What a country!
Remember an immigrant standup comic who used that phase in his shows? It was some 35 years ago when Yakov Smirnoff hit the TV and comedy clubs. We laughed at his humor about the Soviet Union, communism and how the United States was such a great country.
Among the many wartime veterans, the sound that resonates is their pride. This column is for all those veterans who make good neighbors, may live next to you and you may not even know they are veterans. They’ll share many stories, and yet as average people, they may surprise you with their personal history.
For the last seven years, I have had a great friend from the World War II era, Angelo Picarazzi, whose experiences are so distinctive. He was only 10 years old when his family emigrated from Italy. He was in the 9th Infantry Division of the Army and was at Normandy on D+3 (second wave). He made it out of the Higgins boat that sunk directly to the bottom of the water.
His recollection of D-Day as an 18-year-old brought tears to my eyes. He also reminded many times that he turned 19 years old in a fox hole in the Battle of St. Lo in France. His European tour brought him to the Battle of the Bulge, and he crossed the Remagan Bridge before it collapsed on the engineers. His nine-month walking tour through France, Auchen and Germany included the hedgerows, foxholes and “move out.” Surviving with three wounds, he definitely lived with the Angels.
His name is so appropriate — Angelo Picarazzi. A very proud American, although he always says today this is not the same America he knew.
Richard Pearce was a front line Army infantryman who told a story at a Battle of the Bulge luncheon that was deeply emotional and extremely tragic. Also, he became friends with a person he met in the senior housing where he lives. His friend (unknown to Pearce in WWII) was a German veteran who also fought in the Battle of the Bulge for Germany. This friend came to this country after the war, loved it, stayed here and fought for the US in the Korean War.
Finally, I met an Afghanistan immigrant named Grafar Watsata, who came to this country some 50 years ago. He became a citizen, married an American women and praises the US. His life was working for the US government doing counseling and interpretations. He spoke many dialects of the Afghan language and still speaks with a broken English accent. His work took him all over Afghanistan and the US. He is so thankful, especially realizing that this country has been very good to him. Watsata constantly praises this country, “It the greatest country in the world, and don’t let anyone tell you different.”
Many of us are born here, live and work here all our lives. We only know America, and we only can relate to one country. That is something to ponder and cherish. “Oh, what a country!”
Thank you, Yakov Smirnoff.