Currahee's grandfather was role model, Medal of Honor recipient
October 3, 2013
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky, -- The word role model is defined as a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others.
Professional athletes, firefighters and policemen are some of roles in society young kids can choose to look up to or emulate.
However, for those who have Service members in their Families, the role model can be a much closer and tangible person to admire.
Such was the case for Sgt. Dell Rocco, a medical logistics specialist with rear detachment's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, who had his grandfather to emulate.
His grandfather, Louis Richard Rocco, a Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient for actions during the Vietnam War, not only affected Sgt. Rocco's career choice but also other important areas of life.
"Chief Warrant Officer Rocco, then Sgt. 1st Class Rocco, was a member of Advisory Team 162, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and was awarded the American Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty northeast of Katum, 24 May 1970," states Quad-a.org.
On that day, Dell said that his grandfather had volunteered for a mission. During that mission, the medical evacuation helicopter he was aboard was shot down on a mission to remove wounded troops near Katum.
Louis suffered back injuries, a broken hip and a broken wrist, and the other four crew members were shot.
Louis is sited as telling the Armed Forces Information Service, "I guess I was going on reflexes," he said. "I jumped out and pulled the pilot out first. I looked for cover and saw a big tree lying on the ground. I dragged him to the tree, knowing that any time I was going to get shot."
An article in the New York Times describes Louis going back to the helicopter and carrying the co-pilot, the crew chief and another medic to cover, one at a time, crossing 20 yards of open ground under a hail of gun fire, his hands and face being burned by flames that were engulfing the helicopter.
On Dec. 12, 1974, President Gerald Ford formally presented Louis with his medal during an official White House ceremony.
After being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, Louis passed away, Oct. 31, 2002, at his San Antonio home.
Beyond his grandfather's prestige, Dell most remembers the special bond they shared.
"I spent weekends and every summer vacation with my grandpa," shares Dell. "We would eat out, watch sports and go to local events."
"We used wrestle consistently. It was always a competition between me and him," said Dell. "Sports, boxing, anything dealing with competition, we'd be all over it."
Approximately a year after Louis' passing, Dell entered the United States Army on Oct. 31, 2003.
He soon realized having such a highly regarded Soldier for a grandfather does not go unnoticed for too long in a military career.
"In basic training, I was about seven weeks into it, the [Drill Sergeants] did a health and welfare, and they found a memorial I had with my letters," laughingly shares Dell. "I got yelled at a lot; apparently I was supposed to let people know who I was related to."
Dell reflected on a humorous memory of time spent with Louis at an event.
"It was me, my grandpa, some of his veteran buddies and a recruiter," shares Dell. "The recruiter was in his class A's and they had noticed he had on jump wings. So they asked him when he got his jump wings, how many jumps he had done. The recruiter was real proud when he answered that he had had them for about four years and he had 100 jumps. My grandpa and his buddies said 'we got wings too.' The recruiter asked how many did they have. They answered 'two, one in Normandy and the other was somewhere else famous; I don't recall the specific name. You should have seen the look on the recruiter's face."
Another fond memory Dell has of his grandfather is Louis' humility.
"He was a hero even though he didn't consider himself one," said Dell.
Aside from a competitive drive and similar occupation, Dell also said that he learned how to treat people from his hero, his grandfather.
"I think the most important aspect of everything I've been taught was how to treat people," Dell said. "Although he outranked a lot of people he treated everyone with respect."