Jeannette native, N.C. transplant to be honored with Red Cross ‘Salute to Heroes’ award
Forty-seven years after he flew a helicopter in Vietnam, Jeannette native Jim Guidone still gets sent into the thick of the battle.
As recently as last week, he was dispatched to areas of his adopted home state of North Carolina damaged by Hurricane Florence. His first assignment as a public affairs volunteer for the American Red Cross was Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“I really felt as though I had lived a lucky life,” Guidone said. “I just thought it was time to pay back.”
On Monday, Guidone, 71, of Greensboro, N.C., will be one of 10 people honored by the American Red Cross of the Piedmont Triad with a “Salute to Heroes” award. Although he has 13 years’ experience as a Red Cross volunteer, he will be recognized specifically for his military service during the Vietnam War.
Piedmont Triad Chapter board member James Schrum said Guidone was reluctant to draw attention to himself but “may look on (the award) as an opportunity to make sure Vietnam veterans get the recognition they deserve.”
Guidone grew up in Jeannette, the son of Anthony and Helen Guidone. He graduated from Jeannette Senior High School in 1965.
“It was mostly a blue-collar city with a lot of vibrant factories,” Guidone recalled. “It was a town where everybody knew everybody. It was just a great place to grow up. You walked everywhere. You played until dark or until your mom called.”
Guidone went to Youngstown State University, where he was a four-year Army ROTC student and graduated with a psychology degree in 1969. Upon graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant.
Guidone attended helicopter school at Fort Walters, Texas, and graduated from Advanced Flight School at Fort Rucker, Ala., in September 1970. He was sent to Vietnam the following month, where he was assigned to the 1 st Cavalry Division, 227 th Aviation Battalion, as a “Huey” helicopter pilot.
He earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses for rescue missions he flew within three months of each other in 1971. On the second mission, he also earned a Purple Heart for injuries suffered while attempting to rescue a fellow helicopter unit.
After his tour in Vietnam, Guidone was assigned to Fort Knox, Ky., where he met his wife, Judy. He entered the business world as a sales manager and moved to Greensboro in 2001 to become president of Novartis Animal Health.
Guidone got into Red Cross volunteer work in 2005, training as a disaster relief worker and public affairs officer. He normally deploys out of Washington, D.C., for major national disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires.
As a public affairs officer, he provides information about Red Cross programs and conducts interviews with national and international media outlets.
Among the disasters he has been sent to are Hurricanes Katrina (2005), Sandy (2012), Matthew (2016) and Irma (2017); California wildfires; the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 firefighters in Arizona; the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that killed 29 miners in West Virginia; and the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Guidone returns to Jeannette at least once a year to visit cousins. Twelve years ago, he established the Helen and Anthony Guidone Scholarship Fund, which gives a $10,000 scholarship to a Jeannette High School graduating senior every year.
“He’s a phenom,” said Angelo DeMezza, who has been friends with Guidone since the first grade. “Jim Guidone is one of the best people on this earth. He is truly an American hero in every sense of the word.”
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.