New veteran-owned restaurant features special tribute to fallen soldiers

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SKOWHEGAN, Maine (WABI) - A new Skowhegan restaurant is all about patriotism.

"My dream was someday I was going to have to have my own pizza place," says Derek DeFelice, co-owner of Angelo's Pizzeria. "I don't think that dream ever left me and I was talked about it. I was wanted to do this. I remember being in 7th grade writing up drawings of my restaurant, how it was going to look and the names."

Derek DeFelice finally accomplished his dream when he and his wife bought Angelo's Pizzeria a couple months ago.

But this dream was realized later in life because of DeFelice's brave decision in 2001.

"I joined the army right after 9/11," says DeFelice. "I was in the National Guard for about a year and then I went active. I was a 14 Sierra which is an air defense artillery."

DeFelice went on to serve nine years in the Army, where he received a Purple Heart. He was wounded on a convoy in 2006 in Iraq.

DeFelice says he wants to bring back the sense of patriotism in America that was alive right after 9/11, so he's bringing that to his restaurant -- flags for every military branch, police, fire fighters, and first responders, and a tribute table to fallen soldiers.

"The tribute table is near and dear to my heart," says DeFelice. "It means so much. Lost a lot of good people over there. To be able to come to work every day and kind of look at that table and see my brothers that aren't with me and know they have a place in my heart -- it's in my restaurant -- just means the world to me."

"It's even brought some customers to tears because they're so thankful that we've actually done that and they don't know anyone that has," says Aaron DeFelice, co-owner of Angelo's Pizzeria. "It's bringing back patriotism and they like seeing that."

The DeFelice's also have a new member of their family as of 3 weeks ago, Nala, a service dog given to Derek by the non-profit Hero Pups.

He says Nala's already made a huge impact.

"It means going into the public eye again," says DeFelice. "It means being able to go to stores and not be so worried. It's comforting. It's really hard to ever explain."

Angelo's Pizzeria has a Hero Pups special right now where they're donating a dollar from every Hero Pups meal sold to the non-profit.

DeFelice's next goal: Fill the walls with pictures of veterans. He wants members of the community to send in pictures of veteran family members or friends and he'll frame them and put them up.

If you'd like to send in or bring in pictures, the address is 60 Waterville Rd., Skowhegan, Maine.