National Awards
2019 Award Recipients

2019 Philip Mazzei Americanism Award Grand Patriot Danny Prince

In 1973 Danny Prince joined the FDNY and was assigned to Ladder 156 in Midwood Brooklyn, where he served for 23 years. He later was assigned to Safety Battalion 2 and then Battalion 1 from which he retired. Danny holds positions in organizations including NYS Knights of Columbus,FDNY Holy Name Society, FDNY Columbia Association, FDNY Anchor Club and the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance

Prior to joining the FDNY, Danny served in the US Navy in 1967, then the Coast Guard Reserves, He served a total of 39 years He is proud to be involved with the Wounded Warrior Project and Hope for the Warriors Foundation

Danny knew something had to be done regarding 22 daily suicides amongst soldiers coming back from war. An Iraq veteran, Boone Cutler, had come up with the Spartan Pledge. The pledge is a commitment among veterans not to take their own lives but rather stand for their fellow soldiers in times of despair.

Danny is also a Director at Camp4Heros, a retreat for life, love and respect to promote healing. He is on the Board of Directors of the NY Firefighters Burn Center. To date the Foundation has raised and distributed more than Fifteen million dollars at a rate of $500,000 a year. Danny sits on the Board for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation as well as Friends for Firefighters Organization. He is proud to be the Treasurer of The FDNY Fire Family Transport, working in times of need transporting firefighters, family members and department personnel to and from medical institutions.

Danny works with The Gary Sinise Foundation. Its mission is to honor our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families in need. The Foundation is responsible for building 70 specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded heroes.

The Queensboro Chapter was introduced to Danny through the Independence Fund which supplies custom Trak Chairs to disabled Vets at a cost of approximately $17,000 each. To date the Queensboro Chapter has donated three chairs. Danny has also introduced us to Cyndi Ventura, founder of Angel Bikes. These bikes are custom made for disabled/injured vets. The bike cost $4,000 each. Danny brought Cyndi to a general Chapter meeting for a presentation. The members were so moved that enough money was raised that night for four bikes

Danny is responsible for recommending the Chapter collect books and DVDs for service men and women at Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland. Danny generously drives all the donations to the Hospital.

He feels blessed to have a wife Deborah, two children, Daniel and Heather, and five grandchildren. Danny epitomizes our motto “Service Above Self”. He has served his country, a career in public service as well as donating his time for many charitable and philanthropic causes. For all these reasons Danny is truly deserving of UNICO National’s Americanism Award.

2019 Joseph P. Cianci Humanitarian Award: Richard Montalbano


Richard Montalbano, Sr. , a knight grand cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, also is a past Grand Knight and District Deputy of the Knights of Columbus and a past Regional Director and Grand Commander of the Order of Alhambra.

He has served for nearly 40 years as the curator of the Crypt of the Saints, a shrine at Visitation Parish in Elmhurst that contains roughly 700 religious statues, icons and relics of saints and a library of more than 600 books. His lifelong devotion to the saints as protectors and intercessors also led him to author a book on a topic that lists hundreds of saints and their patronages.

Richard is a 34 year member and a past president of the Chicago West Suburban Chapter of UNICO National. Montalbano is a founding member and trustee of the Westlake Health Foundation and an advisory board member of Touch My Heart.

He has been honored by countless organizations including the Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Club; ASPIRE of Illinois, Ray Graham Association and the Bellwood Chamber of Commerce.

Richard’s life and career clearly exemplify what the Cianci Humanitarian Award was created to represent and it demonstrates why he was chosen to receive this most prestigious UNICO Award.

2019 Cavaliere Joseph Coccia, Jr. Heritage, Language and Culture Award: John F. Cavelli


John Cavelli has spent his life "Passing the Torch" which is the essence of the Joseph Coccia, Jr. Award. John is the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a global conservation organization headquartered at the Bronx Zoo dedicated to saving wildlife in wild places. John has also dedicated his life in preserving the Italian language and culture.  As an active member of the Italian American community, he has served as President of the Italian National Honor Society at Fordham University and upon his graduation formed FIERI, a national organization of students and young professionals dedicated to promoting Italian American culture and heritage.  He subsequently became the longest serving Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations and continues to serve as their Chair Emeritus. 

2019 Marconi Award Winner: Dr. Federico Capasso

Federico Capasso was born in 1949 Rome Italy, the son of Giuseppe Capasso, and Maria Luisa Usellini.

When he was seven, his father gave him, as a gift, a book for kids illustrated by Walt Disney “Our Friend the Atom”; it was love at first sight! He decided to become a physicist and never wavered. However, he never showed an early talent for science and never stood out in school for math and science skills. What attracted him to physics was the excitement for discovery. Things changed when he went to the University of Rome where he gained confidence in his abilities and eventually earned a Doctorate in Physics in 1973. His first job was a high school teacher; then after a two-year stint at a telecommunication institute, he landed a nine-month Rotary Foundation fellowship to spend at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, the premier industrial physics laboratory. Bell Labs is an unequaled institution, in terms of the quality and quantity of discoveries and inventions, not to mention its eight Nobel Prizes in Physics. What started as a short term adventure in 1976, ended up into a 27 year career from postdoctoral fellow to Vice President of Physics research. Highlights of his research at Bell Labs were the design of a new class of artificial man-made materials that led him to the invention of a new laser, ‘the quantum cascade laser’, nowadays widely commercialized for many applications ranging from chemical sensing and medical diagnostics to defense and security.

       In 2003, Dr. Capasso joined Harvard as a professor of applied physics. His horizons have expanded to other areas of science and technology and has started two companies based on his laser inventions and that of flat lenses, which hold promise for revolutionizing optics from cell phones to cameras. He loves teaching and experimenting with new educational approaches that go beyond traditional top down instructions.

      His family, his dear wife Paola of 42 years and his daughters Luisa and Marta, with the four grand-children Nico, Mattia, Leo and Luca, are his fan club and he will always be grateful to them for their support and for not taking him too seriously.  Coming to America was a youthful dream and Paola always encouraged him to go for it! What an incredible ride it was!

       He has lived the American dream and therefore as an Italian American, he is very grateful to UNICO National for the Marconi Award, which connects his life and experience across two continents.

2019 Louis Attilio DeFillipo An American Hero Award: Joseph M. Belardo, Sr. 

   Joe is the 2018 recipient of National Jefferson Award, one of America’s most prestigious awards presented to him on June 2, 2018 for Lifetime Volunteer Service.

   Joe was drafted into the Army in October 1966 and was sent to Ft. Hood, Texas for basic training and advanced individual training. In August 1967, he was sent to Vietnam and was assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion (Twin 40 mm - Automatic Weapons – Self Propelled) 44th Artillery, and better known as “Dusters”. His unit was deployed to Vietnam as the 3rd Marine Division’s mobile combat fighting team and body recovery unit under Marine control.  The 1st Battalion 44th Artillery was one of the most decorated combat units in Vietnam.

   Joe and his crew of Duster C131 hold the distinct honor of twenty-seven combat missions and being the last to leave the finally abandoned Khe Sanh Combat Base. Joe was discharged in August 1968 with the rank of Sergeant E5.

   Joe’s combat medals include the Bronze Star w/Valor, Purple Hearts, Gallantry Cross with Palm, Marine Combat Action Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal, both the Army and Marine Presidential Unit Citations, Valorous Unit Awards, and Meritorious Unit Commendations.

   Joe is married to Nancy Painton Belardo and has three children; Mary, Joseph Jr., and Patrick and four grandchildren. Nancy and Joe will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary on December 7, 2018.

   He is the New Jersey State Commander of Military Order of the Purple Heart and Middlesex County Commander. Joe has been inducted into the Order of the Four Chaplains and the South Plainfield High School Hall of Fame. He is a very active board member of his Vietnam combat organization - The National Dusters, Quads and Searchlights Association. He is the past President of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 233. He is member of VFW Post 6763, American Legion Post 243 and Disabled American Veterans. Joe previously served as a board member of the New Jersey Vietnam Memorial and Education Center. He was an original member of Victims of Agent Orange, the predecessor of the first Agent Orange Commission.  His Agent Orange group was the moving force to have the U.S. Congress recognize and treat the medical needs of Vietnam Veterans. They discovered fifty carcinogenic illnesses related to various chemical defoliants sprayed in Vietnam. He received the Army Artillery Saint Barbara’s Award in 2017.

   He has appeared in two television Documentaries: the Learning Channel “The Soldiers’ Story” and the Fox Network History program “Vietnam War with Oliver North”.

   Joe is an author and has published “Dusterman – Story of the Last Great Gunfighters” which is based on his diary and memoirs of his combat experiences in Vietnam. He has also been published in “The Soldiers’ Story – Vietnam in Their Own Words”, Vietnam Magazine – “Dusters’ Battle for Route 9”, “The Khe Sanh Book of Poetry” and the Khe Sanh Vets’ Magazine “Red Clay”.

   In 2013, he represented all Vietnam Veterans as the honorary Grand Marshal in the National Memorial Day Parade held in Washington, DC.

  Joe is proud of his Italian heritage and has been a resident of South Plainfield for 62 years. His family began residing in Plainfield. N.J. in 1899.

Joe was born on June 21, 1947 and is the son of Giuseppe Belardo and Mary Delli Poali.

2019 Basilone Freedom Award: Steven Ricafort

This year’s Basilone Freedom Award recipient is Marine Corporal Steven Richard Ricafort, who served in Fallujah during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Steven Ricafort was born in Quezon a small suburb  of Manila in the Philippines, Ironic that John Basilone for whom this award is named was first sent to the Philippines while he was in the U S Army and earned the nickname  “Manila John”.

Along with his mother , father and two sisters,  Steven Ricafort  came to America and settled in Bogota NJ ,where he soon after joined the United States Marine Corp.   He  became  part of the 11th MEU   (Marine Expeditionary Unit) . The Marine Expeditionary Unit is a Marine Air Ground Task Force with a strength of about 2,200 personnel. The MEU consists of a command  element, a reinforced infantry battalion, a composite helicopter squadron and a logistics combat element.

From 2004  to 2005 Corporal Ricafort was part of Operation Phantom Fury, more commonly known as Operation Iraqi Freedom .   This mission  was led by the U.S. Marines and U.S Army against the Iraqi insurgency stronghold in the city of Fallujah. The U.S. military called it  "some of the heaviest urban combat U.S. Marines and Soldiers have been involved in since the Battle of Huế City in Vietnam in 1968

. For his service to our Nation Marine Ricafort  was awarded  the Global War on Terrorism Medal ,  the Navy Combat Action Ribbon ,the   Marine Corp. Achievement Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon , the  National Defense Service Medal, a  Good Conduct Medal and a  Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation. 

After Ricafort  returned from his tour in Iraq, but while still in the Marine Corp. Steven  became a United States citizen . Upon honorable discharge,  he received  training to be an Emergency Room Medical Tech at Hoboken Hospital.   His wife Marissa and their children Gianna  4 and Steven Jr. 2 live in Bogota NJ and participate in many UNICO  functions and charities,  while Ricafort continues to  assist and seek aid for  his brother Marines returning home from Conflict.

In 2018 The Veteran’s Administration deemed Marine Corporal Steven Richard Ricafort,             100%  service connected  disabled..    Semper Fi