This commentary by Domenic Piso was first posted in the comments of a recent Memorial Day remembrance post by Rita Pagliuca and has been moved into its own post.
Thank you Rita for remembering my childhood’s closest and best friend. It is sometimes very painful and difficult for me and I know for Stephen’s family to talk about the day the news came of Stephen’s death.
I can remember the early days, it was the mid to late 1950′s when I first met Stephen. We were about 11 or 12 and as I recall his family had just moved from the West End to North Margin Street in the North End. Stephen was a high energy kid, like myself and were together everyday. Most days would start either at my house or going to get Stephen’s at his house. We did many adventurous and fun things together, but never got into trouble. He was a great friend. All who knew Stephen liked him. As we grew older, we saw less of each other but remained very close.
I remember the day Stephen told me he was going into the Army and that he wanted to be a paratrooper. That news sent a chill down my spine. Several months later when Stephen finished his basic training and his Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) as Stephen called it, we were sitting on my front steps, he said to me, why aren’t you in uniform yet? I told him I was leaving for basic training in 10 days. He then told me he was going to “Nam”. I felt a pang in the pit of my stomach but made sure that Stephen didn’t see any negative reaction. He was so proud and honored to be fighting for his country. Off I went to basic training and while there learned of Stephen being killed in Action (KIA). I was devastated to hear of his death but thought about the many good times we spent together, especially the many war movies we saw together and which I believe inspired Stephen to serve his country. Stephen admired the courage, bravery and strength of our military heroes. Our favorites were the Audie Murphy war movies. Not sure many of you know, but Audie Murphy won the Congressional Medal of Honor and believe that Stephen should have also won that honor.
After you read the verbatim Silver Star Award Citation, a copy of which is in my possession, reads ” On 8 May 1966 while serving as point man during a search and destroy mission along a narrow jungle trail near the Cambodian border in the Republic of Vietnam that with keen alertness, Private First Class Steriti detected a Viet Cong ambush consisting of at least two machine guns and several other positions. Private First Class Steriti aggressively assaulted the first Viet Cong machine gun, firing from his hip, killing one insurgent and forcing the others to flee. While charging the second machine, he was critically wounded. Although, bleeding profusely, Private First Class Steriti crawled toward the insurgent position firing his weapon until he died. His valiant actions disrupted the Viet Cong ambush and prevented numerous casualties.” The citation concludes by stating “Private First Class Steriti’s devotion to duty and extraordinary heroism against a numerically superior hostile force were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army. By direction of the President, Private First Class Stephen Steriti was awarded the Silver Star, one of the nations highest military honors for his heroic actions” This award came on June 21, 1966.
Years later Stephen’s mother remembering that I was in basic training and not able to attend the funeral service for Stephen invited me to the Skating Rink opening and dedication and to talk about Stephen and what the North End and family meant to him . I was honored and also very sad to talk about Stephen getting killed in combat. I will forever believe that Stephen deserves the Congressional Medal Of Honor for his heroic actions that day in early May 1966.