Air Force Reservist Jim Vigilante, former Township Council member and current owner of Independent Construction Enterprises of Parsippany, recently received the call he knew was coming. On Father's Day, he must travel to Afghanistan, where he will work loading and unloading supplies for troops in the field. As he prepared to make his journey, Vigilante graciously sat down with Patch to talk about his trip, the effect on his family and his service.
Patch: First, how is your family taking the upcoming deployment?
Vigilante: It’s tough. My mom is here in Parsippany—we’ve always lived here. She’s recently been through gall bladder surgery and she has been going through shingles. My daughter, Ashlee, is 23 years old. She’s not happy about it, either.
Patch: Can you tell me a little bit about your military background and your current role?
Vigilante: I am in the 35th Aerial Port Squadron, based out of McGuire Air Force Base in South Jersey. I’ve been in the military for over 19 years; the last 10 years I’ve been with this squadron. I’ve done short tours before, but this is my first time deploying to a combat zone.
I just got a promotion and will be first sergeant of the medical clinic. I report to the commander. I load and unload cargo airplanes, which includes passengers, products or vehicles. I can’t get into much detail there.
Patch: Can you share a little about the people in your squadron? Is it mostly the same crew all the time?
Vigilante: There’s high turnover. I would say 50 percent of the people will be new to me. We have people from all walks of life—men, women, single parents, students, policemen, firemen, teachers, IT guys, business owners, corporate accountants and lawyers.
Patch: Were you surprised that you were headed to Afghanistan?
Vigilante: No. I knew it was only a matter of time, before I was called.
Patch: What was your time commitment in the reserves and how long will you stay in it?
Vigilante: One weekend each month, plus two weeks out of each year. I will stay in another 14 years.
Patch: What is the hardest thing about deploying?
Vigilante: The hardest thing for me is getting out of town. I have my own construction business. My partner, Cindy Malinchak, will be handling it while I’m away.
Patch: What can you take with you?
Vigilante: Pretty much zero personal belongings. Well...socks and underwear. That’s about it.
Patch: Nothing sentimental?
Vigilante: Actually, yes. The principal from North Vail Elementary School gave me a couple hundred letters to give to the guys. Some are pretty funny. Let me read a couple to you:
“Now that the guy with the funny name is gone, hope you’ll be home sooner.”
“Hope your gun is bigger than their gun.”
“Were you in WWI or WWII?”
There’s one other thing. Cheryl Doltz, the mother of Army National Guard Sgt. Ryan Doltz of Mine Hill, whose son was killed when his armored vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb, gave me a flag to take over there. I will fly it in his honor.
Patch: What is your most memorable military experience?:
Vigilante: That would be my first tour of duty. I was just out of high school. Eighteen years old. I sat on the ground in missile silos for 30 hours at a time, waiting. Luckily, I never had to turn the key. But, that was my schedule—30 hours in a missile silo, then four days off, then repeat.
Patch: Thank you so much for your time and for what you’re doing for our country. Can you leave us with a thought about what we, as citizens, can do or give to support our service men and women?
Vigilante: Just send some love.
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