When my father was drafted into the U.S Army in during World War II, he posted a sign in his shoe shop window announcing that the business would be closed until he returned from the war. Papa had been in the United States for ten years, having arrived on Ellis Island in 1933 from Southern Italy.
“Why did you come here during the Depression?” I used to ask him.
“It was-a still-a okay to work in-a the United-a-States-a. Italy no gotta nothin’ in-a 19-a-33. It was-a hell-a,” he told me.
Papa was first sent to Texas for basic training.
“It was-a hell-a in-a that heat,” he observed.
He was then transferred to Louisiana.
“Oh, my achin’-a back,” he lamented. “It was a swamp-a and-a humidity to kill-a horse-a,” he remarked.
“Why did you have to go in the Army? You served in the Italian Army,” I argued.
“Listen-a to me-a, Honey. It’s a honor to serve-a you country. America is-a my-a country. My-a country-a need-a me. I go-a to-a the Army, ” Papa solemnly said.
Patriotism was a duty as he saw it.
During the Vietnam War, I attended a Big 10 college where anti-war demonstrations were common. When I locked horns with Papa over the Vietnam draft dodgers, he was unmoved.
“I no-a say this-a war is-a right. Soldiers-a die, and that’s-a bad. But we-a in it and that’s-a that.”
I loved my father dearly, even when we differed in our attitudes about U.S. foreign policy. He had an unshakable faith in the country that allowed him to realize his dreams of work, family, and college-educated children. He proudly voted, he loyally served his city, his adopted country, his church, and his family.
Papa was a true patriot. He was a hero who never let me or anyone else down. On this Veteran’s Day, Papa, I can still hear your voice ringing in my ears:
“God-a Bless America!
And all of Her Veterans.
Ciao for now.