Dennis “Gunny” Antonino isn’t one to brag about himself, but a lifelong commitment to serving others has gained him quite a few fans willing to do it for him. After receiving numerous recommendations from those who’ve worked with him over the years, VSC has recognized Antonino as its 2017 Veteran of the Year.
Each fall, the VSC presents the Veteran of the Year award to a Summit County veteran who displays selflessness through service to their community, non-profit organizations and other veterans. Dedicating countless hours of his time volunteering with various veteran-oriented and other local organizations, Antonino has earned a reputation as someone reluctant to be celebrated for doing the right thing.
“Gunny is the perfect example of what a veteran is and a ‘veteran helping other veterans,’” wrote Robert Casto, retired United States Marine Corps (USMC) master sergeant in one of many nomination letters. “Gunny deserves this honor from his fellow veterans because of his unselfishness – Gunny never seeks praise or recognition for any of his efforts.”
True to form, when asked how he felt about receiving the award, Antonino said other local veterans were more deserving.
“I know a few people who I think deserve this award more than I do,” he said. “There are other people who do a lot for veterans, and every time I’m at a function I see them there, too.”
Antonino served in the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve for 20 years between 1962 and 1985, retiring as an honorably discharged gunnery sergeant. While enlisted, he worked full time for the City of Akron’s traffic engineering department, managing a road construction crew.
He filled his free time supporting the efforts of organizations such as the Marine Corps League, Summit County Stand Down for Homeless and Displaced Veterans, Toys for Tots, the Salvation Army, the National Super Kids Classic Soap Box Derby and the Young Marines youth program, among others. He also spent eight years driving disabled Summit County veterans to Iowa and back for the National Disabled Veterans TEE (Training, Exposure, Experience) Tournament golf outing and has routinely planted cemetery flags and attended funerals for fallen soldiers.
“The opportunity arose to help out, and I never had anything that prevented me from doing it,” Antonino said of his volunteerism efforts over the years. “It felt good being able to work with and help with kids and doing stuff with the VA, like taking blind veterans out for the TEE Tournament.”
Antonino also has been an active member of American Legion Post 281 in Cuyahoga Falls for 35 years and currently serves as post commander. Ask him why he dedicates so much time helping other veterans, and he’ll tell you: “Most of my friends are veterans.”
And most of Antonino’s veteran friends know him as a man who always goes above and beyond the call of duty.
“Through the many years of service and volunteerism, he has always been a shining example of rising to a higher standard,” wrote Raymond Dray, a retired gunnery sergeant who served with Antonino in the USMC Forces Reserve. “Marine Antonino has brought honor to the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps reserve program.”
Photo: Veterans Service Commission