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Overcoming adversity leads to promising Air Force future

Airman 1st Class Vito Amalfitano, storage management technician for the Joint Personal Property Shipping Office-Northeast at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., overcame significant challenges in his background to enter the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

Airman 1st Class Vito Amalfitano, storage management technician for the Joint Personal Property Shipping Office-Northeast at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., overcame significant challenges in his background to enter the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Linda LaBonte Britt)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Determination is a word often associated with the military. In the case of one young Airman, his determination led him to the Air Force to find the stability and family he was looking for.

Airman 1st Class Vito Amalfitano, currently a storage management technician, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., lived in Florida and Indiana, but doesn't refer to any of them as home.

"Growing up, it was not a happy life," he said, explaining some of the challenges he faced.

While living in Florida, his parents were using drugs, and then one of his younger brothers drowned. Two years later, his mother passed away and his father's decline got worse.

"It was a bad environment," Amalfitano said. "My father and older brother were con artists and into drugs; they would leave me and my little brother with no food."

Following an instance where he was held hostage by drug dealers at age 11, the Airman and his younger brother were placed into foster care in Florida. Although his aunts in New York tried to take care of both of them for a while, unfortunately, it did not work out.

While in foster care, Amalfitano hopped from home to home; he ended up going to six different middle schools. Despite that, he excelled as an "A" student. During this time, his father had been in and out of jail and got custody back when Amalfitano was in eighth grade.

False hopes

"He had gotten a house and I hoped things would be better," he said. "I got fooled by it."

Once again Amalfitano found himself in a bad situation. His older brother, who Amalfitano described as "a bully," was staying with them, along with the brother's girlfriend. The drug abuse continued, along with instances of domestic violence. Then, because the girlfriend's family was from Indiana, his brother decided the entire family would move there.

While in Indiana, his father and older brother befriended an elderly neighbor, whom they conned and abused in order to gain her social security checks.

For the Airman, his studies became his escape. He would go to his brother's girlfriend's grandparents' house and study until he had no choice but to go back.

A move to New York, with the entire family and the neighbor, took a toll on Amalfitano. Because they were living anyplace they could -- on the streets, out of a van, with people they didn't know who would take them in -- he had no permanent residence and ended up failing his classes.

Upon returning to Indiana, things got worse. There were overdoses, more domestic violence incidents and more abuse with the neighbor.

"I was never home," Amalfitano said. "I would stay with friends, stay out as late as possible and then leave early for school."

Amalfitano said he knew things were bad, but he was only 16 years old and afraid of his father and older brother. He was also scared where he might end up if placed back into foster care. But he knew the life he was living was not the one he wanted for himself. On his own, he was trying to do the things he needed to break free. He was working when he could, continuing his studies and attempting to take care of his younger brother.

Because of the incidents with the neighbor, the senior men in the family, along with his brother's girlfriend, went to jail charged with multiple crimes. Amalfitano, who was in foster care yet again, had to testify against them.

"It was a big case in Indiana and everything was out in the media," he said. "I would get in arguments in school about it."

Turning point

On his own, Amalfitano decided he needed to go to a school to help him excel in the future and enable him to leave this past behind. He chose Anderson Preparatory Academy because it was a small community, with more discipline and structure.

"It was also based on Air Force core values," he said. The APA website says the school is focused on academics, leadership and citizenship, and attendees are required to participate in JROTC.

For Amalfitano, it was the turning point he needed. While there, he ran the ROTC program as the commander-in-chief and in other leadership positions for more than 300 cadets. During this time, he also ended up being able to move in with his girlfriend's (who is now his wife) family. After completing grades 11 and 12 at APA and graduating with his solid "A's" back, Amalfitano struggled for more than a year to get into the military.

"Due to my background, I wasn't supposed to get in," he said. "I fought to get where I am today."

He maintains an entire book of recommendation letters written to help him and keeps in touch with two of his mentors from the Academy: Air Force retired Master Sgt. Charles Muston and Air Force retired Maj. Jeffrey Dorman. In fact, Dorman drove Amalfitano to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to fill out all the required paperwork.

"They had a major influence on where I am today and showed me who I wanted to be like," Amalfitano said. "I knew I didn't want the lifestyle I had seen; if I didn't enter the military, I'd probably be on that path. I want to be known and be somebody."

He currently works as a storage management technician here at Hanscom for the Joint Personal Property Shipping Office-Northeast. According to his NCOIC, he was the first in the transportation field to ace technical school with scores of 100 on all his tests.

"Airman Amalfitano is a motivated and eager Airman who is always willing to help out and make sure the job gets done," said Tech. Sgt. David Walls. "He's someone I can count on, and I know he has the fire power to excel."

Amalfitano says in the military it's "One team, one fight," and someone always has his back.

"I'm happy about everything that's happened because it's turned me into who I am today and I'm proud of that because of what I'm doing."

While in Indiana, Amalfitano said he was often perceived as part of "that family" and wanted his actions to reflect him personally. Well, now he can use his name in a positive light: Amalfitano, an American Airman.