I met this week's veterans spotlight feature several months ago and I liked him instantly as we really hit it off. He would be described as unequivocally old school — kind, humble, generous with a warm smile and a fabulous personality.
Francis A. Giardina served his country in the Army from 1952 to 1954 in the Korean War.
Growing up in Pittsfield, he was the youngest of three children. "We were poor, but we didn't know it ... we always had food on the table and always had plenty to do," he remembered. After graduating from Pittsfield High School, Giardina ran pool halls for a couple of years before being drafted into the Army in November 1952 at the age of 21. He was sent to basic training at Fort Devens in Ayer and Shirley. He remembered it as "very big with a lot of soldiers."
Giardina was then shipped to Korea in the Chorwon Valley, which saw a significant amount of action and casualties. The private got his first taste of the enemy after being in Chorwon for several days.
"We were less than a mile from the enemy ... they could actually pick off our guys we were so close. I was outside of my foxhole — they were about 6-feet deep — all of a sudden a fellow soldier ran by me and jumped head first into my foxhole. I stared at him for a moment when BOOM! A bomb exploded about 100 feet away from me ... I jumped head first into the hole, too. I asked the soldier how the heck he knew about the bomb and he said he had been on the front lines so long, his ears could hear when the enemy was loading the shell — that's how close we were," he remembered.
"The enemy was torturous ... just plain torturous. They seemed to know every time we ate because they'd send mortar fire. ... didn't sleep too well when you were in the trenches either. They'd sneak up on you at all times during the night."
On his 13th day in the Chorwon Valley, Giardina wasn't so lucky when a bomb exploded several yards from him while on patrol. The explosion was so powerful that it lifted him 3 feet off the ground. He took shrapnel in his shoulder and leg.
"I was sent to a MASH unit to get taken care of ... I was in a great deal of pain and they had me on a lot of medication," he said. "I don't remember but they told me after that I showed up in the compound with my johnny and just my boots."
He laughed, "I was that far out of it."
He also offered another humorous story on being in Yokahama, Japan. "We would be shaved by Japanese women every morning with straight-edged razors. I was just praying to God that they didn't recall how bad we beat'em in World War II," he chuckled.
Outside of combat, there were some haunting memories that Giardina can never forget. He remembered seeing a Marine at the hospital in leather handcuffs so he couldn't hurt himself. The Marine had a sheet of paper on his chest and "snapped" when a nurse removed it.
"I thought he was going to break those handcuffs he was so strong," he recalled shaking his head.
I asked Giardina about entertainment while overseas. "I was at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii and Roy Rogers visited the
troops. Everyone kept asking him where his horse Trigger was," he said laughing.
Giardina got not one but two Purple Hearts because, well, orders are orders.
"The commanding officer told me to report to him ... He said he was going to award me the Purple Heart for bravery. I told him that I already received mine," Giardina said. "He said he needed to do it. I said sir, I already have mine ... he got really upset and said, 'I DON'T CARE ... I GOT ORDERS!!!'"
His thoughts on military service? "I figured it was my duty. I had no qualms. Not that you like the idea of being shot at. But I was proud to serve my country," he said.
Private Fran Giardina, thank you for your service to our great country.
Veteran Spotlight is a special column by Wayne Soares that will run twice a month. Soares is a motivational speaker and comedian who has frequently entertained the troops overseas with the USO. To recommend a veteran for Soares' column, write to email@example.com.
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Pittsfield Recognizes Boys Who Tried to Help Swimmer
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
Fire Chief Sammons explains what happened at Silver Lake on June 23.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Christopher Daniels just kind of shrugged Thursday morning when asked about how he and his brother, Skylar, had rushed to find help when they saw a swimmer in trouble at Silver Lake.
But first-responders said the 16-year-old was loud and clear on June 23 when he called 911 to report the emergency.
"They're the ones that initiated the 911 call, and they gave clear direction," said Fire Chief Thomas Sammons. "Their quick actions, and the conviction that was in Christian's voice — we knew that he was dead serious."
Both brothers were recognized by Mayor Linda Tyer and Sammons at a brief ceremony at the Columbus Avenue fire station on Thursday morning.
The board voted 3-2 on Monday to allow the bar on Lake Pontoosuc to open up seating and serve beer and wine on its patio under the governor's orders for Phase 2 that allows for outside dining.
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