Dominick Critelli, a 100 year old Floral Park veteran, will be flying to Washington D.C. in October to visit the World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial.
Taking him will be the Long Island branch of the Honor Flight Network, an organization dedicated to flying veterans spanning previous generations to the nation’s capital.
Born April 8, 1921 in Italy, Critelli immigrated when he was eight years old. In 1944, he was a member of the Army Air Corps 95th Infantry Division, part of the 377th Infantry Regiment in the Artillery Aviation Liaison Unit. His deployment in Europe featured him in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, one of Adolf Hitler’s last German offensive campaigns, rescuing American soldiers along with his unit.
It was for these efforts Critelli was awarded with 3 Bronze Stars, the American Theater Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal and the Air Medal.
Critelli, who has never been to Washington, cannot wait to visit Arlington National Cemetery and partake in some of its traditions, he says.
“I’m so excited to go down there, I really am,” said Critelli. “It’s going to be amazing laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”
Upon his return to the states, Critelli said he went to college and became a teacher for 20 years. He completed his undergraduate degree from what was previously called the CCNY Engineering School, now the Grove School of Engineering. At New York University, he earned a graduate degree for education before teaching industrial arts and other subjects in Brooklyn.
On top of his education profession, Critelli’s passion also lies in music. A talented saxophonist, he holds a music degree from Five Towns College in Dix Hills and has been involved in bands and orchestras playing swing music since his time in the Army, including his own ‘Dominick Critelli and the Sound of Music Orchestra’.
During his time as a teacher, Critelli and a partner owned a construction business that built multiple houses in Floral Park and surrounding villages, he said.
Looking forward to October, Critelli, who has been a resident since 1956, says the recognition is a reflection of changing times. According to him, he’s seen a difference in how people thank and appreciate veterans over the past five to ten years.
“Today, there is so much excitement about the veterans,” Critelli said. ”Everybody I meet, and I mean everybody, they thank me for being a veteran. That’s never happened before.”
It’s the excitement he hopes to see in the nation’s capital when he’s admiring the monuments and reflecting on why he loves the country he served.
“I’m telling you I can’t wait to go, I really want to see those statues,” he said. “I love America, I will always love America.”