Exclusive interview with General Antonio Bettelli: LEONTE, a novel

(To Maria Grazia Labellarte)

It 's May 27th 2011. The UNIFIL Italian peacekeepers in Lebanon are remembering their fallen, among them the Italian soldiers of Operation Leonte, too. At 15: 55, a bomb exploded on the edge of the highway linking the Lebanese capital with the ancient Phoenician city of Sidon. The agencies break news: an Italian soldier died. Soon after, the Defense Staff Spokesman replies "No injuries risk their lives"; Antonio Bettelli is there, as a Defense Italian soldier might struggle between life and death: it's the young Giovanni Memoli, whose story is dramatically intertwine with the history of the Land of the Cedars.
The author is an Italian Army officer, repeatedly engaged in peace support operations at various international theaters. Among them, there are the post-Saddam Iraq, in the southern provinces of Dhi Qar, onset of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, in the operational command of Tampa in Florida, in Lebanon, where he worked as a Defense Attaché at the Italian Embassy in Beirut and as commander of Sector West of the UNIFIL mission in the south of the country.

General Bettelli, why Leonte?

Lebanon is a controversial country, charming, unintelligible. LEONTE (the novel) tries to describe it. UNIFIL: LEONTE however, is the name of the operation of the Italian Armed Forces; LEONTE for it is the western name of one of the most important rivers of the land - the Litani - which is the northern area of ​​the operation of the multinational contingent, as well as Israel's military action in the appellation 78 gave birth to UNIFIL by an international agreement.

A chain of situations and events since forty years. These were the white liveries of the three Army helicopters landed in March for the UN mission.

LEONTE is Lebanon but it too is the condition in which it suddenly, on May 2nd 2011, then-Corporal Giovanni Memoli went to meet the experience that has definitely changed his life: an explosion treacherously caused by unknown hands, initial encouragement of a still unbroken passion .

At that juncture made of desperate need of assistance that John 's family brought urgently to his son in agony, I was in Beirut as Defense Attaché at the Italian Embassy. Since that occasion, in an unexpectedly summer crisp afternoon in the Lebanese capital, I felt that John's passion and his family became, in the exercise of my duty, also my passion. LEONTE is, therefore, a story along with the story of John, but it is also a tribute to the sacrifice of many colleagues. Those sacrifices reproduce the dignity of the fallen, but with the dignity of the injured soldiers.

In the novel, the protagonist Colonel Qa'id lives steeply emotions irreversibly affecting him deeply and "the encouragement, lived with the family of the young John the victim of the attack, becomes a reason for living."Do you believe General military peacekeeping missions (not always easy and challenging physically and spiritually) is to acquire a greater awareness of the reasons for living the beauty of life, in a peaceful country like ours?

It is an opportunity to observe the common phenomena of life with a very special magnifying glass. The contingencies of the mission put our soldiers in a microcosm characterized by influences that repeatedly stress their spirits. It is not easy, for instance, to remain indifferent to the need of those who have suffered from the violence of the war, or for those who are still suffering from the privations of extreme poverty. The mission days, they are worthy of important stimuli and anomalous, they can unhinge the certainties and they are the deepest reflections on the meaning of life, the relations with our affections, and the values ​​of both friendship and discipline. The reasons of living.

Currently in my opinion, we are in social context the dominance of "relativism" in ideals, in suffering, in life choices, as well as in everyday life. Values ​​such as hope, faith and Christian charity

The society has witnessed the weakening of the value system which has adapted to, such as the cultural trail, politics and society in recent decades. Today, it seems as if we move within a deprived area of ​​borders I know that the dairy takes steps to ensure that, thanks to its dynamism, the redefinition of itself, but the changes are beyond its control, there is no doubt that the fear of disorder will prevail . Military like us, trained to service disciplines, the scope is very clear to. In those limits, evocative of the commitment of those who preceded us in service, we are educated since the first steps in training institutions. In the moments of difficulty those limits become our references.
Urged by the Giovanni Memoli's event, which I shared with his family in the days following the attack - I thought a lot about Christian acceptance, living in a land that is an authentic denominational kaleidoscope, feautured by the places described in the Old Testament and the Gospel. I know personally that in the religious message I was brought to, like, if not most, by the military training: subordination, disciplines, service.
The circumstances of the attack force today in an intense way, sometimes hard, to the "acceptance". Into the unexpected path neo-natal, his family - mum and dad Maddalena and Nicola, with his dear sister Marianna, who was always close to. Giovanni did not have the proof of a new life, it is obvious. Through the encouragement of acceptance caused by the attack, I hope he can, however, strengthen the sense of belonging to his family and the military community. Today, Giovanni Memoli is Marshal of Honor Role. For all of us is a fundamental and indispensable reference.


Marshal Memoli, on May 27th 2011 (date of the terrorist attack on the novel Leonte inspires to) on the six Italian Peacekeepers, most severely suffered the effects of the bomb by the side of the highway between Beirut and the south, currently your life has changed tremendously because of that fateful day. May I ask you what message would you send to young people?

To live their lives, to have fun, and to never give up, just to like, and to live the best life can.

You received the "Cross of honor to the victims of terrorism" and a gold medal for bravery, too. What do these recognitions mean to you?

These medals certainly have a high symbolic value, built on the sacrifice of the servants of the state, often unknown to the public. I can only be honored to bear.
If I had to choose, I ask to live as I used to, of course. Theaters, side by side with my fellow soldiers. Yes, I confess that if I have one regret, it is the one to be able to go on a mission with my UNIT-, with my commanders and my colleagues.