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Man on a mission

Helen Richards, sister of PFC Ralph H. Johnson, rides on the top tier of the Charleston VAMC Veterans Day Parade Float in the 2017 parade in downtown Charleston.
Helen Richards, sister of PFC Ralph H. Johnson, rides on the top tier of the Charleston VAMC Veterans Day Parade Float in the 2017 parade in downtown Charleston.

On Saturday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center will host the 19th Annual Charleston Veterans Day Parade.

The parade will include multiple marching bands, historic military vehicles, motorcycle groups, and Veterans Service Organization floats, along with a parade Grand Marshal that the community will proudly recognize.

After spending more than four decades in the United States Army and Army National Guard, Major General Gerald Minetti was looking forward to retirement. However, since leaving active duty in March 2008, Minetti has found that his life is as busy as ever.

Minetti currently serves as the Program Lead for Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing in Charleston, which is a non-profit dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled Veterans. Since 2015, he has been working with the organization to help disabled Veterans find hope and healing through fly tying, rod building and getting out on the water to fish.

Volunteerism has long been an important part of Minetti’s life. Over the last decade, he has dedicated countless hours to helping Veterans reconnect with purpose and explore new, potential passions. After retirement, Minetti became highly involved with “Birdies for the Brave”, the PGA Tour’s non-profit entity that supports military, Veterans and their families. Minetti is also mentor with PGA Hope, working with Veterans to hone their golfing skills.

“After nearly 42 years of service to this country, I have had the privilege of working with and for many great Servicemembers who were also called upon or volunteered to serve our Nation,” states Minetti.

 However, when he relocated to Charleston from Tampa in 2015, Minetti found that Birdies for the Brave did not have an active chapter in Charleston. So, he knew he had to find an alternative and turned to fly fishing.

Minetti signed up as a participant with Project Healing Waters and, over the course of a year, spent time sharpening his fly-fishing skills. He even attended Fly Fishing Guide School in 2018 in Montana to learn the ropes. However, Minetti knew he was called to do more and quickly decided to transition from being a Project Healing Waters participant to becoming a Project Healing Waters volunteer and, most notably, the Charleston Program Lead.

Since taking over the Program Lead role in December 2018, Minetti has nearly quadrupled participation in the Charleston Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program and increased donations to support this growth. But this comes as no surprise given his extensive background in logistics, relationship-building and joint operations.

Minetti’s military career began in 1965 as a young enlisted member. “I was enlisted for two-and-a-half years and selected for Officer Candidate School,” shares Minetti. “I was commissioned in August 1968 and stayed in Field Artillery with secondary specialty of Logistics.”

Minetti worked his way up the ranks and was selected for promotion to the rank of Brigadier General in 1999. After accepting this opportunity, Minetti was assigned to lead a Peace Keeping exercise (Peace Shield 99) in the Ukraine and, in October 1999, was selected to be the Deputy Director of Logistics and Engineering for US CENTCOM.

“I spent 12 months of that period in Middle East and stayed in this position until May 2013,” Minetti said. “It was here that I participated in the logistical planning for Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Returning from the Middle East at the end of May 2003, Minetti worked as the Deputy Director for Logistics Operations in the Joint Staff Director for Logistics in the Pentagon and was promoted to the rank of Major General. Shortly thereafter, he went back to Iraq to work for General Casey in the multi-national Forces Iraq (MNF-I) and was assigned as the Deputy Chief of Staff, Resources and Sustainment.

In August 2005, Minetti returned to US CENTCOM as the Director for Coalition Coordination and worked with 350 military reps from 64 different countries, all interested in the Global War on Terrorism. He was tasked to be the exercise director for the Brightstar Exercise and, over the course of the next year-and-a-half, Minetti traveled to Cairo, Egypt 18 times to ensure the Command Post Exercise, which included the United States, Egypt and 11 other countries, was executed flawlessly prior to his retirement.

Major General Minetti was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal (three awards), the Bronze Star, the Joint Service Badge and attended the U.S. Army War College.

It is for his dedicated and tireless service to our country and our Veterans that Minetti was selected as the Grand Marshal for the 2019 Charleston Veterans Day Parade.

"I am honored to have been selected to be the Grand Marshal of the Charleston Veterans Day Parade representing the many Veterans who live in the greater Charleston area,” stated Minetti. “On Veterans Day, we honor all our service men and women who served our Nation, protecting our freedoms and our flag but we must never, ever forget their sacrifices, thank them for their courage and thank them for your freedom. It is important to show our Veterans respect, words of appreciation, and gratitude every time you see or meet one."

Minetti has been married for 39 years and has two grown children and two grandchildren and is dedicated to bringing hope and healing to Veterans in and around the Charleston area.

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