Vincent Scelsi, 90, served from 1941 to 1945 in the 100th Naval Construction Battalion. He spent time in the Marshall Islands and the Philippines, where his crew built airfields, submarine bases and hospitals. Memorial Day, he said solemnly, is a “Memory of the servicemen who never came back.”
An East Meadow resident since 1962, Scelsi continued his work in construction after the war. He then served as a sergeant in the Memorial Day parade’s Color Guard.
John Mallico served as an engineer in the U.S. Infantry from 1945 to 1947. Deployed in Italy, his crew built and repaired bridges. “It was an experience,” he said. “But I’m glad it’s over.
“And I personally know some of the fellows who died in World War II,” added Mallico, 86, who lived in North Bellmore for 50 years before moving to the senior center.
The most decorated veteran of the bunch is Cliff Way, 87, who served from 1942 to 1950. The majority of his service was as a member of the 101st Airborne Division and the 66th Infantry. For his heroics in battle, he earned the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.
But not all of the men who served were in combat. John Errico, 84, was an army photographer during the Korean War. “I didn’t fight anyone,” he said. “I shot them with a camera.”
The cold temperatures in Korea are what stand out the most in Ericco’s mind. At its lowest, he said, the temperature reached 35 degrees below zero. “It was freezing,” he said. ‘I mean freezing.”
On Monday, the seven VFW members proceeded down Carman Avenue, Hempstead Turnpike and Prospect Avenue before ending at Veterans Memorial Park, and were met by hundreds of onlookers who came out to show their support.
“I feel proud that I was a veteran,” Ericco said.