By Anna Ciccotti, IMCOMMay 6, 2013
VICENZA, Italy (May 6, 2013) -- Aristotle once asked, "What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good. All virtue is summed up in dealing justly."
Yet in our own time, among veterans of the Vietnam War, there are countless stories of virtue of which most have been largely ignored.
Of the more than 540,000 Americans with boots on the ground at the height of the war, the 58,148 who were killed or missing in action, and the four million in all who served in uniform in Vietnam, there is one who stands out among the rest for Italians. His name is Luigi Albanese, a son of the province of Vicenza and the only Italian-born citizen who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions during that conflict.
Albanese was born in Cornedo Vicentino, Vicenza, in 1946 and his family moved to Seattle, Wash., when he was two years old. He joined the Army in 1965 and was sent to Vietnam in August 1966. On Dec. 1 of that year, Pvt. 1st Class Albanese was killed during a firefight in which he freed his platoon from sniper fire at the cost of his own life.
Local Italian author Franco Lovato does justice to the heroic actions and the memory of Albanese in his just published history, "Echi di Pianto dall'Indocina Francese," available from Edizione SGI Torino. To mark its publication, Lovato made an author's appearance in a bookstore in downtown Vicenza April 18, 2013. The event was attended by more than 100 people, including a delegation of seven Vietnam veterans from the Veteran of Foreign Wars section of the Vicenza Military Community.
"The look I saw in the veterans' eyes filled my heart with joy, and showed the gratitude for the effort I put into this work," said Lovato, recognizing that their attendance in particular brought a powerful reality and a message to the event. "After having been in Vietnam, having seen those places and having breathed that air, I was only missing the looks on their faces to reconfirm my conviction that I have worked for something good. The memory of a brother of ours: Luigi Albanese," he said.
"From the moment I stepped into the Libreria Galla, it was a tremendous experience. This was a remarkable team effort, among the bookstore staff, the various officials involved in the planning of the presentation, the friendly, detail-oriented and articulate author, the media representatives and our small American contingent," said Lt. Col. Christopher S. Dillard, who was invited to represent the Vicenza-based U.S. Army Africa command.
"I was impressed by the respect displayed in the presentation toward the author, his research work, the book, all of the contributors and, most of all, for the subjects of the book presentation, the Vietnam War and U.S. Medal of Honor recipient, Luigi Albanese," he said.
Dillard said the presence of the veterans brought enormous value to the event, in terms of showing their support and respect for both Albanese and Lovato's book, and provided a living reminder of the sacrifices made and hardships endured by all Soldiers fallen in Vietnam, and by Albanese.
During his remarks Dillard asked the Vietnam veterans to stand and be recognized. The audience gave them a warm and heartfelt round of applause.
"I think everyone knew we were applauding for Luigi too, as he courageously gave his life for his American countrymen and could have otherwise been standing alongside the veterans," Dillard said.
Later, Vietnam veteran Patrick Quinn of the Vicenza VFW section addressed the book-signing audience in Italian and thanked Lovato for the event. Quinn said he felt more appreciated during the book presentation in Vicenza than he had when he and his fellow Soldiers came back home from Vietnam, when they were accused of doing things they had no control over whatsoever.
"I think the story of Luigi Albanese and his heroism will help strengthen the ties of friendship between the Italian and the American community here," said Vietnam War veteran Ron Reynolds, service officer with the Vicenza VFW.
"You have a frontline example of an Italian who migrated to the U.S. at the age of two, became an American citizen, went to our schools, the U.S. school system, joined the military and performed his duties in a totally professional manner with total commitment, with the utmost sacrifice," Reynolds said.
"Albanese is certainly to be applauded from every angle and everyone who served on Vietnam will have the highest respect for this man," he said.
"During the event I saw and felt the strong bond that ties our nations," said Lovato. "Just think of the long applause dedicated to the veterans. I do think that the example of Luigi Albanese may serve as a bond between the two communities and help us understand that concepts of democracy and freedom have no territorial borders," he said.
Lovato's book will be released in English this summer