If Alec Sapienza does not join the FBI or become a police officer, he may consider a career in acting, possibly doing voiceover work.
For now, the sergeant in the Pennsylvania National Guard is dealing with real-world drama. During the coronavirus pandemic, Sapienza, 24, has participated in two missions in nursing homes, including one with a personal touch. His father, Joseph Sapienza, is the director of maintenance and life safety at the Pleasant Valley Manor nursing home in Stroudsburg — about two hours north of Philadelphia.
“I was very grateful for my father to come in and make sure that we were supported but not guided in a way,’’ Alec said. “He treated us differently, but he most definitely treated us at the same level that everybody else [the employees] was being treated.’’
Alec and other National Guard members were assigned to Pleasant Valley Manor in May. Their mission lasted 2½ weeks, and Alec, a combat medic, cleaned, bathed and fed residents at the 174-bed facility and changed medical dressings.
“[I got to] watch him do what he does best,’’ Joseph said. “I’m a military person, but it’s hard for someone on the outside to know what the military is doing until they actually see them in action.’’
Joseph said he wanted to join the Marines but was not allowed to enlist because he does not have a spleen. Examples of service were all around him, though. One of his brothers was a Marine. Another was in the Navy. Joseph’s father spent 17 years in the Army, he said.
Alec is the youngest of Joseph’s three sons and the only one to enter the military. He signed up for the National Guard when he was 17 years old, because a recruiter assured him that his college costs would be covered.
“Before I joined the Army National Guard, I want to say I was misguided,’’ said Alec, a student at East Stroudsburg University. “The Army has, more or less, molded me into someone who understands when you lie, and the only way to move up is to work hard. It’s just understanding that what you’re doing is important, having and gaining respect for yourself and having respect for others and understanding you’re not the smartest person in the room. You have to build rapport with people to become more successful.
“I had to grow up very, very fast.’’
Alec’s maturity was revealed in how he communicated with the residents at Pleasant Valley Manor. If a resident was surly, it normally was because he missed his family, who were not allowed to visit because of COVID-19 restrictions, Alec said. Normally, though, residents welcomed National Guard members with offers of appreciation, usually candy or other food.
Joseph, who has worked at Pleasant Valley Manor for two years, said he saw his son every day during his mission.
“I’m in charge of the whole building, so I briefed the whole building every day,’’ said Joseph, 55. “But I let them do their jobs. I gave the directive of what we expected to be done, and it was done. I’m not a big meddler.’’
Alec enjoyed his time at Pleasant Valley Manor, even though he did not get to see one very important person. His great-grandfather was a resident but died of COVID-19 while Alec was on a previous mission at nearby Gracedale Nursing Home.
“Every single one of those residents had a personality,’’ Alec said. “Every single one of them were extremely nice and caring people, always asking how our day was. Interaction is what they really crave.’’Read comments