Flag Flies for Richard J. Mongiello Sr.

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In continuing its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to U.S. Marine Richard Mongiello Sr. by flying an American flag in his honor throughout the month of September.

“The district is proud to honor Mr. Mongiello for his bravery and service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen. 

Mongiello was recognized at a ceremony held Sept. 11 at Hampton Bays Elementary School, where fourth graders honored him alongside the heroes of 9/11. The students read his biography and recited patriotic poems that they had penned for the occasion. The event culminated with the raising of the flag on the school’s flagpole. 

Mongiello served the nation in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1957 to 1966. Born in the Bronx in 1940, he attended Evander Childs High School and played both basketball and baseball. In 1957, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in aviation at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. He attended basic training at Parris Island in South Carolina and, after graduating from there in December 1958, was assigned to work with the provost marshal.

In 1959, the Marines transferred him to the Jacksonville Naval Air Station for “A” school as an aviation mechanic, where he served with Attack Squadron VFA 131. Shortly after that assignment, he returned to Floyd Bennett Field as a corporal for additional training in aircraft maintenance.

After he was released from active duty, Mongiello served in the Marine Corps Reserve from 1959 to 1966 as an aviation mechanic. The Reserve aviation units were on standby for protection of the homeland and had to be prepared for immediate deployment in support of Marine operations anywhere in the world. Mongiello was responsible for keeping the planes ready and in full combat efficiency.

He recalls two incidents while on guard duty at Parris Island, one in which he had to detain several drill instructors against their will and another in which he assisted four aviation officers — a full bird colonel, a light colonel and two majors — in getting to the airfield tower after a flight incident. Military protocol aside, these were no small accomplishments for a corporal.

On a lighter note, Mongiello recalls how the food at Jacksonville was not the best, and how he had to deal with those pesky cockroaches that called Florida their home.

He was honorably discharged from the service in February 1966.  

As a civilian, Mongiello used his Marine Corps experience at Con Edison for 35 years, working his way up from a mechanic to an inspector. In addition to working and raising a family, he was very active in supporting the East End community by serving on the board of directors and eventually as president of Joshua’s Place, a healing and recovery organization founded by his wife, Patricia. She passed away in 1997, and in her honor, Mongiello started a memorial scholarship fund for graduates at Southampton and Hampton Bays high schools.

Mongiello remarried in 2002, and he and his wife, Gerri, have worked together to support American Legion activities. Gerri served in a leadership role with the American Legion Auxiliary and raised more than $16,000 to support Iraqi War veteran families on Long Island. Mongiello was the post commander and a member of the Color Guard for 15 years, and he continues to be active in the Knights of Columbus, as well as with the Holy Name Society at the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays.

Mongiello’s big claim to fame is that he never gets the birth dates mixed up for his 18 grandchildren ranging in age from 9 to 25 — perhaps a testament to his Marine Corps training for attention to detail.