In upstate New York, our summer season is greatly anticipated – if only to erase the meteorological memories of bitter winters and wet, cool springs. The official kick off is what we refer to as Memorial Day.
This year, our family will follow a familiar route – driving up I-87, also known as the Northway, into the heart of the scenic Adirondack park. Specifically Bolton Landing in the Lake George region.
Although it looks as if this rainy spring will hang on at least one more weekend, with uncooperative showers and chilly winds, the party will go on for all of us. In the past, we’ve consumed enough clams to warrant renaming the weekend Clam-a-palooza.
Everyone will have their fun, including our small group in this small town. But we call it Memorial Day for a reason. It’s more than a three day weekend – the meaning can run much, much deeper.
Years ago, a friend of mine put it succinctly in a social media post:
“Happy Memorial Day”. That statement doesn’t make sense to me at all. Today is a day of reflection for selfless sacrifice both past and present. I am not celebrating. I am remembering.
We have a special soldier in my immediate family – PFC, and former member of the 105th Infantry, Dominick DeGiorgio. He was my grandfather’s brother. After surviving the brutal fire fights in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, he was later killed in action in Germany in World War II, still a young man. As far as I know, he is my family’s only recipient of the Purple Heart.
Another brother, my great uncle Mariano, fought for the Italian Army during European campaigns. It seems incomprehensible now, but there was true potential in that war for brother v. brother, each fighting, shedding blood, for their country.
Even though Dominick was killed well before I was born, I felt I knew him through countless stories from my grandmother. While my grandfather Sebastian was a man of few words, his brother had a huge personality despite his small stature.
A good looking guy who was always laughing and in good humor, he was, as my Nonna would state, very popular with the ladies. So much so that he would draw big crowds of them at the ice cream shop where he worked before going off to war.
I still wonder what it would have been like to have him here, and the impact he could have had on our lives. His bright and cheerful persona as counterpoint to my own grandfather, the “strong, silent” type. What fun we could have had with that.
The great war ensured we would never know. As for many other families, the battle for freedoms takes away as it gives, and erases what could have been.
He gave it all, fighting for the next generations of Americans with, as my friend said, “selfless sacrifice”. I’m sure there were plenty of disappointed girls at the ice cream window at Manory’s store.
The battles are faded history. Many have forgotten.
I’m happy I’ll have the opportunity to sit on a porch on what may be a stormy May afternoon, to reflect and wonder about a man whose brief life and unending potential were taken away far too soon.
Dominick DeGiorgio took part in the D-Day invasion of France, and earned a bronze arrowhead for his campaign ribbon. He also participated in Operation Market Garden, where he was KIA on September 17th, 1944. For his service on the continent of Europe, he earned the following decorations:
Combat infantryman badge, bronze star medal, Purple Heart medal, European – African – Middle Eastern campaign medal with bronze arrowhead and two bronze service stars.