I started to tell them about growing up here,” Vuono said. “It was like just yesterday. I owe a lot to this town.”
After the ceremonies at Chess Park and the subsequent sign unveiling at the bridge approach, Vuono packed his family, including six grandchildren, into a minivan and lead them on a tour of his hometown.
“When you come back into town, you remember a lot of things,” Vuono said. “I've been around the world, but I still consider myself a man from Monongahela. A lot of the values of hard work that drove me, I attribute from growing up here.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.