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Devils honor Army veteran and New Jersey National Guardsman as Hero of the Game

by Gordy Stillman / New Jersey Devils
Sgt. Anthony D'Aloisio served two deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2006 before taking a hiatus from military life. The January 19 Hero of the Game said he joined the New Jersey National Guard in 2011 to return to the military while staying close to family. Photo by Patrick Dodson

New Jersey National Guard Sgt Anthony D’Aloisio has been a New Jersey Devils fan since he was a small child, tailgating and playing street hockey outside the team’s former home in the Meadowlands. As the team hosted the Calgary Flames, and D’Aloisio’s favorite player, Michael Cammalleri, returned to action, the New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center honored D’Aloisio as the Hero of the Game on January 19.

After growing up in Vernon Township, D’Aloisio said he followed his friends’ lead and joined the U.S. Army in 2002, influenced by the September 11th attacks, and inspired by his grandfather Joseph Nayda, who served in the Korean War. A commitment to service runs deep in D’Aloisio’s family. Beyond his grandfather, he counts an uncle who served in the Navy and another uncle who is a Lieutenant with the Passaic Police Department as additional motivation.

“Many generations in the past as well have served in the military,” D’Aloisio said.

D’Aloisio attended Basic Training at Fort Sill, in Lawton Oklahoma in 2002 before being sent to Fort Hood in Texas, from which he was deployed overseas. From April 2003 until May 2004, D’Aloisio was deployed to Taji, Iraq. He was again sent to Iraq, from November 2005 until November 2006, near Baghdad.

“We did combat patrols, and trained the Iraqi military,” the 31-year-old veteran said. “We were also giving school supplies out, fixing up the hospitals and providing medical supplies.”

After returning from Iraq for the second time, D’Aloisio left the military in 2007, aiming to become a firefighter. D’Aloisio said he eventually became a Fedex driver, but missed the military.

In 2011 D’Aloisio returned to service, joining the New Jersey National Guard as a recruiter, where he continues to work today. D’Aloisio had a friend in the National Guard and chose to take a path that would allow him to stay in New Jersey, close to family.

For his service in Iraq, D’Aloisio received the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Overseas Service Ribbon and the Combat Action Badge. The Combat Action Badge represents his involvement in combat with hostile fire.

One of his more proud achievements was receiving the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal in 2013. D’Aloisio explained that he received it from the State of New Jersey for having served as a resident of the state. “I was nominated for it by somebody that I’m in the National Guard with, who wanted to recognize me for my service overseas.”

Wearing a John MacLean jersey, D’Aloisio said he hardly had a choice when it came to sports, and became a Devils fan as soon as he learned what the game was and how it worked. While Cammalleri is his favorite member of the current squad, Martin Brodeur holds sway as D’Aloisio’s all-time favorite player, calling him the greatest of all time.

“Every time he broke another record, it was like he couldn’t stop,” D’Aloisio said of the future Hall of Fame goaltender. “He was always chasing Patrik Roy, and he ended up passing him.”

A generally humble man, D’Aloisio said he appreciated being honored by the team, and that it felt amazing. “My uncle doesn’t know this about me, but I hate being in the spotlight,” D’Aloisio said, referring to Season Ticket Member Scott Nayda, who nominated him for the night’s recognition. “For him to respect me and put me in for this, it means a lot as well.”

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