Delco pays tribute to 2015 Freedom Medal honorees
by Peg DeGrassa
@PeggyDe5 on Twitter
SPRINGFIELD, PA- Standing before an audience of almost 700 attendees, legendary performer and Vietnam veteran Bobby Rydell, choked-up and emotional, proclaimed ìWe are united, the United States of America. If you donít respect our flag and love what it stands for, leave this country- get out!î
His words, referring to recent post-election protesting activities, received a thunderous round of applause at the Delaware County Veterans Memorial Associationís 2016 Freedom Medal Award Dinner at the Springfield Country Club Thursday night. In a climate of absolute patriotism and ultimate reverence and respect for veterans of all branches of service in attendance, the third annual Delaware County Veterans Memorial Association (DCVMA) gala awarded Freedom Medals to six veterans, as well as bestowing Freedom Medal awards to several in the community who have made a notable impact in furthering the mission of the Veterans Memorial. The event, emceed by Rydell and Fox 29ís Sue Serio, bound together people of all backgrounds by their common love of country and gratitude to our veterans. DCVMA president and US Army veteran Guy Fizzano and Delaware County Councilman Mario Civera assisted in presenting the Freedom Medals to distinguished veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle Eastern wars.
Following a cocktail hour where guests mingled, posed for photos with a George Washington and Revolutionary War soldier, and noshed on horsídoevres, the event opened with the Posting of the Colors and Pledge of Alliegence led by Marine Corps Bridge Company B, 6th ESB 4th MLG and MCL General Smedley D. Butler Detatchment 741 of Newtown Square, accompanied by the FFMA Regimental Band.
As the band and honor guards paraded through the center of the room to present the Colors and officially open the event, they were followed by this yearís Freedom Medal honorees, as well as the honorees of the past two years. Hundreds of specatators, seated at their tables, rose to their feet. The noisy room came to a hushed solemn tone, where one could hear a pin drop.
The National Anthem was sung by duo Christopher and Yvette Pecorano and the blessing was given by Rev. James Kelly, pastor emeritus of St. Pius X in Broomall.
Guests were treated to an emotional short film depicting veterans in various branches of the service coming home and leaving for duty, embracing their crying spouses and children, and photos of them on duty, in varied weather conditions and difficult circumstances. The DCVMA film set the tone for the event which was sponsored by the DCVMA, as well as Delaware County Council, reminding everyone of the extreme sacrifices and hardships endured by vets.
During the evening, prior to each recipient receiving their Freedom Medal, short biographical films were shown on the large screens suspended around the ballroom so attendees were able to learn about the honoree and their exemplary service to our country.
This yearís Freedom Medal honorees included:
Samuel Coco, U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran, began his military years as an aircraft engine mechanic, assigned to Middletown Air Depot. In 1943, he sailed with 20,000 to England on special assignment where he attended the British Royal Air Force School to study aircraft engine theory. After the course, he was assigned to the 320th Transport Squadron. From there he was assigned to the 32nd Troop Carrier Squadron, promoted to Staff Seargeant and assigned to a C-47 Aircraft DC-3 as an aeriel engineer, flying troops and transporting supplies. He flew gasoline to General Pattonís Tank Corps in the Battle of the Bulge and after the war, was assigned to the U.S. Headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. During his service years, Coco was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and the Honorable Service Medal. Coco has four brothers and all five of them served in World War II. Coco had a successful career with Prudential Insurance Company, retiring after 30 years of service. Cocoís medal was presented to him by Dennis Murphy, U.S. Army Veteran and DCVMA co-vice president.
David Fortune, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, joined in 1965, doing his basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina and beginning his service with training at Camp Geiger and Camp Lejeune, both in North Carolina. In 1966, Lance Corporal Fortune was transferred to Camp Pendleton, California, for advanced infantry training and then onto Vietnam. He was assigned to the Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Amphibious Force, later known as ìThe Walking Dead.î In Vietnam, he was assigned as a team leader in two major battles, along with various search and destroy missions.During a patrol assignment, Fortune was severely wounded and was shipped back to Philadelphia Naval Hospital. Corporal Fortune was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps and placed on disability retirement. Fortune received over a dozen service medals and awards, including the Purple Heart. He worked for 31 years at the Philadelphia Defense Supply Company before retiring. Fortuneís Freedom Medal was presented to him by Springfield Police Chief Joe Daly, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and DCVMA co-vice president.
Richard ìDickî Phillips, U.S. Air Force veteran, attended the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades in Middletown Twp. and during his senior year, enlisted in the U.S. Navy active reserve corps in a Hell Cat squadron at NAS Willow Grove. In 1951, Phillips enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and went to Sandia Base in Alburquerque, New Mexico where he trained as a mechanic. He found out he was actually part of an Atomic Bomb assembly team. He was assigned to the 4th Tactical Depot Squadron as an Electronics Technician for the bomb, scheduled to go to Germany. After two years, Phillips was discharged where he returned to his job at Scott Paper and has been active in local veterans organizations and causes ever since. Phillipís Freedom Medal was presented to him by John McComb, commander of American Legion Post #805.
Samuel Malandra, U. S. Army Veteran became a Combat Engineer during the Korean War and served with the 8th Army, 185th Army Combat Engineers, participating in securing the Main Supply Route about seven miles south of Seoul. Malandra was honorably discharged in 1954, returned home, started his own carpentry business, and has been active in many veterans organizations, including VFW Post 7390 and American Legion Post 805. Melandra has participated in over 2000 Veteran interments, as well as volunteering his time to mentor and counsel young veterans. Melandraís Freedom Medal was presented by Benjamin Napier, U.S. Army Veteran, DCVMA board member.
June Howard Micozzie, U. S. Air Force Veteran, enlisted in 1952 and was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. She was transferred to James Connally Air Force Base in Waco, Texas where she performed duties as a legal secretary. In 1953, a tornado hit Waco, killing 100 people and leveling parts of the town. Micozzie was transported back and forth for 12 hour shifts, assigned to help in various ways. She was discharged in 1954. Micozzieís Freedom Medal was presented by her son, Upper Darby Township Mayor Tom Micozzie. By her side was her husband, retired Pa. Representative Nick Micozzie, who served the 163rd Legislative District for 36 years.
Bob Spano, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, served on active duty in Okinawa and Subic Bay, finishing his service with the rank of Sergeant. After discharged he worked for the Upper Darby Police Department and later returned to his familyís floor covering business. Spano has been active in two Marine Corps Detachments, American Legion, VFW Post, AMVETS, and about a dozen other veteran organizations. He has been active in veterans activities in the community and has received numerous awards for his efforts. Spanoís Freedom Medal was presented by Dominic DíAlessandra, USMC Veteran, Commandant, MCL DET 741.
Freedom Medal awards were also given to civilians who promote and further the DCVMA mission. The Dedication to Education award was given to Kathleen Breslin, Delaware Conty Community College (DCCC) vice president for institutional advancement and director of the DCCC Educational Foundation and Jeffrey LaMonica, DCCC associate professor of history and coordinator of the Global Studies Program. Presented by Linda Houldin, DCVMA founding member and executive director of the Delaware County Historical Society, Breslinís medal was accepted by DCCC president Jerry Parker on her behalf.
The Dedication to Our Country and Education Freedom Medal award was given to the Wilbur C. and Betty Lea Henderson Foundation and accepted by Bill Taylor, on behalf of the foundation. The Medal was presented by DCVMA president Guy Fizzano who praised The Henderson Foundation for their dedication and recent generous donation to the DCVMA.
The Presidentís Award was presented to DCVMA founding member Linda Houldin who has made it her personal mission to honor Veterans by educating todayís youth about the sacrifices they have made for our country. In 2004, Houldin was approached by local veterans Steve Neri and Stan Short about the possibility of building a Veterans Memorial in Newtown Square on West Chester Pike and assigned Houldin the task of finding donors. According to Houldin, ìGod put Claude de Botton in my path.î The generous developer was so inspired by the mission, he donated the land to build the memorial and the entire deBotton family has been a major benefactor in the construction and upkeep of the memorial. Soon after the 2013 dedication, the DCVMA partnered with the Delaware County Historical Society, of which Houldin is executive director, to offer an education program to students in grades K-12. In a free program, students are taught about military history, government and the founding of our nation. Each student who visits the Veterans Memorial through the education program receives a flag and a cipy of the constitution. The students are taught to appreciate the Veterans who protect our history, liberty and freedome, as well as those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The program began with 50 students and now has swelled to 2,000. Houldinís award was presented by DCVMA president Guy Fizzano.
A Commanders Award was presented by the Marple Newtown Continued Veterans Alliance to Pa. Representative Bill Adolph. According to the Veterans Alliance, ìBill Adolph works tirelessly to assist all veterans, regardless of their branch of service or wartime affiliation. His respect for our nationís veterans demonstrates on countless occasions his love of country and his action to support our veteran organizations and deeds on a daily basis as well. He is always available to assist and has never asked for anythingóit is always the other way around. Bill Adolph will even reach into his own pocket to see that a veteran gets the help he needs. For these and many other unselfish, helpful acts, we are honored to present him with this award.î
In addition to the bestowing of the Freedom Medal awards, everyone in the ballroom was entertained by students from Wallingford elementary school who sang patriotic songs. Also, singer Carolyn Hilton-Finney presented an outstanding rendition of ìGod Bless America,î and Rabbi Max Hausen asked everyone to stand for a moment of silence following the Valley Forge Military Academy Cadetsí playing of Taps.
The Delaware County Veterans Memorial Association’s Mission is to pay tribute to the service and sacrifices of the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. The Memorial serves as a place to learn about war and conflict in U.S. history; a place to reflect upon bravery and sacrifice; and a place to honor those who serve to defend our rights-yesterday, today and tomorrow.
In addition to its educational program, the Memorial offers Casket Flag Raising ceremonies on the second Sunday of each month from April through November, an opportunity to buy-a-brick to memorialize a Veteran, and many other events throughout the year. The Memorial continues to expand, recently dedicating a statue of Pennsylvania World War II icon Wild Bill Guarnere and soon-to-be completed Hall of Prayers, providing a quiet place for praying and reflection. For more information, call 610-400-8722 or visit www.delcoveteransmemorial.org/. The Delaware County Veterans Memorial is located at Alice Grim Blvd and West Chester Pike, Newtown Square.
DCVMA co-vice president Joseph Daly summed up the essence of the event, ìWe are blessed to live in a country where the God-given right of freedom is bestowed upon every American citizen. However, maintaining this most basic of rights has not come without sacrifice. Since 1776, millions of Americans have served in the Armed Forces and thousands have sacrificed their lives to preserve our right of freedom from those who would subjugate freedom for the ideology of the state. The Delaware County Veterans Memorial is dedicated to honoring all veterans, particularly those from Delaware County who, without hesitation, gave their life to preserve the freedoms we all enjoy. It is my belief that it is the moral obligation of every veteran and citizen to honor our fallen to ensure that their sacrifice is not forgotten.î
Photo Credit: Jennifer Kearney Stephano
Left to Right Top Row- Joe Daly, Dennis Murphy, Nicole deBottom Robinson, Claude deBotton, Sue Serio, Sam Malandra, Richard Phillips, David Fortune, June Micozzi, Sam Coco, Bob Spano, Linda Houldin, Guy Fizzano, Bill Adolph, Mario Civera Bottom Row General Patton, Bobby Rydell, Mrs. Fortune, Nick Micozzi, Tom Micozzi, Kelly Micozzi, Bill Kinney
Photo credit – Rae Grossi