Base volunteers, Italians rebuild historic canal

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Allie Delury
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Armed with shovels, gloves, and a heightened sense of camaraderie, roughly 30 Americans from Aviano Air Base marched alongside Italian volunteers to the bank of the Artugna River to help reconstruct a historic canal in Dardago.

Behind the crowd, organizer Valentino Zambon could barely contain his excitement.

"We have such a big team here, my gosh, we can make an autostrada now!" he joked.

Through coordination with the Budoia municipality and volunteers from base, Zambon helped organize a joint-cleanup event that took place the morning of Oct. 19 followed by a free lunch and social gathering near the Dardago square. Italian and American volunteers worked together to remove branches, moss and other mountain waste that had obstructed a 17th century canal alongside the Artugna River.

"The nature there is very nice because you see the water flowing, the big round stones along the river, all the flowers, etc.," said Zambon. "There are a lot of people who walk along that trail every day -- both Americans and Italians."

According to Zambon, the "Ruial de San Tome," or canal of Saint Tome, was built during the 17th century and was the main water supply for the village of Dardago until the 20th century. In 1959, the Budoia municipality installed asphalt throughout the village which left the canal partially covered.

Recently, local volunteers formed a committee to rebuild parts of the canal and restore it to its original condition. When Zambon heard about the initiative to rebuild the canal, he invited Capt. Nicholas Krajicek 555th Fighter Squadron Assistant Director of Operations, to help.

"It's great when people [from base] go to local festivals, but you get more out of a situation like this because there's no profit gain, no commercialism" said Krajicek. "This is a true unique Italian experience working alongside the locals."

The event not only brought together Americans and Italians, but bridged the gap between different squadrons on base ranging from the fighter squadrons, maintenance, legal, security forces and others.

Among the volunteers was Capt. Brittany Ziehler, 31st Logistics Readiness Squadron section commander, who spent her last weekend in Italy volunteering at the event.

"I got some odd satisfaction from scraping moss off the rocks," said Ziehler with a laugh. "It was fun."

Following the event, several restaurants volunteered to cater food for the volunteers which comprised of: pasta, bean soup, and American and Italian treats.

"[Americans] like hamburgers, I like polenta, but it's the common values that we share that bring us together for events like these," said Zambon.

After the three-course meal, the mayor of Budoia along with members of the Alpini presented each American volunteer with a small poster of the historic canal they had just helped restore.

A simple act of generosity that didn't require translation.

"I'm super excited that we got the support from all over base," said Krajicek. "By immersing yourself in somebody else's culture you're going to learn more than just the language, but learn their way of life."