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Westerly Service & Honor Rolls

US-1 South
Broad St at Granite St
Westerly, Washington County, Rhode Island
 
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"Westerly World War I Memorial
1917 - 1918
5th Co. C.A.C.  R.I.N.G.
In other branches of service
 
 
World War II
1941 - 1945
 
Korean War
1950 - 1953
 
 
VietNam War
1964 - 1975
 
 
Erected by
Town of Westerly
in co-operation with Memorial and Library Association of Westerly
 
Dedicated Armistice Day
November 11, 1937
 
Re-dedicated Veterans Day
November 11, 2002" 

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One hundred twenty men listed on the World War I service roll were members of the 5th Company of the Coastal Artillery Corps, Rhode Island National Guard. This National Guard unit lineage runs directly back to the Colonial Militia of Rhode Island in 1755. It appears that only one of these men did not return from the Great War, Lt Harold W. Merrill died in France on October 6, 1918, and is buried in the American Cemetery at Lorraine. 

An additional 438 men are listed as members of other services, with a dozen of them shown as died in service. The first man of Westerly to die was Wallace C Craig, who was just 20 years old and serving with Mine Squadron I in the Navy's Atlantic Fleet. 

Aging Marine Hailed As Hero

First Sgt Daniel Hunter, US Marine Corps, was probably the oldest of these Westerly men to die in combat, he was 43 years old when killed at Chateau-Thierry. The men he led over the top and into battle called him "Pops," and he had earned every bit of respect and admiration shown him when his body was discovered and removed for burial.

Hunter's first enlistment was into the Army in summer of 1898 for a six month stint. In 1901 he re-enlisted and went to the Phillippines. He liked to drink, carouse, get tatoos, and generally enjoy what his meager payroll allowance could buy. The Army, however, didn't exactly share his views on what it took to be a good soldier. By the time he left the Army to join the Marines in 1910 Hunter had been up and down the promotional ladder more than a couple of times through four different enlistment periods. 

The 35 year old Marine Corporal continued his hedonistic activities until assigned to the guard detachment at the Marine Prison in Portsmouth. Sometimes it takes a sober look from the outside to understand what it takes to succeed in uniform. Daniel Hunter finally became a good Marine, well, at least one that paid more attention to his duties than to liberty call and alcohol. Getting married probably helped too.

On the morning of June 6, 1918, FSgt Hunter was with  67th Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, a unit fighting with the 2nd Infantry Division (Army), American Expeditionary Forces. With a toot on his whistle the hardened Marine began leading the Company across a wheat field to a wooded area several hundred yards away. The Germans, a full regiment, held fire until the Marines were just 100 yards away. Hunter took three separate hits from machine gun and small arms fire, each time getting back on his feet to continue with his men, urging them on in spite of his wounds. The fourth hit, to his head, killed him. After the battle, recovery and burial crews counted nearly 1,100 Marines in the wheat field leading to one of the most famous locations in Marine Corps history, Belleau Wood. 

FSgt Hunter was posthumously awared the Silver Star, Navy Cross, and Distinguished Service Cross for his courage and leadership that day.

Classmates and Friends Go to War

Back in the days of the selective service draft, it wasn't uncommon for friends and classmates to discuss their future and consider how military service would affect them. Boys leaving high school in the first three years of the Korean War, just like those graduates of the 1960's, knew that being sucked into uniform would upset their plans if they waited for their number to come up. The logical path was to volunteer and have a slight chance of self-determination, even if it only meant that you went to recruit training with a buddy at your side. 

Louis Gaccione, Tony Giordano, and Ed Ligouri opted for the Army. They went off as a trio to boot camp and after graduation they were split up, each to a different advanced training school. Graduation day was the last that Ligouri and Giordano would see Gaccione. Just a month after turning 21 years old, on July 18, 1953, Gaccione was killed at Christmas Hill in Korea. 

Not long ago Ligouri came up with an idea to enhance the honor roll plaza area at Westerly. He formed a committee and the idea became a reality. Guys like he and Giordano could sponsor flags to adorn the memorial area, dedicating them to fallen friends like Gaccione.  Ligouri eagerly stepped up to me as I took photos during my early morning visit. He explained how the friendship of three young men continues to this day, even though one of them died on foreign soil over sixty years ago.

This too is not an uncommon situation. Many high school classmates keep in touch for decades after graduation. Even more reconnect at reunions, continuing their friendships as if the years were not a hindrance to the memories of their youth. But for those sons and daughters that followed the sound of the call to service there is a special element of pride and sacrifice that polishes every additional facet of the memories. These classmates took an oath that begins; "I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; ... "  

08/22/2017

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