November 17, 2015
On Sunday, November 15, 2015, Festa Italiana Minnesota honored all Italian-American Veterans (Thanks and a big shout out to our local Italian Community and Festa Italiana MN). We had a wonderful day of great food, camaraderie, and discussions of Italians in wars as far back as our War of Independence. Italians have been instrumental in all conflicts that the United States has been a part of, up to, and including, the current War on Terror.
The special emphasis of the day was on surviving Veterans of World War II. My father was the only one able to attend the festivities. And boy did they honor him!
Here is his story:
Patrick Carmen Ricci, called Patsy or Pasquale by his father, was born 15 July 1924 in Swede Hollow, the Italian neighborhood of St. Paul. His parents were John Giovanni Nicola Ricci and Rose Castellane Ricci. Pat was one of 9 children of his parents and also lived with 3 other cousins born of Pasquale Ricci and Mary Castellane Ricci.
The household was not wealthy, but it was filled with love and talent. Pat has always been a singer and dancer. His voice even now at the age of 91 is excellent and his dancing shoes are always ready. And to prove it, he sang for the attendees!
Pat has always been athletic as are all his children. He coached many Baseball teams in East St. Paul and is known throughout the area for his coaching and neighborhood participation.
As a young teenager, Muriel Mattia Rossi, a good friend of his sister RoRo, caught his eye. She was the love of his life and he finally married her after World War II on July 12, 1947. Together they had 6 children, 10 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren so far. Muriel passed away on January 29, 2003. Pat still lives on the East side of St. Paul, walks daily and bowls 2 or 3 times per week. He also plays bocce and was the oldest participant at Festa Italiana's Bocce Tournament in 2015.
During the war, Pat was a Navy signaler. He also had terrible seasickness and was actually placed on land in New Zealand for nearly two months to recuperate. Afterwards, he was stationed on a destroyer named The U.S.S. Radford in the Pacific Campaign. During his service he was able to visit California, Hawaii and New Zealand.
My father is a hero of war. He suffered from fear and anxiety as do most veterans. He experienced one call to abandon ship and feared for his life more times than we can know. Yet he never regretted his service, never talked much about what happened. He took it in stride. Our family is proud of him.
Today my father watches the news and cannot understand the changes in warfare that the world has taken. He understands the terror felt by the people of Beirut and the people of Paris. He knows what it is like to never feel secure, to search for where the next torpedo will originate. He does not wish that insecurity on anyone.
It doesn’t matter to him who is suffering in this new War on Terror. He wants us to help them. Even though his generation is not known for accepting all differing cultures, when it comes to Le Famiglie, families, in danger, my father does not care what color they are or what religion they follow. He wants them to be safe.
My father wants this horror to end but doesn’t see how it can end. No conventional warfare can do it. Stopping all immigrants can’t do it. And in his eyes, those people from war-torn areas need help. He knows what it is like to be in the midst of battle. He cannot fathom what a child feels when caught inside this crazy war.
Honoring our warriors is an obligation I believe we all should feel and act upon. Listening to them is just as important. When I see my father’s eyes glaze over a bit and his hands shake as he talks about attempting to abandon ship, I see the 19 year old boy he was, caught in an uncontrollable situation. And I see the eyes of the children escaping war in overcrowded boats on the Mediterranean Sea. My Italian-American Father says we should help them. They are veterans of war too. I agree.
Grazie Mille Papa’. Ti Amo!
Ciao for now!
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