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Memorial Day Tribute: In Honor of My Uncle Tony

Back on Veteran's Day 2018, marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, I wrote:

My family gave many of its native-born American sons to the armed services; my maternal grandparents came from Greece and my paternal grandparents came from Sicily, and their American-born children went off to war---the Second World War, to be precise, a war that was not supposed to happen after the "war to end all wars," the "Great War," which led to the deaths of over 16 million people, including 7 million civilians. Some of those in my family who fought in World War II came home as veterans: my Uncle George Sciabarra and my Uncle Al, who fought in the European theater, as part of the Allied invasion of Italy, from which their parents had emigrated; my Uncle Charlie Sciabarra, who ended up in a German POW camp, liberated after the war; my Uncle Anthony "Tony" Jannace, who, as a member of the [Second Engineer Combat Battalion] of the Second Infantry Division, which eventually became part of Patton’s Third Army, in the second wave of the D-Day invasion on June 7, 1944, [spent] over 300 days [337 to be precise] in combat, involved in five campaigns---in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe. ... [T]hey fought to liberate [certain areas of France], Belgium, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. My Uncle Tony got frostbite during the Battle of the Bulge, and after being hit by mortar on April 7, 1945, he received the Purple Heart. My Uncle Frank was not as lucky; he was killed in that battle, in which American forces suffered heavy casualties [by some estimates, over 20,000 killed, 20,000 taken prisoner, and over 40,000 wounded], under the weight of a German tank offensive. Other than my Uncle Frank, all of my uncles came home as veterans of World War II.

As readers of Notablog know, back in 2004, I wrote a Memorial Day Weekend tribute to my Uncle Sam (who fought in the Pacific theater of World War II); that essay can be found on the Liberty and Power Group Blog. This year, I'd like to highlight a recent tribute to my Uncle Tony (mentioned above).

My own memories of Uncle Tony are of a warm, loving family man, who took me to my first baseball game back in 1970, where we saw the New York Yankees beat the New York Mets in the annual Mayor's Trophy Game, which that year was held in the original, iconic Yankee stadium, before its mid-1970s facelift, and long before the construction of the new Stadium. He suffered from rheumatoid arthritis in his later years, but that didn't stop him from walking us along the Belt Parkway to get a glimpse of the July 4th fireworks display over the Statue of Liberty to honor the Bicentennial celebration of the American revolutionaries' Declaration of Independence.

Earlier this month, my cousin William Jannace, one of my Uncle Tony's sons, attended the annual Pilsen Liberation Festival, held in the Czech Republic, marking the anniversary of the Allied liberation of Czechoslovakia from its Nazi occupiers. For this Memorial Day, I wanted to highlight William's letter to the citizens of Pilsen, which appears on the site of "World War II in the Words of My Uncle," and includes a photo of my Uncle Tony (under the name of Anthony E. Jannace). I should note that the site itself, maintained by Peter Lagasse, includes over 200 letters written by his Uncle Charlie (Charles David Knight) to his parents. Peter began sharing these letters with his readers on 31 July 2017 and they are a remarkable memoir of his "uncle's feeling, fears, hopes, and concerns [as] a soldier while serving his country overseas in World War II in the European Theater of the war." Check out the site from the very first entry.

Whatever one's historical or political views with regard to the roots of war, none of this matters in the hearts of those whose family members fought---many of whom died---in the wars of the twentieth century. My Uncle Tony was lucky to have survived and flourished, bringing much joy and happiness to all those whose lives he touched.

William praised the people of the Czech Republic not only for their ability to transcend years of Nazi occupation, but for having endured another 45 years under Soviet oppression. After his attendance at the annual Pilsen Liberation Festival, William wrote a letter of appreciation to the citizens of Pilsen, for their deeply moving tribute to their liberators: "To the credit of the people of the Czech Republic who persevered another 45 years after the end of the war, you never relented in your desire for freedom---very much evident on display this past weekend." He emphasized that "the desire for freedom, democracy and rule of law can be temporarily side-tracked but never eradicated."

Read William's moving tribute here.

JannaceGraveSite.jpg

In Calverton National Cemetery, Calverton, New York