Pa.‘s top veterans’ advocate visits Sewickley’s Bridgeside Market
Mike Modugno, meet Anthony Carrelli.
Aside from Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli’s operational camouflage pattern Air Force uniform, they looked like two guys talking shop at lunchtime Oct. 10 in the Italian-style deli that Modugno opened five months ago at 201 Chestnut Street in Sewickley.
Carrelli leads the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and he was in town to learn from western Pennsylvania veterans like Modugno, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to make other veterans aware of the programs the state offers to help them transition to civilian life.
The Pa. Veterans Farm Project and state Department of Education helped Modugno through what they informally call the “troops-to-tractors” program that gives veterans aid to complete on-the-job training and mentoring under the GI Bill.
“This helps supplement their (a veteran’s) income when they’re first starting out,” Pa. Department of Education Veterans Education Adviser Dennis J. Renner said.
Veterans can get about $1,800 per month to supplement what they earn at entry-level jobs under the GI Bill, Renner said.
It helped Modugno and it can help others like him, Mimi Thomas-Brooker of the Pa. Veteran Farmer Project said.
“I think it’s a way to get your foot in the door, especially if you don’t have any experience,” Modugno told Carrelli.
Since he opened the Bridgeside Market, Modugno said he’s had a warm welcome from the Sewickley community and he tries to stock things from veteran-friendly businesses.
Operating the business is a family passion he does with help from his wife, Jennie.
“We saw this as an opportunity to marry a lot of our passions,” Jennie Modugno said. “It’s a way for us to do what we love.”
The Modugnos live in Economy and will soon be moving to Ambridge just a few miles north of Sewickley.
It’s important that veterans like Modugno are aware of the programs available to them as they adjust to civilian life, Carrelli said.
“Everybody who served their country deserves the benefits they’ve earned,” he said.
Carrelli’s tour also included stops at Pleasant Lane Farm in Unity, Westmoreland County and Forever Heart Farm in Moon that are also veteran-owned and operated.
For more information about the program, visit www.troopstotractors.org.