Camp Smith Training Site, Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. – For Steven and Tabitha Demestrio having their daughter baptized by a military chaplain, at a military chapel, just made sense.
So, on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, 16-month old Gianna Demestrio, the daughter of New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Steven Demestrio, and Spec. Tabitha Demestrio, was baptized by Chaplain (Capt.) Joseph Marcoux at the Guard’s Camp Smith Training Site near Peekskill, New York in the Hudson Valley.
Having Marcoux perform this ceremony at the post where they serve was fitting because of the role the New York Army National Guard plays in their lives, the couple said.
“Though it's hard at times with my husband being away or I've been away. Our children have really adapted to how important it is to serve our country and how important it is to serve God at the same time,” said Tabitha Demestrio, who serves in the 206th Military Police Company.
“So now, adding our youngest into that mix, it makes it feel like more of a close-knit military family,” she added.
Steven Demestrio, who now serves in Joint Force Headquarters, used to serve as the religious affairs specialist assisting Marcoux, who is the commander of the 138th Chaplain Detachment.
The two men have remained close, so he asked Marcoux to perform the baptism for their daughter, Demestrio explained.
Marcoux said he was thrilled when asked to perform the baptism and saw the perfect opportunity to conduct it at the newly renovated Duffy Chapel.
“It was very humbling and very honorable to do this for them,” Marcoux said.
“The experience of doing the first baptism that's been done in Duffy Chapel…was powerful, [it] was really great. The fact that this is a military family, and they did it on a military base, really felt like family,” he said.
The Demestrios were joined by Gianna’s godparents, Marco Litchfield and Fior Kinne.
As far as he knows, it’s the first baptism held at the training site’s chapel, Marcoux said.
The Duffy Chapel is named for New York Army National Guard Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Francis Duffy.
A Catholic priest known as “Father Duffy” to history and the Soldiers of the 69th Infantry Regiment, Duffy distinguished himself during his World War I service with the regiment in France.
He received the French Croix de Guerre and the Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Service Medal. After the war he served as the pastor of New York City’s Holy Cross Church and was remembered after his death with statue in Times Square.
New York National Guardsmen have been training at Camp Smith since 1882. The site was named for Governor Al Smith in 1919.