In a generation in which we take pictures of ourselves, and tell the world about our latest achievements. There is a single day in which we take time to remember those who stopped their lives to lend themselves to our country – to serve all of us. A sacrifice that should not be lost in the daily occurrences of everyday life. On this day we stop to remember the men and women who died for our freedom. This is a day we honor our Veterans – old and new. November 11th
Veterans day is a great day for celebration, and those who have Veteran family members should understand that the entire country should thank them for the great sacrifice they made for our Republic. Especially those who died on the battlefield or in service to our country. That is the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we all sometimes take for granted. Veterans day started as a remembrance for World War I – It was called Armistice Day. It was to take a moment and recognize the sacrifices of the people who died for the world. It marked the official end of a World War. The celebration has repeated the world over, and it takes place on the 11th month – the 11th day at the 11th hour. At that precise moment – the world takes a moment of silence. Since that time, It has become an all-encompassing day known the world over as Veterans Day.
My son Michael DeLuca is an Air Force Veteran, and I am proud of his achievement and service to our Country. He is a great young man, and he may understand, but he may not totally comprehend the pride his mother, and I share for his sacrifice to our country. Thankfully he returned home safe and has become a great, humble and responsible young American working and achieving the American dream. To his family members and us, Michael is a hero, and like many I know he does not boast about his achievements. He is a proud American hero. If It has not sunk in, he might as well read it here, I believe that he is a hero to us and to our country, and I certainly am proud of his achievement!
However, we must also not forget the individuals that made the ultimate sacrifice. They have served our country, and there cannot be thanks enough for their sacrifice. It is a debt that cannot be repaid. We also need to acknowledge that there are some still with us from the group of greatest generation soldiers. Each year their number diminishes, and their stories may be forgotten. These were young men who stormed the beaches of Normandy to fight oppression and fascism. They fought, and many of them died fighting one of the most oppressive regimes the world had ever seen. They fought for our freedom.
Among those men was a quite nondescript young man. His name was Phillip Chiarelli. Like many of the soldiers that day, he was someone who would NEVER volunteer to anyone who knew him, and say he was a hero. He did not wear a big S on his chest, nor was the word Hero bandied about when talking about him. But he was a Hero by the pure definition of the word.
When I grew up next door to him. It was my Uncle Phil. To my older cousins Angie and Carmella, he was dad, to my cousins – his grandchildren (Anthony, Phillip, Tina, and Rosa). He was Gramps, and to my aunt Millie, my mom and the rest of the family – he was “Phil.” To me he was Uncle Phillie – “UNC” for short. For most of my childhood and into my adult life, I knew nothing about his fight for our freedom. But of all of my Uncles – he was my favorite. I loved him like my own dad. I was proud of him and adored him. I may have grown taller than him, but I still looked up to him. Like my father he epitomized the word HUMBLE. Having those 2 as bookend role models … well you could not have asked for more.
Did I know I grew up next to a HERO… of course not! He would never tell you… If you grew up next to him, you would never know it. He went on from his hero days to live a life as an ordinary American. He bought a house, raised a family, and honestly, didn’t do anything BUT help to build the greatest country this world has ever seen in history. He did that by being a middle-class American and doing things the right way – the way that they should be done. He was quiet and was there for EVERYONE. Uncle Phillie was a rock.
He did not go on to college and become a multi-millionaire. You won’t find this hero in the history books… He worked for the local utility company as a regular worker. (like Superman, you might say he DID live the life of a Super Hero – But the Clark Kent side only) … After the war, he was a mild-mannered worker living the American dream. Phil never aspired to be more than just who he was… which was enough for him.
By no means did they (my Aunt and Uncle) live a life of luxury. I never saw them go on vacation – EVER!!! I think he and my Aunt saved everything and lived for one thing – to give a better life to his children and grandchildren (noble, in and of itself). The weddings for his daughters – You would think were affairs like the wedding of Prince and Princesses. As a young man I was lucky enough to be invited. I still remember the food at Leonard’s of Great Neck to this day – I never imagined anything grander.
Then came his grandchildren – oh, he loved me… I was “Frankie,” and he was proud of me in ways I could never appreciate until now – (It is with tears in my eyes. I remember him). But to his grandchildren, he was the Greatest. He spent many weekends with them. Now that I have grandchildren I understand his love. What a man! What capacity to love.
I think my cousins Anthony and Phillip would say they probably make in less than a quarter of the year than what he made in his entire lifetime. They could of course, because of the sacrifices he made, the life he lived, and the person he was. I know how much all of them loved him, because of the values he gave them, most of all because of the person he was. I must say this… I never in my entire life ever heard a single soul that did not like Phillip Chiarelli. I also in my whole life have never heard him utter a negative word about anyone. I knew him for about 45 years of my life. He died almost 25 years ago, and I still admire him for who he was and how he lived his life.
He always had a beautiful broad smile, and was encouraging, and never talked down to people. I saw people who sometimes talked down to him, but those were idiots who had no clue with whom they were speaking with. Thes were people who judged individuals by their social status, stuff that meant nothing to my uncle.
In the neighborhood – Phillie – was there for ANYONE and EVERYONE who asked. He picked us up and drove us to school on days it rained or snowed. He was the first responder in case anyone needed him, He was my mom’s rock when my father passed away, and he was always there for the love of his life Aunt Millie, and of course, his daughters and grandchildren. I know – I witnessed it. He was a man who was the signature standard for GREATNESS. One who did it because it was who he was, it was what he expected of himself, and he lived according to his word.
I didn’t know what he did in the war until I sat with him one day as a teenager and asked. He knew I loved history, and he loved it too. But he was not boastful about it. He had a great knowledge of the facts that others who were not as close to him would not know about him. As I got older, he shared and opened up more. I guess he felt I was ready to hear the message and the pain it caused him. To listen to him reminiscing about that time was something you just did not do. I know it was terrifying, and a time he wished he was never part of. But for some reason he confided in me. He only told me about 1% of his heroic deeds. I remember hearing the story about him saving a can of tuna fish ration, just in case he needed it. How on that day of June 6th 1944 and through the night he ate it… thinking it was his last meal. I remember we went to see the film “Saving Private Ryan” together. He knew what to expect that evening, but he went with me anyway. – I asked if it was accurate because he was there. He responded quietly and sadly – “Yes, if a picture could capture the visual – but it could not show what we felt – our fear”. That was about it… he never spoke about losing friends in any detail.. just briefly on little tidbits, but I could tell he felt blessed to be here, and he never regretted anything he did.
I wanted to take him to Normandy – and offered to go with him on the fiftieth anniversary. He declined. Too painful he said. I wanted to take him to the Veterans Memorial in DC, but never I got the chance because he passed away. (A regret to this day) . I did however personally call him every Veterans day for over 30 Year since I was a teenager- no matter where I was in the world (when I finally realized his contribution) – My Aunt – always told me that he looked forward to my call and that I was the only person who made that call to him. My aunt was proud of me too.
At his funeral – his friends told me stories about him that stood him out not just as an ordinary HERO- But an extraordinary HERO… One story I was told was that he took food from each of his friends and others in the regiment, then he took off his uniform. He dirtied himself up crawled behind German Lines to deliver food for hungry children in an orphanage who were starved by the German Army. He could not watch anyone suffer. THAT is not just Heroic. That is LEGENDARY HEROIC. These are things that, in the past they wrote stories and made legendary songs about.
Phil was not your bulked up brazen young man. If anyone was not the prototypical hero – it was Phil… But I know for a fact that he was loved by the guys in his regiment, they told me to my face. They made me realize after he had gone what a great man that he was. They also said to me that they were happy to meet his nephew Frankie and that he had always spoken to them about me. These were things he would NEVER tell me and would be embarrassed if he knew I had found out.
When talking about a Hero, we must ask ourselves. Who are they? They certainly aren’t sports figures. They just can play a game. Not politicians, or Captains of industry. REAL HEROES are regular guys like uncle Phil. They are people who put their lives on the line for all of us so that we could live in freedom. Some of them never came back. Some of Uncle Phil’s Friends never came back. He was lucky he said to me – Lucky that he did come back!
You know freedom is an elusive thing. When you’ve got it… you don’t think about it. When you lose it – you may never get it back. The beautiful thing about Uncle Phil, and others like him on that day. They made sure they fought for IT! Not for themselves, but for his children and Grandchildren. I know for a fact my Uncle is in Heaven. Just by the way he lived. He is an Angel doing God’s Bidding, with my DAD, enjoying life in heaven, and making sure all of us know they love us. THAT is what Angels Do… That is what Heroes do. That is my uncle PHILIP CHIARELLI. Thank you, Uncle Phil for being part of an extraordinary generation whose values we could never equal. I know you did not do it for reward or for recognition. You did it for US – you children, Grandchildren, and Nieces and Nephews, friends, and neighbors.
Next time you hear the National Anthem. Think of his sacrifice and the millions of others over the last 200 plus years who fought and died for our freedom. Understand THAT is why we stand for our Anthem. I wish we would just stop the protests, because – the honor and sacrifice that these men made is something you just DO NOT protest. The flag they fought under was special to them, and I know why – it was a symbol of what they felt and believed about their country.
When you protest an entire country, you are not protesting the not just the bad guys, but everyone, even the people who work to make it great. If you are protesting our flag, then you just do not get who the people are that fought and died for that flag actually did. That was the right and ability to speak your mind.
We are not a perfect nation, we have made mistakes, but we are a nation of men and women who strive to do it right. When things are not working, we work to fix them. That is the symbol of our flag – it’s people. All of the people. I do not forget that, and I never will.
Happy Veterans Day to every Veteran out there. Your sacrifice is appreciated and noted.