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War Stories

Army cameraman Gino Bartucci (Vietnam)

Born in Italy and trained by the Army as a cameraman, Gino Bartucci toured the country photographing atomic bombs, filming bombers flying overhead and helping create documentaries. Gino Bartucci was born in Malvitani di Rende, a small village in Calabria. Of the nine children born to Vincenzo and Maria Carmella (Pisello) Bartucci, six survived infancy. The family farm provided almost everything they needed. “We didn’t have to buy anything but salt, sugar … that’s about it,” Bartucci says. He attended a one-room school with about a dozen students. In 1955, Bartucci’s father immigrated to Chicago, bringing one son and his ...

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Marine machine gunner Paul Calabrese (Vietnam)

Mere months before full-scale battles raged across Vietnam, Paul Calabrese engaged in deadly skirmishes in the jungles around his base camps to ward off enemy incursion. The oldest of four sons, Paul Calabrese was born in Chicago to Joseph and Betty (Spindler) Calabrese. They lived in a family-owned six-flat on the West Side of Chicago until moving to Oak Park when Calabrese was 6 years old. He recalls Sunday dinners and Christmas gatherings at his paternal grandparents’ home. “I remember grandma making raviolis all the time and they lived in the basement,” says Calabrese. He explains that his grandparents had ...

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Air Force refueler Dominic Guerrieri

Refueling fighter jets during Desert Storm, Dominic Guerrieri flew over burning oil fields, saw bomb flashes and witnessed artillery launches into Kuwait. The youngest of six children, Dominic Guerrieri was born in Chicago and grew up on the Far Northwest Side of Chicago near Foster and Cumberland. His father, Carmen, and mother, Rita (Mariano) were born in Chicago. His grandparents emigrated from Basilicata and Bari, Italy. One of the youngest of 28 cousins, Guerrieri enjoyed his close-knit family. Christmas Eve was celebrated at home with the extended family enjoying the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes. A favorite Easter dish ...

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Naval officer Georgiann Callaway

Opting for the Navy instead of college, Georgiann Callaway found professional fulfillment and adventure on six continents during a stellar 20-year career. Georgiann “Gigi” Callaway was born in Chicago and grew up in LaGrange Park, one of four girls born to Andrew and Ann (Beres) DiDonato. Her father’s family was from Calabria. Callaway enjoyed a close relationship with her paternal grandparents, who lived in the Little Italy around Taylor Street. “It was Sunday at my grandparents’ house,” says Callaway. Aunts, uncles and cousins gathered together for pasta. A cherished memory is making ravioli with her grandmother. Callaway attended Forest Road ...

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40-year Air Force/Guard veteran Victor Guerrieri

A member of the Air Force and Air National Guard for 40 years, Victor Guerrieri was responsible for all communications on base and in the field of battle during a nine-month deployment to Iraq in 2010. The second of six children, Victor Guerrieri was born in Chicago to Carmen and Rita (Mariano.) The family lived in his maternal grandparents’ building near Marmora and Higgins avenues before moving to the area around Foster and Cumberland avenues, where Guerrieri grew up. His parents were born in Chicago, and his grandparents emigrated from Bari. Maternal aunts, uncles and cousins all lived close, and ...

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WW II forward observer Michael Priami

A forward observer during World War II, Michael Priami scouted out the enemy’s presence across Europe, communicating their location back to the troops. The second of four children, Michael (Mike) Priami was born in 1924 in Hancock, Michigan. His father, Federico, was born in Rota, Italy, and his mother, Davina Barsocchi, was from Lucca. They met and married in Italy and emigrated to Hancock, settling near relatives. His parents grew a huge vegetable garden with potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and more. “They had everything,” Priami says. He, his older brother and two younger sisters all helped out. In addition to ...

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Retired Army Lt. Col. Enrico Clausi

In the course of an exemplary 22-year career in the Army, Enrico Clausi has advanced from Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant Colonel while tackling everything from training soldiers and officers to mobilizing troops and equipment. Enrico A. Clausi was born in Chicago and grew up in the Italian neighborhood of Homan and Chicago avenues. “Even the garbage cans were painted red, white and green,” says Clausi. His father, Enrico, emigrated from Cosenza, Calabria, as a young boy. His mother, Antoinette Messi, was born in Chicago. He has one older sister. Clausi grew up surrounded with music. His father was a professional ...

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WW II Recon Photographer Ralph Triggiano

A reconnaissance photographer during World War II, Ralph Triggiano captured the enemy’s presence in the Pacific from 10,000 feet and the horrors of war from point-blank range. Ralph Triggiano was born in Chicago and grew up in the neighborhood of Taylor and Peoria streets surrounded by his maternal grandparents, aunts and uncles. Triggiano’s father, Joseph, emigrated from Carbonara di Bari, and his mother, Emmanuela Lorita, was born in Basilicata. Only five years old when his mother passed away, Triggiano moved in with his grandparents while his father worked on the railroad. “The aunts and uncles were really great,” says Triggiano. ...

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Army Corporal Casey Presta (World War II)

As a member of the 34th Infantry Division during World War II, Casey Presta battled his way up the peninsula where his father was born. One of five children, Ferdinand Prestia was born in 1921 to Peter and Jenny (Tavolina). His father immigrated to Chicago from Marsala, Italy, by himself when he was 17 years old. The family moved several times during Prestia’s childhood, always in Italian neighborhoods, before settling in the 3900 block of West Flournoy Street. Prestia graduated from Sumner Grade School and attended Crane Tech High School. Over the years, his father worked hard to bring his ...

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Two-war veteran Mario Ortigara

Having served as a weather observer in southern Illinois after World War II, Mario Ortigara never expected to be called back up and thrown into the teeth of battle in Korea. Mario Ortigara was born in his parents’ home on the South Side of Chicago, where brother Benny welcomed him. A few years later, sister Mary joined the family. Anna Panozzo and Domenico Ortigara were from small towns in the Piedmont region of Italy, where they met and married. They lost their first-born son to illness before immigrating to Chicago, where they settled in the historic Pullman area. Domenico was ...

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