Jason Safuto, no stranger to service, is a former member of the U.S. Navy now in his 20th year as a NYPD police officer. If he discovered service many years ago, Safuto didn’t discover running until later in life. He has since run numerous races and is now gearing up for his first marathon as part of Team Mission United, United Way of Long Island’s entry in that race.
“I never liked running. Now I can’t live without it,” Safuto, a Lindenhurst resident, said. “I feel like it helps me think, helps me relieve stress.”
Safuto is happy to be part of the Team Mission United group of runners as a former member of the military raising money for veterans. “I always feel attached to service men and women. I feel like I’m part of them,” he said. “Anything I do for them, it’s a good feeling.”
Safuto was born in Brooklyn, moved to Levittown in September of 1989, graduated from Division Avenue High School in Levittown in 1991 and went into the service the following summer. He served as a communications specialist, informally known as a radio man, in the U.S. Navy from 1992 to 1996, on board the U.S.S. Saipan, an amphibious assault ship.
He deployed in March of 1993 and as part of his service was stationed in the Adriatic Sea during Operation Deny Flight. “We helped enforce the no-fly zone in Bosnia,” said Safuto, who continued a different kind of service once he left the military.
After returning to the United States, Safuto joined the NYPD in 2002, working on the west side of Harlem in the NYPD transit bureau and now serving in his 20th year. “I knew how to talk to people,” said Safuto, now part of the NYPD ceremonial unit. “I think the best weapon I had at all times was my mouth and patience.”
He has been tapping that patience as a runner, starting with short distances and gradually adding miles, as he works his way up to the marathon. “I got into running when my youngest daughter was born. I thought it was time to get myself into better shape,” he said. “I started running a mile a day. I wanted to do more, run further.”
Safuto hasn’t run a marathon, but he has run many other races, often raising money for veterans. He ran a 10-mile Run for the Warriors in Lindenhurst on Ocean Parkway ,to raise money for veterans. He did the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Run Around the Lake in Ronkonkoma as well as other local races including an NYPD and FDNY five-mile run through Central Park.
Safuto, who turns 48 on Oct. 30, won’t be running alone as part of Team Mission United. He’s running with other team members he knows, including his cousin Thomas Dekenipp, brother-in-law David Smith and family friend Alyssa Barbosa. “We’ll all be starting together,” he said. “We won’t be finishing together, but we’ll start together.”