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VETERAN'S JOURNAL - State honors 5 for bravery during Bataan march

DATE: 05-31-1999
PUBLICATION: Providence Journal Company
SECTION: Newspapers_&_Newswires
PAGE: B-03

The Rhode Island Cross, the state's highest award for bravery, was awarded recently to five survivors of the Bataan death march. The honorees are James Brennan and Henry Wallace of Pawtucket and Antonio Dattorro of Providence. Also, John LeClair and John Portress were granted the award posthumously.

Reginald A. Centracchio, commanding general of the Rhode Island National Guard, presented the awards earlier this month at Guard headquarters in Cranston along with Governor Almond. "It is important to remember the sacrifices of all men and women in uniform as we approach Memorial Day," Almond said, indicating the event formally acknowledged the sacrifice made by service members during the Bataan death march of World War II.

On April 10, 1942, 76,000 soldiers captured by the Japanese in the Philippines began a 65-mile march to their POW camp. Approximately 24,000 marchers succumbed to injury or were executed by the Japanese along the way.

New housing for homeless

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and U.S. Rep. Robert A. Weygand attended a groundbreaking ceremony earlier this month for Rhode Island Operation Stand Down's first veterans living facility at 1010 Hartford Ave., Johnston.

Within a year, this veterans group will turn four derelict buildings into apartments for homeless veterans, according to the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation (RIHMFC). When renovations are complete, the duplex-style, one-story structures will include seven one-bedroom apartments and a community room.

The objective of the project in Johnston is to provide a setting that will enable Operation Stand Down to link local veterans with VA benefits and other assistance so they can obtain education, job training, counseling and health care aimed at helping them get back on their feet.

The $424,200 financing package for the project is being provided by RIHMFC and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD will also provide an additional $234,000 to cover the cost of supportive services for the veterans.

Residents will pay no more than 20 percent of their incomes toward the cost of rent, meals, laundry and related housing expenses. Residents must be homeless, disabled veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

For more information, call Tony DeQuattro (222-2411, ext. 4547) or Chris Barnett (457-1219).

Benefits for merchant mariners

Merchant marine retirees were advised in this month's "NMU Retiree" newsletter that the Veterans Administration Benefits Enhancement Act of 1998 now provides veterans recognition and burial benefits to U.S. merchant mariners who served between Aug. 16, 1945, and Dec. 31, 1946. Congress has taken final action to pass the bill, and President Clinton has already signed it into law.

This allows American merchant mariners who continued facing risks immediately after World War II, while transporting returning servicemen through hazardous waters with active mines and other lingering, hostile obstacles, to qualify for veterans status as those who served during the war years.

Merchant marine seamen were the first to see action in World War II, with three ships sunk before the Pearl Harbor attack, and the last men out with 11 ships sunk by mines as late as 1956, according to Chris Walsh, a Cranston merchant marine veteran who provided the information for this story.

Merchant marine POWs also were among the many soldiers who died while constructing the bridge at River Kwai near Kanchanaburi, Thailand, and the infamous "death railway," which crossed the bridge.

Approximately 2,500 merchant mariners will be eligible for this benefit enhancement. DD-2168 forms must be submitted along with discharge or other sea service documentation forms. Forms are available from the NMU Personal Service Unit, which can be reached at (888) 424-4949. Those applying on behalf of deceased mariners must also provide a certified copy of their death certificate.

Completed forms, along with a $30 processing fee in the form of a check or money order payable to the U.S. Treasury, should be sent to World War II Merchant Mariner Qualifications, Highland Community Bank, P.O. Box 804118, Chicago, Ill. 60601-4118.

Father's name on Vietnam Wall

The name of Air Force T-Sgt. Richard B. Fitzgibbon Jr., the first known casualty of the Vietnam War, was inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth, Mass., is listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having a casualty date of June 8, 1956. The earliest casualties previously inscribed dated from 1959.

His name now joins that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, with a casualty date of Sept. 7, 1965. According to the Department of Defense, they are the only father and son servicemen to have lost their lives in Vietnam.

For further information about the Vietnam War Memorial or the Memorial Fund, call John Meek at (202) 393-0090.

Thought for Memorial Day

The origins of special services to honor those who die in war is not a recent one. More than 24 centuries ago, the Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War that could be applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the nation's wars.

He said, "Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men." May they rest in peace.

* Marine Corps League

Monthly meeting: The Kent County Detachment will meet Wednesday at VFW Post 449, Providence St., West Warwick, starting at 8 p.m. New officers will be installed. All active, retired or discharged Marines are welcome at monthly meetings.

* Reserve Officers Association

R.I. department meeting: The ROA will gather at the Harwood Reserve Center, 385 Niagara St., Providence, on Thursday at 7 p.m. National convention plans will be discussed. Call Bruce Gaskill at 467-5410 for more information.

* The United Veterans Council of Rhode Island

Monthly meeting set: The council will convene on Thursday at 7 p.m. in conference room 125 at the VA Medical Center, 830 Chalkstone Ave., Providence. The election and installation of officers for 1999-2000 will be discussed.

* Vietnam Veterans of America

Chapter 325 monthly meeting: The group will meet on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at American Legion Post 39, 1028 Kingstown Rd., Peace Dale. For more information, call president Bob Barber at 294-6215.

* Veterans of Foreign Wars

Auxiliary department meeting: State president Donna Thurber will preside at Thursday's session at Capt. Kenneth L. Gilbert Post 4487, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Annual golf tournament: The tournament will begin at 8 a.m. on Friday at the North Kingstown golf course. To register, call Salvatore Capirchio at 946-8755.

Club picnic: This annual event, sponsored by the 15-week club, will be held on Sunday at the Leclair-Kozlik-Logan-Bassett Post, 98 School St., North Smithfield, starting at 11 a.m. Lunch and dinner will be served. For tickets or more information, call Leo R. Swider at 751-8200.

* American Legion

R.I. department convention: The 81st annual convention will be held from Friday to Sunday at the Sheraton Tara airport hotel, 1850 Post Rd., Warwick.

* Korean War Veterans of Rhode Island

D-Day barbecue: A steak and chicken barbecue with live country music and prizes will be held on Sunday at American Legion Post 12, 730 South County Trail (Route 2) North Kingstown, from 2 to 6 p.m. Tickets cost $12 for steak and $10 for chicken and are available at Post 12 or by calling 294-6517.

George W. Reilly can be reached at or by writing to The Providence Journal, 75 Fountain St., Providence, R.I. 02902.


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