Salute to my relative, a WWII hero

  • Published
  • By Chrissy Cuttita
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Early this year, a World War II veteran and my twelve years of military service were buried out west. 

These were my two saddest experiences of the year, even though both could have easily been expected. 

Perhaps it was even an odd twist of fate that I resigned my commission shortly after my great uncle was laid to rest in one of the crowded California veteran's cemeteries. 

See, "Crazy Uncle Joe" was the kind of guy that would tell you about what it was like to be on the front lines in Japan during World War II, yet parade his great niece, an Air Force captain, around the Veteran's Administration hospital he frequented as if she was the hero. 

Reality is that Uncle Joe was my inspiration and I didn't feel I could fill his boots. It didn't bother me to get a phone call anytime of day to hear about how deadly Okinawa was. By listening intently, I think I encouraged him to talk about his idea of gathering up old veterans sitting around the VA like himself to go into the mountains of Afghanistan and take out today's terrorists. As Uncle Joe said, he was trained for that kind of combat so perhaps he could have done it at age 87. 

His patriotism was empowering. Each time I wore my uniform, as I last did in June at Luke AFB, Ariz, I heard his voice encouraging me to continue serving, . He'd always want to see me in uniform so I'd have to remember to include a picture in the cards I sent him during holidays like Veterans' Day. 

Uncle Joe was always proud of his picture too. Many times he sent me the same official Army photograph of him, the last time being just a month before his war torn body gave way. I don't think it was ever out of pride that he sent me that photo or told me how he volunteered to join the toughest job in the Marines when World War II broke out. 

He wanted you to know that this country was worth leaving family behind to risk death in enemy territory for. Perhaps Uncle Joe developed that sense of pride in America from being one of ten children born of Italian immigrant parents in New York City during the early 1900s. By watching the interview family members video taped of him talking about his life I could certainly witness how he never stopped following politics, voicing his opinion and serving his community. 

When my parents added the word "Crazy" to Uncle Joe's title, they did it out of fun, knowing how animated Uncle Joe was about his life and country. Not even my 10-year-old son can forget the 6 a.m. reveille he received from a spirited old man during a trip to California almost 6 years ago. Uncle Joe's energy was infectious. 

Although I would have loved to go to battle like him and for him, my service as a mother had to take precedence over what I thought would be a career of military service. Like any American, though, I can take the opportunity to serve in other ways and support the ones who wore the uniform in the past, present and even those contemplating putting it on in the future. In doing so, I'm sure "Crazy Uncle Joe" is in heaven telling the angels about me.