Ilario Pantano was announced as the Assistant Secretary of the North Carolina Veterans' Affairs Wednesday.
BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Ilario Pantano was announced as the Assistant Secretary of the North Carolina Veterans' Affairs Wednesday. He picked a place close to his heart, Brunswick County, to pledge his allegiance to the veterans of the state.
Inside the Brunswick County Courthouse, Pantano promised to work to make North Carolina the most veteran-friendly state in the country.
"I've buried men both in combat and who've taken their own lives. So, I know that the pains of war are very real," Pantano said. "We have a whole generation of young people that is contemplating ‘Will I volunteer to be in the military?' And they are watching what we as a society do and how we put our arms around these veterans. So, I take my responsibility very seriously."
Pantano is familiar with veterans' experiences because they are also his own. He joined the Marine Corps at 17. That's when he got his first taste of combat, fighting in the first Gulf War and leading a scout and sniper team in support of U.N. peacekeeping operations. After completing his enlistment, he returned to civilian life.
However, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center would bring Pantano back into battle. He rejoined the Marine Corps as an infantry officer and led a platoon in the first battle of Fallujah in 2004.
"Veterans are who I am, it's who I love, and I cherish these guys and gals. I want to do everything I can to empower them and celebrate them," Pantano said.
Pantano began working as Assistant Secretary of the NC Veterans' Affairs in early September.
He said he is working with Governor Pat McCrory to reevaluate everything from policy and legislation to workforce enrichment, including jobs, education and healthcare for North Carolina's nearly 800,000 veterans.