Joe Smaldino is all things Youngstown. Born and raised in Youngstown, Joe was in his first year at Youngstown State University when he decided he wanted to enlist in the Army.
“I knew I needed to do something more, but I didn’t know what that was at the time,” Joe says. “The events of 9/11 a year prior during my senior year in high school are what drove me to want to serve.”
Joe did his training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. and the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Miss.
“During my final weeks of training, we received deployment orders to Iraq,” he recalls. “We came in right as they had captured Saddam and deployed to the same location he was found.”
During his tour in Iraq, Joe’s engineering unit performed repairs on bridges and runways. A highlight was building a chapel on base for prayer and worship.
But there are other things he remembers.
“I gained a real appreciation for the brotherhood we had within our team, and it was life-changing to see the culture of those living in another country,” he shares. “We would see kids playing soccer with a rock and just to have a ball was something we rarely saw them with. We are so blessed in what we have.”
Just last month, Joe reunited with a fellow veteran from his unit in Iraq.
“He is a superintendent for a local school district, and we picked right up where we left off,” Joe says. “You forever have someone you’re connected with from your deployment together, despite nearly 20 years later.”
“Because of my time in the military, I very clearly know we have to trust and rely on each other to get us through really difficult times,” Joe shares. “There is a bigger purpose to our lives in our service to others, whether that is our country, our patients or our associates. We impact lives daily.”
He continues, “I feel very clearly the dignity of each individual person regardless of the circumstance. You never know what one person is going through that brought them to where they are. There is no judgement.”
Joe feels his current role is a good fit for him for many reasons. He enjoys that the work our ministry does as a bigger impact than ourselves. Plus, Joe gets to serve leaders across Youngstown and Lorain and help them prepare and plan for big picture change as well as gets to see every aspect of the ministry.
“What I see in the cross-market leadership team is we put our Mission first. We did that in the military, and we do that in the ministry,” he shares. “Two different missions, but a similar mindset. My favorite part of the ministry is that we get to share our faith and understand the faith of others, it is something you cannot get in any other type of organization.”
Joe and his wife have a blended family of four children, ages 18, 13, 12 and 10. His time in the military doesn’t often come up, but the kids know, especially the youngest.
“My youngest asks about it the most and wants to know about the experience,” Joe says. “He takes a lot of pride in the military and when we see veterans, he goes up and thanks them for their service and shakes their hand. He has a lot of honor for those that have served.”
Maybe he gets that from his dad.
Thank you to Joe as well as all our other veteran team members for your service to our country. Read more stories about our veteran team members.
Also, learn more about the health care services we offer at Mercy Health.