(Chuck Muth) – As if featuring the commander of the USS Cole last month wasn’t enough, September’s First Friday Happy Hour VIP guest is another military hero and veteran of the war on terror: Ilario Pantano.
Ilario was raised in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and joined the Marine Corps right out of high school at 17 years of age. He fought in the first Gulf War as an anti-tank gunner with the Sixth Marine Regiment that helped to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi invaders. Later, Ilario would become an Elite Scout Sniper and train with foreign militaries in the Mediterranean. His service included support of the UN peacekeeping mission for what was then Yugoslavia.
He left the Marines in 1993 and went to New York University at night while working at Goldman Sachs by day. He received a degree in Economics and went on to a lucrative career as a Wall Street trader.
Pantano later started a media consulting business with clients like ATT Broadband, Cablevision, and Mattel. On his way to a meeting in Manhattan, he witnessed the Twin Towers burning in the attacks of September 11, 2001. Wikipedia notes that Ilario’s apartment at the time “was next to a fire station where eleven firemen, four of whom were former Marines, perished in the attacks.”
So Ilario re-upped, went to Officer Candidate School, was a commissioned a Second Lieutenant and went back to Iraq where he took command of an Infantry Platoon with the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Marine Regiment, the WARLORDS.
After months of insurgent violence triggered by the infamous ambush and grisly hanging of Americans in Fallujah (2004), Pantano was investigated for actions in killing two terrorists after a disgruntled Marine that Pantano had publicly demoted filed a complaint. The case took on national attention. Media outlets from dozens of national networks and newspapers overflowed the courtroom.
During his Article 32 hearing, “Pantano acknowledged leaving a sign on a car above the corpses that said, “No better friend, No worse enemy,” but then returned to remove it after one of his colleagues called it “inappropriate.”
This phrase is the motto of his Marine Corps battalion, and is promoted by his battalion commander as the combat philosophy of their unit. The slogan is also a popular Marine saying popularized by Lieutenant General James Mattis, then commanding general of the 1st Marine Division.
In an interview with the BBC from March 20, 2005, Lieutenant Pantano said, “I’m a New Yorker and 9/11 was a pretty significant event for me, our duty as Marines is, quite frankly, to export violence to the four corners of the globe, to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”
After a lengthy and very public hearing of the facts, Pantano was cleared of all charges and given a new command, but death threats from jihadists and fear for his family ultimately led Pantano to resign his commission.
Illario, his wife and two children moved to North Carolina where he wrote his best-selling autobiography of his experience, “Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy,” and made hundreds of television and radio appearances where he advocated for American servicemen even as public sentiment was turning against the War efforts (2006-7).
Seeking ways to continue serving his community, Pantano volunteered with the Red Cross assisting victims of Hurricane Katrina and helped to produce a documentary film honoring our nation’s warriors that benefited a Purple Heart charity. He also became a deputy Sheriff In New Hanover County, where he continues to serve as an inactive Special Deputy.
Ilario is presently the Republican candidate in North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District against incumbent Democrat Rep. Mike McIntyre. George Bush carried this district with 56 percent of the vote in 2004 and John McCain won it in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote.
Ilario will meet and greet folks one-on-one at Citizen Outreach/KXNT’s Friday’s First Friday Happy Hour at Stoney’s Rockin’ County nightclub on South Las Vegas Blvd. from 5:00 – 7:00 pm. Admission is free.
After First Friday, George Harris and Irma Aguirre will be hosting a private fundraising dinner with Ilario at 7:30 pm to raise money for his congressional campaign at their restaurant, Mundo’s, in downtown Las Vegas at the World Market Center. Minimum donation requested: $500. For additional information or to RSVP, call (702) 270-4400 or email George@mundolasvegas.com