Secretary William M. Matz Visits American Cemeteries in Italy

Secretary William M. Matz traveled to Italy last week, where he visited Florence American Cemetery and Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. Taking the helm of ABMC in January 2018, Matz has been working to not just understand the agency’s mission, but also gain insight into the day-to-day operational needs. While this overseas trip did focus on the vast requirements needed to maintain beautiful sites, it also included important time with cemetery staff.

“I spoke with the superintendents and the entire staff at both cemeteries,” said Matz. “We had a dialogue, and it was very inspiring for me to see the commitment they have to our cemeteries.” One specific highlight included presenting 35-year service awards to three staff members at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery: ​Gino Cupellaro, Gianni Monaco, and Ovidio Taurelli. Humbled by these dedicated men, Matz was honored to thank each of them personally, and learn about their decades-long commitment to ABMC.

These three men all began working at the cemetery in 1983, and have remained dedicated employees since that time. Cupellaro and Monaco are both expert hedge trimmers as well as gardeners. And Monaco is also an expert pruner. With more than eight kilometers of hedges in the cemetery, and numerous umbrella pines, the men spend significant amounts of time throughout the year trimming and pruning the trees and plants to maintain the level of perfection that has come to be expected at ABMC cemeteries. And for some of the staff, like Taurelli, the dedication to the site goes back further than 1983.

Considered an irrigation and plumbing specialist, Taurelli followed in the footsteps of his father, who worked at the cemetery for more than 40 years. He remembers placing flags at the headstones for Memorial Day as a boy. "I grew familiar with those crosses and what they represented,” said Taurelli.

Matz left Italy invigorated and inspired by the dedicated staff, confident America’s fallen are honored in a manner befitting their sacrifice.