The 107th Signal Company that so courageously fought in the Vietnam conflict from October 1968 to October 1969 is still serving the country.
However, on Monday morning, there was no combat or conflict for the 107th Signal Company, which was the only Rhode Island National Guard unit activated for service in Vietnam.
Led by “Sky hawk,” also known as musician Frank Castle whose real name is Frank Castellone, the 107th Signal Company helped veterans and their families celebrate Veterans Day at The Bridge at Cherry Hill in Johnston. Castellone was a Chaplin’s Assistant at Long Binh Post Chapel in Vietnam and was in battles and saw their effects.
There was the ceremonial posting of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem, an opening prayer and remarks, and a closing prayer. “Taps” was played and the group sang “God Bless America” together before “Sky hawk” ordered the colors retired.
But perhaps the most moving moment of the ceremony came when members of the 107th Signal Company, along with members of the Disabled American War Veterans Chapter 21, presented former veterans who now live at The Bridge with special certificates and an American flag.
The ceremony was emotional; Activities Director Gayle Raposa and Sales Director Debra Demar were near tears.
“This ceremony was wonderful ... very touching,” said Demar, who helped arrange the Veterans Day event with Raposa. “It was especially extraordinary for our resident veterans.”
The ceremony was also touching for the veterans, such as U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Domenic Vavala, now 87, who wore his one-time uniform. He was joined by 85-year-old Armando “Casey” Farnesi and 66-year-old Gordon Dutra.
Farnesi broke into tears after receiving his certificate and flag because, as a family member who was sitting nearby explained, “He lost his brother in the war.”
Farnesi, who in his younger years was said to be quite the athlete, served with the United States Army in the Korean War.
“These men are all special and will be forever,” Castellone said of the 24 veterans who now live at The Bridge at Cherry Hill. “This ceremony makes them feel good and also means a lot to our brothers from the 107th Signal Company. It’s emotional for them as well as us.”
Monday’s event was one of several that the 107th Signal Company performed this week.
“We’ve been out all week at different places like this,” Castellone said. “We don’t want anyone to forget our brothers.”
The entire list of the veterans who were honored Monday along with the branch of service in which they served includes: Ed Allard, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine; Joseph DiLucido, Infantry; Norman Galimberti, Coast Guard; John Mourine, Marines; and Tom Belcher, Vincent D’Amico, Ed Dionne, Gordon Dutra, Pat Gesualdo, Fred Hall, Ralph McCord, Vincent Mastrostefano, Bob Nadeau, Russell Shirley, Robert Tramonti, Frank Scucces, Stanley Balkum (Army Air), Larry Calo, all United States Army. Also, George Camera, Domenic Vavala and Sal Neri, Air Force; Frank Cherubino, Eugene Famiglietti, John Gambuto, John Murray, all Navy. McCord served in three different branches of the service: Army, Navy and Coast Guard.
In honor of those veterans, Raposa wanted to do something special for Monday’s ceremony, and used her creative talents to make a Veterans Wall of Fame banner that she said “is dedicated to our veterans here at The Bridge at Cherry Hill.”
Members of the 107th Signal Company who, along with Castellone and Chaplin Bob Mendes, served in Vietnam and also Monday at The Bridge at Cherry Hill were: Jimmy Martino, Joe Errico, Bill Parrott, Richard Ferri, Bill Cilli, Al Casati, Jim Pascetta, John Martino, Pat Riccardi, Allan Conca, Joe Baldino, Mike Masi and Joe Castaldi.