Never forgotten

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Private 1st Class Vincent J. Ferrara was never forgotten by those who loved him. His name would come up at every family gathering, and his siblings would always share fond memories.

He was born on July 8, 1925, to Damiano and Giovanna “Jennie” (Nigretto) Ferrara and raised in a strong Catholic family. His uncle, Fr. John Ferrara, was the pastor at St. Callistus Parish in Chicago, and his father was very active in the Maria SS. Lauretana Society.

Vince grew up in St. Michael Parish on the Near North Side of Chicago. He had a sunny disposition even though his father passed away when Vince was just 14 years old. He loved going to the Feast of Maria SS. Lauretana. He also loved going swimming at the lakefront in the summer and ice skating at the rink in the winter. He always had a smile on his face and cared deeply for his family and friends.

On March 24, 1944, he enlisted in the Army at the age of 19. His company was fighting in the Hürtgen Forest near Vossenack, Germany, for several weeks. They were exhausted so the commander pulled them back from the front line and sent in relief. It was during that short break that Vince wrote his last letter home. His V mail on Oct. 7, 1944, was very upbeat, as always. Here is some of what he wrote:

“I hope you are not worrying about me because there’s no reason to. You see I am with a bunch of nice guys and they are old-timers at this war game as they teach me the angles. So please don’t worry about me. But enough about me, how are the kids? I expect they are all going to school and waiting for it to get cold so they can go ice skating. Boy I wish I could go with them. But I have a job to do. When it’s over with, and God wants me to come home to you, I will go skating all the time. Mom, do me one favor. Don’t cry over me this Christmas. Enjoy yourself and have a good time together at home. Get Uncle Charlie over and be happy. Well, mom, I have to close for now but hope to hear from you very soon. Until then, I remain your loving son. Vince.”

His company returned to the front line a few days later. The Battle of Hürtgen Forest was one of the largest of the war. On Nov. 10, 1944, one of Vince’s platoon buddies saw him go down in the Raffelsbrand section of the forest. On Nov. 14, 1944, Vince’s mother received a heartbreaking telegram informing her that her son was missing in action.

Almost 75 years later, in the fall of 2018, Vince’s last surviving sibling, Rosemary, started receiving calls from the Army. They were reaching out to next of kin to update information about MIA soldiers and were using DNA technology to help identify the remains of unknown soldiers from the war. The Army requested DNA samples from Vince’s male nephews, and in August 2019, our family received a call that the Army had discovered a match.

Vince’s remains had been unearthed on the battlefield in 1949 and buried in what was then called the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten and is now called the Ardennes American Cemetery. Since Vince’s nephews live in Wisconsin, the Army decided to move his remains to the Wood National Cemetery in Milwaukee.

The American Airlines flight arrived on Sept. 23, 2019, at General Mitchell Field. Our family was escorted out to the tarmac to receive the flag-draped casket. Vince was given a full military funeral on Sept. 25, and his family was presented with the medals he earned during his military career. They were the Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle-Eastern Campaign Medal and Gold Star lapel pin.

Our family is grateful that Vince is back on U.S. soil. He is finally home! Now we truly understand the meaning of “Never Forgotten.”

The above appears in the September 2020 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.

 

About Jeanne Talarico

Jeanne Talarico is the niece of Vincent Ferrara.

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