Veterans Day celebrated with morning ceremony
Gilroy – Sixty years later, Albert Gagliardi still recalls the air so thick with flies that he and his brothers in arms could not open their mouths. He remembers the planes dumping now-banned insecticides over their bodies. And he remembers his anxiety at countless diseases – dysentery, leprosy, malaria.
“I think I was more worried about the sickness than some guy shooting me,” Gagliardi said of his military service during World War II. Gagliardi, now 81, served in the Army infantry and fought battles in Iwo Jima and other sites in the Pacific arena.
Today, Gagliardi and countless other veterans who lived to tell their stories will be honored in a morning ceremony at the city’s Veterans Building on the corner of Sixth and Eigleberry streets. Reverend Dan Derry of St. Mary’s Parish will give the invocation,
followed by speeches from Mayor Al Pinheiro and Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage, whose father died in World War II before having a chance to meet his son.
Such ceremonies are held across the country at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, originally in commemoration of the armistice that ended World War I. Over the years, Veterans Day has evolved into a holiday honoring the military personnel who returned from war and those who continue to serve the country. But some families can’t help but turn their thoughts on this day of heroes to those that never returned.
Gagliardi said his brother Sal, also in the Army, was killed by a sniper in April 1945 as he crossed into Germany. But that wasn’t the only tragic news that trickled in while he was stationed abroad.
“I had a lot of friends that didn’t make it,” Gagliardi said, referring to a number of his classmates from Gilroy High school.
The news wound its way slowly to the Pacific, said Gagliardi, who remembers the heartbreak whenever mail-call did not include a letter from home.
But that is not to say Gilroyans forgot about their friends and family. Throughout the city, cloth stars hung in the windows of homes with family members in the military, according to Eleanor Frusetta, Gagliardi’s sister. Families with blue stars still had relatives fighting abroad; families with gold stars had lost a relative to war. Some, like the Gagliardi’s, had both.
“It was a really tough time because we used to go the Strand Theater and they had the news broadcast there and we’d watch what would happen at sea, or in Germany,” Frusetta recalled. “We kept the home fires burning.”
These days, yellow ribbons and flags hint at the homes with loved ones serving in Iraq and other parts of the world.
“The way I look at it, we’re celebrating the people involved now,” Gagliardi said of Veterans Day. “It’s kind of nice because we’re saying ‘We won’t forget about you. You’re doing something for the people.'”