Pete Valenti: A Veteran's Day Story
Freedom — a word each of us often take for granted, as Americans. As a citizen of this country, from the very first breath we take, we are given the opportunity to a quality of life that many around the world are unable to even remotely experience or fathom. Each of us owes gratitude to those that have made the sacrifice of their own lives, and the lives of their loved ones, in an attempt to ensure that others are able to enjoy the norms of everyday life in the United States of America.
As I was driving to North Alabama yesterday to enjoy the color changes of Fall, I was reminded that a freedom, even as simple as driving around our beautiful state, is made possible because of the sacrifices made by our veterans. As a photographer, I’m naturally drawn to storytelling. This year, I wanted to do something I’ve not yet had the opportunity to do. I wanted to select a veteran here in the Shelby County, Alabama area to provide a free portrait session to, as well as write a short highlight story of their life. I’m not so sure that I could have picked a better veteran and family to highlight this year. Actually, the selection was merely chance, as four individuals were nominated, and the Valenti family was selected by way of random selection. The moment Mr. Pete Valenti got out of his car, he walked straight to me and shook my hand, smiled, and introduced himself. It was at that time that I knew I had picked the perfect individual whose story I wanted to tell.
Mr. Pete Valenti has a smile that could brighten anyone's day.
Mr. Pete Valenti and his wife Patricia Valenti have been married for 62 years with 35 of those years being spent living in Shelby County, Alabama in Helena. The two have five children: Valerie Pat Mason, Cynthia Renee’ Stern, Nuzio Derek Valenti, Peter S. Valenti, Tonja Denise Jones. Of these children, they have have blessed Mr. and Mrs. Valenti with seven grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. Most of their family resides here in the Greater Birmingham region, but they also have family living in Alabama in Madison and Orange Beach, as well as Evans, Georgia.
If the name Valenti seems familiar to those of you that reside here in Helena, as I do, Mr. Valenti is the father of Helena Fire Chief Peter Valenti and Fire Captain Derek Valenti. Mr. Pete Valenti selflessly served his country through the United States Navy from 1956-1975 as a store keeper in the supply department achieving an E-6 rank. Mr. Valenti is originally from the Hammond, Louisiana area, but military has taken him to many parts of the world including: Hawaii, Japan, China, the Philippines, Enewetak Atoll, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, North Africa, Greece, Turkey, St. Thomas (Caribbean), Puerto Rico, Guantanamo Bay, and numerous locations stateside here in the United States. Mr. Valenti has literally been around the world — a few times.
When I asked Mr. Valenti what positive impact serving his country has had on him, he stated that pride of serving his country and the opportunity to create life long friendships with those that have come into his family’s life during his service tenure. When asked what his most memorable moment of his time spent in the military, he stated that he simply couldn’t limit it to just one event. “All my duty stations were special,” said Valenti,” from 3 aircraft carriers, (Hornet, Oriskany, and Intrepid), to service force ships, to submarines, to the Seabees, and even Operation Hardtack I, (testing of the three types of nuclear bombers). There was never a dull moment!” He also added that some of his most memorable moments were when the ships came into port and his family was there waiting for him. His oldest daughter was 4-months old before he was able to first see her, and he was only home for the birth for 2 or their 5 children.
Mr. Pete Valenti salutes for the camera.
So, for a man that has literally been around the world over a 19-year stint in the U.S. Navy, there has to be quite a number of professional and personal achievements that were earned over this timeframe; however, to Mr. Valenti, there was no better achievement that getting the opportunity to see those “young” and “wild” boys grow and mature into upstanding men before their departure from the U.S. Navy. The word “humbling” is the only word that comes my mind after seeing that response. Any man can stroke his own ego, taking credit for all the accomplishments and a life one’s lived to this point – it’s easy for each of us to do. The true character of a man shines bright when finding enjoyment in the pursuit to see others succeed and grow as individuals, and Mr. Pete Valenti is the epitomy of true leader and great man.
I find it amazing that we dedicate an entire day to come together as a country to honor and pay respects to those that have given us the opportunity to live freely in the greatest country on the planet; however, I believe that we should all take each opportunity received to thank those men and women who served, are serving, or are about to serve regardless of whether it’s Veteran’s Day or not. Each of our service men and women could have made a plethora of choices in life, but they admirably and selflessly chose a path of dedicating their own life in order to improve the lives of those around them. I can’t thank you enough, Mr. Valenti. Without those like you, life as we know it, wouldn’t exist for those of us living here. God Bless you, and the United States of America. HOOYAH!!
Mr. Pete Valenti and his wife of 62 years, Patricia Valenti.
I came to know Mr. Pete when I came to Helena First Baptist Church,When join the Church the next week I got a card from Mr.Pete telling that He was my Deacon I have come to love Mr.Pete & Mrs Pat a lot I will always remember Mr.Pete as long He lived.
Thank You for your service Sir !
I'm so glad you were chosen to be highlighted.
Thank you Dad, for your service and everything else. Love you!
Thanks to JS Raines Photography.
Thank you for this wonderful story about my Uncle Pete!
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