Oct. 12, 2008, I was in the presence of a hero. The Italian Heritage Society that day honored five very deserving individuals for contributions made to our community. The award winners were St. Mary's pastor, Father Lioi; businessman, Sam Indelicato; community developer, Mike Vitale; Connie Fantasia, mother extraordinaire; and war hero, Anthony DeTomaso. My contribution to the Italian Heritage Society dinner was writing individual bios for the program booklet. The dinner was a huge success with a record turnout.
On the day following the celebration, I went to Mr. DeTomaso's house to return a photo used for the program. Upon entering the DeTomaso home, Anthony thanked me for writing his bio. I responded “it was my pleasure.” Mr. DeTomaso said that it was his pleasure to be included in the dinner. I told him that it was a privilege and honor to be associated with a hero. DeTomaso humbly insisted that he was not a hero but was only doing his job. He went on to say that the real heroes were the young men who gave their lives on Normandy Beach and other battlefields in Europe and Asia, including my uncle Clarence Gucciardi killed at Anzio.
I respect Mr. DeTomaso's opinion, but I believe that Tony and the other brave young men he fought with in World War II are true American heroes. My generation is the direct beneficiaries of the actions of the “greatest generation.”
We will never be able to fully extend our gratitude to Anthony DeTomaso and the men like him for their contributions to our country. I will always remember my encounter with a hero.