The 2011 Spirit of America Humanitarian Award will be presented to
Joseph C. Bongiovanni
The old saying of “Once a Marine, always a Marine” holds true in the life of Joseph C. Bongiovanni. Because of his contributions that have improved the life, health and welfare of area residents and veterans, Bongiovanni will be awarded the 2011 Spirit of America Humanitarian Award.
Born in Sicily, Bongiovanni immigrated to the United States at the age of eleven. Still a teenager, he joined the United State Marine Corps at the age of 19 in 1967 and served four years as a combat squad leader during the height of the Vietnam War. For seven months he was stationed at the Leatherneck Square region of the Quang Tri Province, and in 1968, he
participated in the bitterly fought Battle of the Tet Offensive in January and the Battle of Dai Do in May. This experience and service to his country has played a defining role in his mission and purpose in life. When Bongiovanni returned home from the war, the public reception was not that due to an individual who had put his life on the line for his country. He observed that, “The Vietnam War was not a popular war. There were no parades or any fanfare when we came back. I want to make sure that the same thing does not happen to our young men and women who are returning from places like Iraq and Afghanistan. I want to make sure that they are recognized for their sacrifice and service.”
Bongiovanni is known for his successful career as a North Alabama businessman in the automotive industry, presently serving as General Manager of Serra Toyota in Decatur. However, even though his military uniform may be replaced with a business suit, he has never stopped serving his country and is especially dedicated to the plight of our nation’s armed forces and first responders. In addition to his affiliation with the Marine Corps League, Third Marine Division Association, Operation Stand Down, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion; Bongiovanni has actively worked with the Semper Fi Community Task Force of North Alabama, and currently serves as its Chairman. The Semper Fi Community Task Force was formed in 2006 and “is an organization composed of Marines, their families, and friends who have come together to continue to apply their core values of courage, honor and commitment to serve and protect our community. We believe that the skills, leadership, esprit de corps and resourcefulness that the Marine Corps instills are a lifelong trust. We chose to extend then to our community and fellow citizens so that all can continue to enjoy the freedoms, liberty and quality of life that we Americans hold dear.” For Veterans Day 2011, Joe Bongiovanni is heading a program that will bring over 60 wounded warriors and their spouses to the North Alabama area for a week of activities honoring our troops. For his dedication and service, Bongiovanni was honored in November 2010 as the North Alabama Veteran of the Year by the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition.
Bongiovanni’s giving spirit extends deep in the community and he is a major supporter of the annual Marine Corps Toys for Tots program and many other charities. He has served as an emcee for area patriotic programs, sponsored picnics for 2 busloads of Marines who visited Decatur several years ago, and has provided jobs for veterans. Joe and his wife Denice have been married for over thirty years and have two sons, Christopher (26) and Jonathan (21).
Through the efforts of Joseph C. Bongiovanni, returning veterans will experience the respect, honor and appreciation that they deserve. The uniform may be off, but Bongiovanni will always remain “Semper Fi.”