Normandy: A Trip Years in the Making

Normandy American Cemetery

Two months ago I had the pleasure of visiting Normandy for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. It was a trip I’ve been meaning to take for a while now and frequently discussed it with Rocco. I visited France in March of 2016 but I never made it to Normandy, instead I decided to split time between Paris and Belgium so that I could visit Rocco’s friends and owners of the Remember Museum in Thimister-Clermont, a museum dedicated to the Battle of the Bulge. It was an incredible experience, and the best part of the whole trip was being able it discuss it with Rocco when I returned home. Showing him the pictures and seeing his eyes light up when sharing stories about Belgium was a moment I will always hold close to my heart.


After that, I kept assuring Rocco that Normandy would be my next destination, and I knew that whenever I made it there the stories we exchanged about Belgium would pale in comparison to whatever I experienced in Normandy. D-Day was the most special day of Rocco’s life, and he was proud of landing on Omaha Beach, his role in the allied invasion, and his service throughout WWII. If you knew him, you knew him he wore his service like a badge of honor.

Fast forward to early 2018, well before Rocco got sick. On one of my visits, I mentioned that next year was the big one: the 75th Anniversary of D-Day (2019), and if there ever was a time to go then that would be it. At that time it was just an idea, but a hopeful one. Throughout the year I would continue to mention it, but never discussed it in more detail or pulled the trigger as it was too early.

Rocco on the 74th Anniversary of D-Day: June 6, 2018. Just over 2 months before he passed.

When August rolled around, Rocco’s health took a turn for the worse. On Monday, August 20th Rocco’s heart and lungs began to fail – when my father visited Rocco he was sleeping and could not be woken up, even when his hand was gripped. Based on a firm recommendation from the VA St. Albans staff, my father had him immediately transferred to hospice care. The following day, Tuesday August 21st, we all went to visit him. Expecting the worst, we walked into the room and Rocco was alert, sitting up, and smiling – a complete 180 from the day before. During our visit Rocco was talking up a storm, laughing, and eating, and we stayed with him for many hours. It was at this time that  I told him that I was definitely going to Normandy for the 75th Anniversary – and he seemed pretty glad to hear it. I didn’t know it then, but that would be the last time I ever got to talk to him. 


I wish I could have visited Normandy while Rocco was still with us, but I believe everything happens for a reason. I can’t tell you how relieved I was that I was able to tell him when I did, and simply how happy I was that he knew.  Had I gone earlier, Rocco would have around for my trip, but I never would’ve experienced the incredible happenings surrounding the 75th Anniversary. I never got the chance to talk to him about my trip, but I know in my heart Rocco was there in spirit, and watching over me and looking out for me the whole time. And that’s all that truly matters. 

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In Honor of Rocky

Rocco, 1949

Almost a year has gone by since Rocco’s passing and I’ve been putting off updating this website, mainly because I didn’t want to change the “About” section and have to make it past tense. I started this website in 2013 as a way to keep track of all the happenings in Rocco’s life – events he was attending or honors he was being awarded. I also wanted to aggregate all the news articles written about him or interviews he gave so that they could all be found in one place and preserved for as long as the links stay live.
Rocco’s passing was hard on me, to say the least. We were very close and some days I find myself so stricken with grief that holding back tears becomes near impossible. Some nights I’ll listen to the messages he left on my phone just to hear his voice again before going to bed. But if you ever met Rocco you would know that it would upset him to hear that kind of talk. He would say something like “I don’t want you making a fuss over me!” because he was the most humble and selfless person I’ve ever met and he just wanted everyone to be happy.
In knowing this, I realized that fixing this website and keeping it going would be the best way to channel my sadness and to turn it into a celebration of Rocco’s life. And there’s no better time to honor him and continue to post about his life than on the surrounding anniversaries of D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. I was fortunate enough to travel to Normandy for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, and I stood on Omaha Beach exactly 75 years after Rocco first landed ashore during the second wave. It was one of the greatest trips I’ve ever taken – and I will dedicate a few blog posts about the trip shortly. 

Rocco in 2016 on his 92nd Birthday


So moving forward, this website will be part journal and part archive. When Rocco moved into the VA full time I acquired all of his (many) files and photos related to WWII. My goal is to digitize as much as possible, so that they may be shared with everyone and preserved eternally online, keeping Rocco’s joyful spirit alive. 

— Jill, Rocco’s granddaughter

ROCCO MORETTO MEMORIAL INFORMATION

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For those wishing to join us in paying final respects to Rocco, please see the arrangement schedule below:

FRIDAY, AUGUST 31

Wake Visitation:
2 – 4 p.m.
7 – 9 p.m.

Massapequa Funeral Home, South Chapel
4980 Merrick Road
Massapequa Park, NY 11762

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

Service
9:00 am

St. Rose of Lima R.C. Church

2 Bayview Ave.
Massapequa, New York 11758

Cemetery and Burial 

For those wishing to attend the funeral, please join us after the service:
St. John’s Cemetery
80-01 Metropolitan Avenue
Middle Village, New York 11379
Tel: 718-894-4888
flowers
In lieu of flowers the  family would appreciate donations to be made in memory of Rocco to:

Disabled American Veterans (DAV)

Or

Wounded Warrior Project

Rocco Has Passed

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It is with a heavy heart I bring to you the news of Rocco’s passing. We lost him late last night.

One week ago Rocco’s health took a turn for the worse and we transferred him to  hospice care. His heart and lungs were not working properly and he was given an oxygen line to keep his levels up. When my father went to visit him on Monday, Rocco did not respond, even when his hand was held.

On Tuesday, Rocky’s health did a complete 180 from the previous day and improved significantly. We were able to visit him and he was alert, talking, eating, and laughing. We stayed with him for many hours and we were grateful for our time with him as he was back to his old self. He had a few more good days and was visited by some more friends. However, by Friday morning he was no longer alert. He was not able to talk and had trouble keeping his eyes open.

Yesterday morning we received a call from the doctor informing us his condition was declining and was having trouble breathing. We stayed with him all afternoon – I held his hand tight but he never opened his eyes. We had plans to to see him again this morning but I believe he decided it was his time to go.

He passed on Sunday, August 26th at 10:20pm. Fortunately, he wasn’t in pain and he was surrounded by family all day. He was 94 years young and survived by son John, daughter-in-law Ann, sister Charlotte, and granddaughters Cara and Jill.  Please check back for wake and funeral arrangements.

-Jill Moretto

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The flag on Rocco’s bed will remain in place for 24 hours.

 

 

Pat Gualtieri, Vietnam Vet, Executive Director of United War Veterans Council, and long-time producer of NYC’s Veteran’s Day Parade Passes Away


pat gPatrick L. Gualtieri, a U.S. Army veteran of Vietnam who helped build a struggling New York City Veterans Day Parade into America’s Parade, the largest celebration of service in America, died July 21 after a short illness.

Pat Gualtieri, 70, was born and raised in Brooklyn. He served in the U.S. Army from 1966-68, including a one-year tour in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive.

He once described lying in the jungle watching as “Puff,” an American gunship, rained fire on North Vietnemese regulars during Tet. “I had mixed feelings, happy to be alive, yet saddened that so many would die.”

After a career in event production in Los Angeles, Pat returned to New York City in 2000 to take over the struggling Veterans Day Parade. As executive director of the United War Veterans Council, producers of the parade, Gualtieri built the annual event into America’s Parade, the largest celebration of service in the nation.

The parade now includes more than 25,000 participants, including active duty military units, veterans organizations, high school marching bands from around the nations, top elected officials from New York City and New York State and the highest ranking U.S. military commanders.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators line Fifth Avenue on November 11 to pay tribute to veterans. Pat also has arranged to have the parade broadcast nationwide and of Armed Forces TV to every U.S. military installation and ship in the world.

“The veterans community mourns the loss of a giant, who devoted his life to honoring those who served,” said Vincent McGowan, founding president of the United War Veterans Council. “Pat’s boundless energy and unflagging good will helped drive our efforts to shape a world-class effort to honor service on November 11 and every day of the year.”

Pat is survived by two daughters, Tara Mendelson and Gayla Gualtieri; a brother, Joseph, a grandson and a granddaughter and his life partner, Marlene ‘Molly’ Levi.

Rocco being honored at the renaming ceremony.
Rocco with Pat, left and Molly, Right at the renaming ceremony. June 2013

PAT GUALTIERI MEMORIAL INFORMATION

For those wishing to join us in paying final respects to Pat, here is the information:

Cusimano & Russo Funeral Home
2005 West 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11223. 

Memorial visitation:
Saturday, 2 – 5 p.m. and 7 – 10 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Memorial donations may be made to Friends of Vietnam Veterans Plaza and The United War Veterans Council.

Rocco on Fox 5 News – Memorial Day

Rocco And Anastas
Veterans Brian Adam Jones (L) and Rocco Moretto (R) with News Anchor Ernie Anastos (Center)

May 25, 2015 – Rocco, along with veteran Brian Adam Jones, represented United War Veterans Council on Fox5News (NY) with Ernie Anastos on Memorial Day (May 25).  On the 6:00 news, Anastos interviewed both Moretto and Jones, asking about their personal experiences with war and how they cope with losing comrades.  Moretto fought in World War II and Jones fought in the war in Afghanistan.

Rocco said Anastos was extremely personable and talked to him for an hour off-camera.  Rocco had a great experience being in the Fox5 Studio in NYC.

70th Anniversary of V-E Day

This May 8 will mark the 70th Anniversary of V-E Day, the day Allied forces declared victory in Europe, signifying the official end of World War II (May 8, 1945).  The Czech Republic recognizes this day as Liberation Day – the day they were liberated from Nazi Germany.  Towards the end of the war in 1945, Rocco was stationed in Kraslice, CZ (formerly known as Graslitz when it was occupied by Germany) where he was in charge of a POW and displaced persons camp.

Morreto and Jaffe June 1945 Graslitz
Sgt. Rocco “Rocky” Moretto (left) and Sgt. Louis Jaffe (right) in Graslitz, Czechoslovakia. June 1945

Kraslice, which is located in the Karlovy Vary region,  is getting ready to celebrate the 70th anniversary of World War II and their liberation from Germany. The town is organizing a two-day commemoration of the event with festivities, including a military vehicle convoy, fireworks, and a historical exhibition featuring pictures and stories from the war.  Rocco’s picture and video account of his time in Kraslice will be part of the exhibit, which runs through May 12.  Rocco was invited by the Mayor of Kraslice to visit the town in observance of the celebration, but since he will be unable to travel his granddaughter will go in his place.

For more information and a schedule of events, please visit www.kraslice.cz

Battle of The Bulge – 70th Anniversary

December 1944  SSG  Battle of the Bulge  Butgenbach, Belgium
December 1944
SSG
Battle of the Bulge
Butgenbach, Belgium

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of the end of the World War II battle that was fought in Belgium and Luxembourg from December 1944 through January 1945.  On December 16, with the onset of winter, the German army launched a counteroffensive that was intended to cut through the Allied forces in a manner that would turn the tide of the war in Hitler’s favor. The battle that ensued is known historically as The Battle of the Bulge (army.mil). Continue reading “Battle of The Bulge – 70th Anniversary”