Vietnam vet and long time Statue of Liberty "keeper of the flame" urges others to serve their communities
Added 11-11-19 12:13:02am EST - “Charlie DeLeo volunteers four days a week at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. His duties across the decades on Liberty Island were varied: Changing lightbulbs inside the 42-foot arm holding the statue's torch aloft. Painting…” - Nydailynews.com
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The 71-year-old DeLeo recently gazed upon his longtime love from the Manhattan side of the Hudson River: The Statue of Liberty. Forty-seven years ago, after coming home from Southeast Asia, he made a vow inside the New York Harbor landmark that he’s kept ever since.
“I said (to God), ‘If you can do something special with my life, I’ll honor and glorify your name,’” recounted DeLeo. “I believe God spared my in life in Vietnam. He was preserving my life so that I could be the keeper of the flame.”
And so he remains, still volunteering four days a week at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. His duties across the decades on Liberty Island were varied: Changing lightbulbs inside the 42-foot arm holding the statue’s torch aloft. Painting the crown. Scaling the copper exterior — and even rescuing injured seagulls that crashed into its windows.
DeLeo, sporting a blue Vietnam Veterans baseball cap, shares some photos from the long relationship: One shows him standing alongside the Lady’s flame as the twin towers of the World Trade Center rise in the background. A post-9/11 shot captures him atop the flame with the new One World Trade Center behind him.
The Lower East Side native volunteered as a Marine during the Vietnam War, earning a Purple Heart when a mortar shell hit his base. When he came home, DeLeo paid an immediate visit to the Statue of Liberty in his dress blues, sprinting up the stairs to the observation deck.
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