A Special Memorial Day Resident Highlight

Wellen Park resident and Vietnam Veteran Gary Spinazze (pictured right) served in the U.S. Navy between 1968 and 1972. As a “red shirt,” or ordancemen flight deck crewman, he spent his time onboard aircraft carriers performing the dangerous job of loading and unloading planes with bombs and missiles. 

“When you watch films and see planes fly over (crew) with planes taking off on either side, that was my job,” Mr. Spinazze says. “I armed the bombs and missiles and then de-armed the planes coming back. I didn’t realize until later how dangerous that was.”

As part of the A-7A Corsair squadron out of Lemoore, California, he worked on the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Mediterranean and the USS Oriskany in the Western Pacific, where he got hazardous duty pay and combat pay. The Oriskany was sunk as an artificial reef off the coast of Pensacola, not too far from where Mr. Spinazze now lives in Wellen Park.

Life After Vietnam

After his tour in the Vietnam War, Spinazze became a professional in the food industry. Over the course of his career, he held many reputable positions with various corporations and was even inducted into the Frozen Food Industry’s Hall of Fame in 2018.

Spinazze also has fond memories of being a defenseman with the Fresno Falcon, a minor league ice hockey team from California, and is an avid classic car collector. 

Mr. Spinazze stays active with veteran organizations. An avid classic car owner, he helped coordinate a Vettes for Vets car show that raised funds for the Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Port Charlotte. He has also supported Southwest Florida Honor Flight, helped raise funds for Tee It Up For The Troops with Plantation Golf and Country Club. Today, he helps veterans in Wellen Park’s IslandWalk community connect with benefits available through the VA system.

Wellen Park’s IslandWalk Neighborhood where Spinazze Lives.

Spinazze Today

After retiring in 2014, Spinazze continues to stay busy and advises others to do the same. “You’ve got to get off the couch,” he emphasizes. “Doctors say ‘motion is lotion.’ If you’re not active, you won’t age well.”

Spinazze currently lives in Wellen Park’s IslandWalk neighborhood, which has plenty of activities. Plus, there’s always something happening in our Wellen Park community, especially with the World Series-winning Atlanta Braves at CoolToday Park.

Mr. Spinazze enjoys spending time with his wife, Sara, as well as his son, daughter and grandchildren.

“There’s so much to do,” he says. “Don’t limit your options.”

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