Rocky Gedaro

Brave soldier finally gets what he earned

How a Private Finally got his Sergeant Stripes 58 Years Later

Sunday, September 15, 2002
COLUMN: Bill Nemitz
Newstory reprinted by permission of columnist
Bill Nemitz.
Copyright © 2002 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

AUGUSTA, MAINE - Ask anyone who's known Rocco Gedaro since he came home from the infantry in World War II almost 60 years ago and they'll tell you they've heard the story.

"He tried for 25 years that I know of, but he couldn't make things happen," said Fran Collins, who's lived across the street from Rocco in South Portland for 43 years. "It took his daughter to do it. She's a good girl."

What Rocco's daughter did was set the record straight. Six months after Theresa Gedaro-Fox decided her dad had been ignored long enough, she stood in a small conference room at Camp Keyes Thursday and gave Rocco something he should have received on a battlefield in northern France 58 years ago.

His sergeant stripes.

"My God, I don't know what to say to her," Rocco said as a line of well-wishers, starting with Adjutant Gen. Joseph Tinkham of the Maine National Guard, took turns congratulating him. "This is just a shock to me."

It's also, for a 78-year-old man who thought his epitaph would read "Came in as a private, went out as a private," a promotion that comes cloaked in irony. Way back then, you see, the last thing Rocco wanted was three stripes on the shoulder of his field jacket.

"Sergeants," he explained, "kept dying."

He landed on Normandy Beach on June 8, 1944 (D-Day Plus 2), a replacement infantryman for Company C, 357th Infantry, 90th Division. For seven long months, he fought first at Normandy, then across northern France, then at Rhineland and finally at Ardennes.Rocky

Not long ago, a fellow veteran helped him set up his own Web site to chronicle his time on the front lines:

"An infantryman . . . has to seek cover behind a hedge, all the while he is being fired upon by the enemy with rifle fire, concussion grenades, machine gun fire, mortar shells and artillery," Rocco wrote. "He has to pray that he is not wounded or killed. He has to relieve himself often (pee)."

Rocco was one of the lucky ones. The closest he came to being hit was the day he reached back for the canteen on his belt and found it empty. To this day, he treasures the piece of shrapnel he found clanking around inside.

Like so many soldiers still in their late teens, Rocco fought bravely - and hard. One night in the French town of St. Susanne, his sergeant told him to direct a convoy from B Company past a fork in the village road.

"It was about midnight and I heard a truck coming and soon saw it approaching me," he wrote. "I said 'HALT' and jumped onto the running board. I asked 'B CO' and heard the driver say 'VAS IS.' I realized then that they were Germans. I jumped off the running boards and ran toward the buildings yelling 'JERRYS. JERRYS.' My squad opened fire on the truck as it started to move forward. It went about 20 feet and stopped."

Continued >> Click here to read Part II

Newstory reprinted by permission of columnist Bill Nemitz.

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