Guido Filippone has already raised nearly $14,000 since May 16 for the remaining medical costs of a World War II veteran he met in his local Veterans Affairs (VA) office parking lot.
Filippone was just leaving his appointment when he spotted an elderly man towing his walker through the parking lot under a blistering Texas sun. The Marine “immediately approached him and thanked him for his service” but remained concerned for the old soldier’s well-being.
Mike Gazella was his name. “We got to talking and he told me he was drafted into the Army and he was stationed in Germany as the war was ending,” Filippone said. He also learned the reason for Gazella’s trek to the Veterans Affairs office. After numerous operations, Gazella hoped the VA would cover the costs that Medicare had not. The total was about $4,000.
“If I had a checkbook, I would have given the money to him right there. I wouldn’t want a World War II vet to move on to the next phase of life in debt,” Filippone said. But when he offered to help, Gazella refused.
That is when Filippone decided to offer American citizens the chance to support a hero in the winter of his years. He set up a GoFundMe campaign that has already been funded by more than 350 people and surpassed its goal by nearly $10,000 at press time. Donations are still being accepted.
As to how Filippone will get the money to Gazella, he has a plan: “I have to track this guy down. I know he goes to Starbucks every day in Leander—there’s only two Starbucks in Leander. I’m going to go to both, ask around and give him a check,” he said.
Mike Gazella is one of roughly 550,000 World War II veterans still living, but their numbers dwindle every day. We are expected to lose the last of them within the next decade. “It’s nice to give back when you can,” Filippone concluded. “I always say we already have the Greatest Generation — we should be the better generation. Never miss a chance to thank a veteran.”