Ed Anzalone, better known to the New York Jets community as “Fireman Ed” who is famous for leading the “J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!” chant at home games, has met tons of fans over the years. From tailgates to meetings in the MetLife Stadium stands, Anzalone has heard many stories from many different walks of life.
However, one email from a Jets fan in Virginia, desperate for hope, gravitated to the retired FDNY firefighter enough so that he flew out to Norfolk to begin a bond that has impacted an entire family in the toughest of times.
This is a story of how Jets football, a tragic accident, and a local New Jersey brewing company led “Fireman Ed” to a selfless idea as he began a new business venture.
“I’m going to do whatever I can for him,” Anzalone told Fox News Digital over the phone.
Sam Monge, a lifelong Jets fan, did not know who to contact first. His younger brother, Jon Monge, had just been in a horrific accident while out at sea that led to him being airlifted to the Trauma Center at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital on June 24.
Jon Monge was at a sandbar and dove into the water, not realizing the lack of depth. He had suffered several vertebrae fractures that left him unable to feel anything from his chest down.
The Monge family were at rock bottom while trying to keep faith for their son, brother and father. However, Sam Monge wanted to find something that could lift spirits, giving his family a positive outlook as one of life’s biggest challenges awaited them.
“Of course being big brother, I go into the mode of, ‘What can I do to help support?’ So immediately I start thinking of all different avenues, trying to get his story out there,” Monge told Fox News Digital over the phone. “Not only to get his story out there, but being that his story was so new, it was to try to find something that would maybe help build his spirit. Just see him smile and see everybody smile.”
Monge had the idea of contacting Anzalone, because as he puts it, “for a Jets fan, he’s very much a celebrity.”
Anzalone saw the email that came into his inbox from Monge, and it took his breath away.
“His brother sent an email to me around July 2nd or 3rd,” Anzalone recalled. “A six-paragraph letter and it was very touching. It showed pictures of Jon. He took pictures with me, with his dad and brothers, so it was an annual thing. The story was just touching.”
Monge admitted he did not expect much when he reached out to Anzalone, perhaps a FaceTime call or a video message he could show his brother, who is still in the hospital. Anzalone had a different idea.
“So I looked at my wife, it was Fourth of July, and I said, ‘What do you got going this weekend?’ She says, ‘Nothing.’ I say, ‘All right, I’m going to fly down to Norfolk, Virginia, to surprise this kid,'” Anzalone said, with his only request to Monge being that his appearance be kept secret.
“I went down and needless to say, he got very excited. We formed a bond,” Anzalone added. “I really, really like the kid and I really like his family. They come from a military family. His dad settled there because I never knew Norfolk, Virginia was a big military city. He was a career Air Force veteran.”
Will Monge served in the Air Force for 24 years as a current operations scheduler for C-5 and C-130 cargo planes. He was stationed at numerous Air Force bases, from Florida to Georgia to Mississippi and even Panama. Monge became a junior ROTC instructor at Atlee High School in Hanover County, Virginia, where he recently retired after 20 years.
Anzalone saw immediately how tight-knit the family was and how Jets football, no matter how many different places the family traveled because of their father’s line of business, was always the team the family rooted for.
Sam Monge said it was “the most excited he’s been since the accident” when Anzalone walked into the hospital to meet his brother in person. Anzalone even recalled an amazing moment where Jon Monge fought to get some words out despite having a trach in his throat, making sure he was able to say a few words to him.
When Anzalone returned home, he in the midst of finding a sponsor for his “NYJF Podcast,” and a local brewery named Bolero Snort Brewery had the idea of not only fulfilling that request, but making a “Fireman Ed” beer as well. Thus, “Fireman Ed NYJF Lager” was born.
However, Anzalone had an idea. He wanted a portion of the proceeds set aside for Monge to help the family with the substantial medical bills coming their way. On top of that, he asked Bolero Snort to put a QR code on the side of the cans that link out to Monge’s GoFundMe where consumers can donate as well.
Anzalone is promoting his new beer this upcoming weekend at Bolero Snort Brewery before the Jets host the Kansas City Chiefs, calling it the “pre-tailgate” from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., when Jets fans can buy the beer and hangout with him.
It all goes back to what Anzalone said to the Monge family after the surreal experience for both parties.
“I said, ‘This is not a one-time thing for me,'” he explained. “If I come down here, I said, ‘I’m going to be a part of your life. I’m going to try to get you better and do whatever I can with the resources that I have being Fireman Ed, maybe I can help out. I can’t promise anything, but I’m going to do my best.’”
Sam Monge added, “I don’t even call him Fireman Ed anymore. He’s very much like part of the family. Now I refer to him as Ed, and it’s almost like a surreal feeling because we’ve seen him for years, and years, and years as Jets fans.
“For Ed to have a beer that he is promoting, but he’s also promoting the fact that some of the proceeds from the beer are being used to support Jon’s recovery, in my wildest dreams I would’ve never have expected anything like this to happen. It’s just a tribute to the kind of person he is.”
As the saying goes, “Faith, family, football.” The Monge and Anzalone families are now connected because of their passion for football.
Now, faith Monge will one day walk again remains brighter than ever, as Anzalone does his part to help out his fellow Jets fans.
“What does God do? God threw a beer at me and I knew what to do,” he said.