Korea, Vietnam vet to open toasts at Army Ball
June 6, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson will host the Army's 237th birthday June 16, welcoming hundreds of Soldiers to a celebration that many have missed the last few years because of duties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Leading them in a toast at this year's event is retired Col. Angelo Perri, a man who knows a thing or two about coming home from combat.
Perri, 83, is a veteran of the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and his toast will be part of a live telecast involving the national Army Birthday Ball in Washington, D.C. While he was unsure of the details of his toast, he said he's already knows what sentiment he'd like to share.
"I would toast to those now serving, those who served in the past, and to those that will serve in the future," Perri said.
A 1951 Distinguished Military Graduate of the ROTC program at the University of Akron, Perri was commissioned into the regular Army and found hims lf in Korea the following year as part of the 27th Infantry Regiment. He served as platoon leader, company commander and battalion operations officer, returning to the United States after the end of the conflict.
Perri said the Korean War was a transitional conflict that combined elements of traditional, uniformed warfare and guerilla-style tactics that have since become common on today's battlefields.
"Once you hear that artillery and sniper fire, you know it's not a game," Perri said. "For me, I knew it was coming, but it didn't scare me. Statistically, your chance of getting hit is remote."
Perri served at Fort Jackson from 1966 to 1972, a tenure that included two tours of duty in Vietnam.
"Korea was still a World War II type war, in that the enemy wore uniforms," he said. "We were fighting a conventional battle where you still had front lines. In Vietnam, we had no front lines. Much like Iraq and Afghanistan, it was a guerrilla type war. You could 'chopper in' to an area and pacify it, and the minute you left the (Viet Cong) came back in. That's the same situation you have today."
His final assignment was to command the U.S. Army New York Area Command, which consisted of forts Hamilton, Wadsworth, Totten, as well as Fort Hancock, N.J. Perri decided to return to Columbia, S.C., after retiring in 1976, and has been an active part of the community ever since.
"Most of my friends who retired ahead of me were here," he said, "and this is my wife's home."
In retirement, Perri has served on the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee. His 23 military awards include two combat infantry badges and three awards of the Legion of Merit.
"I've watched Fort Jackson change from 1966 to today," he said. "There's a lot of history here. Three Army divisions were stationed here during World War II. The Rockbridge area was a German POW camp. In 1918, during World War I, there were 40,000 troops stationed at Fort Jackson. Few civilians are left in Columbia today that have any of those memories."