Class: 1959Inducted: 2012
Joseph Renzella is an American Hero, possibly the most most decorated soldier to come out of Asbury Park.
Joe left Asbury Park High School in 1957 and was drafted into the United States Army in 1964 where he served his country for the next ten years. During those ten years, he saw combat in Viet Nam with the First Infantry. During his First Tour of Duty, he attained the rank of Staff Sergeant and served as a squad leader in a platoon, known as "Big Red One".
After serving his first tour, Joe felt a sense of obligation to return to Viet Nam. In his own words, "They were young and inexperienced; with very little training. Then they were on their way. I felt my experience and knowledge could help them over there, I didn't want to return, the conditions were horrible. But I couldn't stay safely at home if I could save lives." Joe went on to serve an additional twenty-six months in Viet Nam. Of the seventeen major campaigns there, Joe saw combat in nine.
During his tours in Viet Nam he was awarded a Purple Heart for a serious head wound. He was presented with a total of thirty-five decorations for his bravery and valor under fire. Including nine Battle Stars; four Bronze Stars (two "With Valor", the highest designation); a Purple Heart and a Vietnamese Staff Service Medal, Second Class, National Defense Medal, Viet Nam Campaign Medal, nine Campaign Stars, two Good Conduct Medals, two Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, six Overseas Combat Bars and three Service Stripes. He is also on tap to receive a Silver Star, the third highest recognition for gallantry in the United States military.
After returning to the United States, Joe worked as an instructor in intelligence and security at Fort Monmouth. He earned a GED before entering the military, and after the war, he was awarded a "real" high school diploma. Joe joined the Postal Service in 1993 and retired in 1997, after giving a total of thirty-five years of government service.
Not only did Joe serve his beloved country, he served his beloved community. Born and raised in Asbury Park, Joe is very proud of his roots. He is married to Maria and is currently living in Neptune City. He has served as an usher at Mt. Carmel Church at the 7 AM Mass every Sunday for eighteen years. Joe was a long distance runner at APHS. Today, he is a member of the Shore Athletic Club and the Freehold Running Club, He belongs to several military organizations, such as The Viet Nam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Military Order of the Purple Heart as well as the Disabled American Veterans.
For the past ten years, Joe has volunteered to open his friend's coffee shop at 1:30 AM to allow the staff at Jersey Shore Medical Center's night shift to have a place to go for refreshments. He said, "medical personnel saved my life and many other lives, not only in Viet Nam but all wars and conflicts, past and present, and they are the real heros."
"When it gets too rough for anybody else, It's just right for me." Is Joseph Renzella's original quotation.