by Rita Pagliuca
Whenever we talked about the military history of the 60’s my sons were so surprised that I remembered very little yet could remember and sing all the words of the top tunes of the era. I tried to explain to them that it was not like today with CNN and Fox News with on- time reporting. Sometimes it literally took weeks before we had any news of significance.
That being said, I do remember the rainy Sunday morning when as I was leaving Mass one of my buddies told me that our own Private First Class, Stephen Steriti had given his life in Vietnam in service of his country. He died in May, 1966 at the age of 21. The sense of mortality sunk into all our young minds the day we heard the news. I can remember girls standing on the street corner weeping uncontrollably. I remembered ‘Stevie’ to be an ‘alright guy’ i.e. someone you could trust and the North End felt the loss in a deep way that day.
I regret to say that it was not until last year that I got to visit the Vietnam Memorial. It was a somber experience. The walls of those we remember grew taller and taller as you proceeded down the path. It just was a vivid expression of all the young men we lost.
When you locate your loved one’s name they give you a piece of what looks like tissue paper and a pencil so that you can copy the etching. Stephen’s name on wall 7E line 41 was much too high to trace. This past April, I returned to Washington and one of the volunteers saw me counting, climbed up the ladder and made me this special etching. I thanked him and told him I would place a copy in the local newspaper. Note that the a diamond next to a name on the wall stands for a person who has been proven dead; the body (or the remains of the body) has been found dead. Our Stephen served with dignity.
My next stop on the tour was the White House. Right in front was a gathering of people from Palestine who were spewing very derogatory slurs about the United States. A group of high school students were getting agitated and wanted to yell back. I went over and showed them the etching and reminded them that there are many of our own in service past and present who gave their lives so that this country can have freedom of speech.
Every time I see a person from the military on the street, I stop and thank them for serving our wonderful country. I am honored that my father and uncles served in World War II and the North End is honored to remember Stephen and the others who gave their life in Vietnam.
My prayer is that we continue to defend this great nation and be a conduit of peace to the world.
Stephen Joseph Steriti
Private First Class
PERSONAL DATA Home of Record: Boston, Massachusetts Date of birth: Sunday, 07/08/1945 MILITARY DATA Service: Army (Regular) Grade at loss: E3 Rank: Private First Class ID No: 11448670 MOS: 11B1P Infantryman (Parachutist) LenSvc: Between 1 and 2 years Unit: A CO, 2ND BN, 502ND INF RGT, 101 ABN DIV CASUALTY DATA Start Tour: Monday, 11/15/1965 Cas Date: Sunday, 05/08/1966 Age at Loss: 20 Remains: Body Recovered Location: Province not reported, South Vietnam Type: Hostile, Died Reason: Gun, Small Arms Fire - Ground Casualty ON THE WALL Panel 07E Line 041 Source: The Virtual Wall
6 Replies to “Memorial Day Remembrance of North End’s PFC Stephen Steriti With Etching From Vietnam Veterans Memorial”
Thank you, Ms. Pagliuca, for paying tribute to my cousin Stephen. It was Mother’s Day when Stephen was killed in action and his death completely devastated his family. Stephen’s parents would have been proud to read your heartwarming words of their son. Like you, I make it a point to thank any military person I see on the street. It is our service men and women making the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
Thank You Rita, I too, have gone to and have seen Stephen’s name on “The Wall” (Many years ago)
I knew Stephen, and our Community did feel the loss of his life!! What you did was wonderful~~it brought back memories of sadness but proudly honor his memory ! Sharing your experience is a wonderful tribute to Stephen’s contribution to Our Country with the giving of his life. His mother (Antie) would have loved to know that her son has not been forgotten by old friends and neighbors. (Typical North End Warmhearted People)
Thank you very much 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.
Beautiful, Domenic! Thank you for sharing your memories. I found your story very heartwarming.
Terri Lee Chicrello
GOD BLESS YOU RITA FOR REMEMBERING STEPHEN STERITI. STEPHEN WAS ONE
OF THE KIDS THAT HUNG AROUND WITH US AT BOVA’S CORNER.
Like Marie I also hung around with Stevie, he was one of the best people you would ever want to meet. After Stevie died I can always remember seeing his Mother with a such a sad face all the time. My heart went out to her. I don’t think anyone who knew Stevie will ever forget him.
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