VICENZA, Italy – For the fifth consecutive year, U.S. Soldiers teamed up with local associations for a cleanup of the Monte Berico arcades and the area leading up to the Santuario della Madonna di Monte Berico, one of the most visited landmarks in town.
Starting in early morning of Aug. 26, nearly 40 volunteers from the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) along with military leaders and family members from the Vicenza military community took part in the annual event with members of the Alpini groups of Vicenza and the Order of Malta to ready the site for the upcoming festivities of the patron saint “Virgin Mary of Monte Berico” and the arrival of thousands of pilgrims from all over the region on Sept. 8.
“Monte Berico is a very special place to the military community here in Vicenza,” said Lt. Col. Corbett Baxter, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, who volunteered at the event.
Baxter said that Soldiers regularly use the steps of Monte Berico to stay in shape.
“It is definitely a place that, if you spent any time in Vicenza as a Soldier, you’ll remember, and so we are really happy to be here. We love to participate in these events, give our time and to be good partners with our Alpini brothers and with the community of Vicenza,” Baxter continued.
Roberto Tovo, group leader and Alpini sectional councilor of Monte Berico explained that for 20 years the Alpini have been cleaning the area before the holiday.
“In Vicenza we are 12 groups and every year we rotate members of three Alpini groups. Since 2018, there has been collaboration with the Soldiers, but this year in particular is significant because, in addition to having more volunteers, it was nice to see they were also accompanied by their families,” he said.
Tovo also highlighted the presence of the SETAF-AF commander, the highest authority who showed a connection between the two communities.
“The people of Vicenza always make us feel welcome, and occasions like that of today is a good opportunity to help and work side by side with the Alpini, who are always ready to help,” said SETAF-AF Commanding General Maj. Gen. Todd Wasmund.
“It allows us to strengthen our relationships and our genuine friendship.”
During a break, Vicenza Mayor Giacomo Possamai joined the volunteers at the site and thanked them for their efforts and partnership.
“Again, this year they are giving us this important voluntary activity. It is a precious intervention that prepares the path to the sanctuary of Monte Berico for the passage of the many pilgrims and tourists expected during the days of our local Festa dei Oto,” Possamai said.