People around the country will gather on July 4 for parties, grilling and fireworks to celebrate the nation’s birthday. It’s a day to honor what America stands for, and remember the people that served it.
One of those people is local resident Arthur Pesoli, a 92-year-old veteran who served with the U.S. Navy during World War II.
“The Fourth of July means a lot for the people who went to war and fought for our freedom,” he said.
Pesoli served 3 years from 1943 to 1946. During the war, he said he was a gunnery sergeant aboard a supply ship with goods en route to the Soviet Union.
As part of the Lend Lease Act, the U.S. provided military aid to foreign nations, like the USSR, that were trying to hold off Hitler’s forces. The Soviets had been fighting a Nazi invasion since 1941 and needed additional weapons and supplies to help replenish their depleted armies.
It was up to men like Pesoli to get them there.
To do that, he and his fellow sailors had to cross the Atlantic Ocean, which happened to be infested with German U-Boats at the time.
“I was scared at first, but after a while it was nothing,” he said, adding he dealt with some seasickness during his journeys.
His lightly-armed ship was outfitted with three 40mm guns and one five-inch gun. Pesoli made three journeys on it throughout the course of the war.
He said the first voyage is the one he’ll remember the most.
“That first trip, a Nazi submarine got into the convoy and blew up a couple ships,” he said. “The captains were told ‘if that happens, just scramble.’”
Fortunately, Pesoli survived the attack in one piece. The Navy provided more backup the next time.
“On the second trip, we had destroyers as escorts,” he said.
Other local veterans will also reflect today on the 241st birthday of America and remember those who served.
“Each generation should always remember what the previous generation, and the previous generations before them, sacrificed for this country,” Air Force veteran Tom Marmuscak said.
“It’s a great day to celebrate the birth of our nation,” said a Navy veteran from Horseheads, who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s a great day to be a patriot.”
“Today is about supporting our troops. It’s about celebrating our freedom and the United States of America,” said Colleen and Lenny Mourhess, the latter a 10-year Air Force veteran.