By CAROL LA MARCA PERNA
I was born and raised in Dunkirk, living on Swan Street just above the old Pantry grocery store. I live in the Los Angeles suburb of Rancho Palos Verdes, and I religiously read the OBSERVER online.
Recently, I looked at the column "In Honor and Memory" and read a very interesting story written regarding Frances Sammartino Sayers (June 2) by John Fedyszyn. The story was about her brother, Michael Sammartino who was killed in action at Anzio in World War II.
This is my story.
In 1994, my husband and I were in Naples, Italy, to attend the wedding of his brother. After the wedding, we headed north, and stopped at his aunt's house in Nettuno. While having dinner, I said to his relatives that I heard there was an American cemetery nearby. His cousin said she would take us there in the morning.
The next morning we set out to sightsee and to visit the cemetery. Upon entering, I noticed a sign saying, "You Are Now on American Soil" which is always comforting. The grounds were immaculate and very serene. We started to wander around to see what was there.
We found a huge granite wall that gave the history of the war in Italy. It is much like what you see at the Punchbowl in Hawaii. While reading the history of the war, we heard English being spoken and saw three older gentlemen, and asked if they were Americans. They said yes. "We are Americans from Pittsburgh, Pa., and we were stationed here in Anzio, and this is the first time we have been back since the war." That was very nostalgic for them. We talked for a few minutes and then they moved on.
We walked the grounds, and on the way out, we noticed a small cottage-type building. We asked my husband's cousin what it was, and she had no idea, so we went into the building and came upon the three men from Pittsburgh again. I asked what this place was and they told me "Graves Registration" and asked what state I was from and I said New York state.
They told me to ask for the New York state book and to look up my hometown to see if there was anyone from my town buried in the cemetery. I did and got the biggest surprise of my life. There are two people from Dunkirk buried there - Michael Sammartino whose last name I recognized and another who I did not. We paid a visit to the graves and I remember leaving saying "Rest in Peace, this is a beautiful place".
When we got back to my husband's aunt's house, I called my parents in Dunkirk and told them where I had been and that I found Michael Sammartino's grave. My mother said that she remembered that he had died in Italy in the war, but did not know he was buried there. She went on to say many from Dunkirk had lost their lives in the war including her own brother, Charles Martinelli, who died in the Pacific.
So, when I read the article a couple of weeks ago, I just wanted to comment that I too, had visited Michael Sammartino's final resting place. It was a very humbling experience.
Carol La Marca Perna is a Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., resident.