County Veterans Memorial
Jacksboro, Campbell County, Tennessee
Losing a son to a foreign battlefield, or to the dark and cold ocean, is always a tragedy. But is it always the worst a family can face? No, sometiimes daughters are also involved in war and their own personal tragedies.
At the very end of the World War II honor roll I found Peter and Julia Zecchini. Julia was the fourth of eight Zecchini children, Tommy was the first of two boys and seven years younger than Julia Marie. Their father was an Italian immigrant, a miner who provided for his family in Jellico, TN.
Peter T. (Tommy) Zecchini, Jr. was about 19 when he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. When he drowned on 3 February 1943 he had attained the rate and rank of a Yeoman Third Class. He and 21 other Coasties were passengers aboard the USAT Dorchester, headiing to England and assignments involved with the Coast Guard effort to support the expected landings and invasion of France. The sinking of Dorchester was a huge loss for America, 675 died when the ship took a single German torpedo amidships.
Tommy's sister, LtJg Julia Marie Zecchini, had been in the US Navy for over three years when her little brother was killed. She had left home around 1935 to become a nurse, training at St Mary's Memorial Hospital in Knoxville. Ensign Zecchini accepted a commission in the Navy Nurse Corps in July 1940. Online records show she was enroute to Auckland, New Zealand, during Christmas and New Year of 1942 to serve with Navy Mobile Hospital Four. Internal Navy publications show Hospital Four had a capacity of 1,000 beds in 1943. I was unable to learn anything more of the hospital unit, or of Nurse Zecchini during her time aboard. I did find her death certificate from 8 October 1944 - her 29th birthday. Julia Zecchini had committed suicide and died that day at 8:50 A.M.
It isn't appropriate for me to reveal the rest of her story. It should be enough to state that service places many burdens upon those that wear our uniforms. Sometimes the Oath of Enlistment is an escape device, offering a new home and a new start for a problematic life. Sometimes the uniform, and all it represents, isn't enough to protect those that wear it.