On June 6, 1944, Julian Binetti was a Navy gunner's mate aboard a heavy landing craft during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. Before that he was stationed on a destroyer in the Pacific, and after, he spent the remainder of his enlistment ferrying supplies across the English Channel to assist in the war effort.
But more than 75 years later, on Tuesday Binetti had a different kind of encounter, when scouts from Valley Stream BSA Troop 109 greeted him outside his Malverne home to give a hero’s salute for his 100th birthday — from a safe distance, of course.
Binetti had a whole swath of plans in store to celebrate the rare milestone with friends and family, according to his daughter, Carol, but with news of the spreading coronavirus outbreak they had to be canceled.
Word of the situation reached Troop 109 Assistant Scoutmaster Gerardo Cavalieri, who is friends with Carol, and he brought it up on Monday during the troop leadership’s first virtual conference, after the virus had forced its members to limit in-person interactions and maintain social distancing.
The group had been discussing ways the troop’s scouts could continue the scouting tenet of performing a good deed daily while confined to their homes, and they pounced on the idea of throwing a special birthday celebration for the veteran.
Less than 24 hours later, the scouts and their family members piled into their respective cars — mindful to keep the groups separated — and they drove with more than 20 cars in parade-like fashion outside Binetti’s house waving signs, saluting, singing Happy Birthday and blasting the National Anthem over speakers, as Binetti stood in his doorway, smiling and saluting back.
The commotion was such that even neighbors began to come outside and see what was happening.
“It was so over the top,” Carol said.
“I had to warn him cause you can’t just surprise people at his age,” she joked of letting her father know the scouts would be stopping by that evening, but she said he was delighted, and refused to go inside despite the chilly weather.
The entire celebration lasted 15 minutes, “And what a message it sent,” Gerardo’s wife and Troop 109 chairwoman, Irene, said, “especially in these times.”
It was a bright spot in a world upended by pandemic.
“This was better than anything I could have planned for that day,” Carol said.