World War II U.S. Navy veteran Ted Giannone has lived an extraordinary life. Born in 1922 to Italian immigrant parents in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York, he enlisted in the military at 17 and went on to serve in the Pacific Theater as an airplane mechanic and aerial gunner.
After retiring from military service, as well as a successful decades-long career in the aerospace industry, Giannone moved to Arizona in 1997. These days, he enjoys life to the fullest with his family, which includes three children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
One of Giannone’s grandchildren is Scott McNulty, a U-Haul National Sales manager. A few months ago, as Giannone was approaching his 100th birthday, McNulty and Russ Baldwin, U-Haul Self-Storage Affiliate Program Director, began to discuss this incredible milestone.
“After I told Russ about my grandpa and his record of military service, he told me, ‘Your grandpa is a WWII veteran and a hero. I think it would be great for U-Haul to honor that,’” McNulty recalled. “He then asked me, ‘Have you thought about celebrating his birthday here at the U-Haul Midtown Campus?’ I was shocked and honored that this could even be a possibility.”
“I felt like U-Haul could and should play a role in Ted’s special occasion, especially since U-Haul was co-founded by a WWII veteran,” Baldwin added. “My grandpa was a WWII veteran as well. I think it’s important to thank veterans for their service. Without them, we wouldn’t have the many freedoms that we all enjoy.”
Honoring a Hero
Once McNulty and Baldwin finalized a day for Giannone to visit the U-Haul Midtown Campus, they reached out to U-Haul Community Relations for help in creating an unforgettable birthday experience.
“They and U-Haul graphic designers worked together to design a gigantic birthday card with a U.S. Navy SuperGraphic on the front, which Team Members around the U-Haul Midtown Campus signed and filled with encouraging messages,” McNulty said. “In addition, they created another giant card with a biography of my grandpa’s life and military service on it, which I thought was amazing.”
When Giannone arrived at the Midtown Campus, he was treated to a delicious lunch from the U-Haul Café, courtesy of U-Haul Self-Storage Affiliate (USSAN) Program Manager Carly Castillo. After receiving the cards and meeting several U-Haul Team Members, including CEO Joe Shoen, Giannone embarked on a campus tour and saw the Shoen Center.
“My favorite part of the event was seeing how happy Ted was,” Castillo said. “His whole face lit up as Joe and other Team Members came by to say hi and chat with him. It was a sweet and special moment.”
“Grandpa visited the floor where I work, and it was a lot of fun to see how much he enjoyed looking at all the cubicles, the view from all the windows and all the other things that I sometimes take for granted,” McNulty said. “He was so proud of me and so excited to be there, that it made me feel more grateful than ever to be a part of Team U-Haul.”
Gratitude and Pride
Giannone has a difficult time picking a “favorite part” of his U-Haul birthday celebration.
“It was all so tremendous,” Giannone cheered. “It was a real privilege to be there. I got to see Mr. Shoen and shake his hand, and I received a huge display of beautiful cards. I didn’t deserve all that attention. I think U-Haul is a very fine company. They have a great employer-employee relationship. They take care of their people. I told Scott to work hard and give his all when he joined U-Haul. I’m so proud of all the success that he’s had since then.”
Regarding his military service, Giannone remains modest.
“Whenever people say that I’m a hero for fighting in WWII, I tell them that millions of men and women from my generation did the exact same thing,” Giannone said. “If I could tell people to do one thing for veterans, it would be to be proud of the life that you have. There are definite problems in the world. But we are lucky to live in a country that has many great things going for it, and veterans fought and died to make that possible. They’d want all of us to be proud of that.”
Read more stories about U-Haul Company’s commitment to veterans by clicking here.