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Honoring those who serve: Veteran born to oppression earns place in sacred history

World War II vet
Sam Lombardo is
recognized for his “selfless service to humanity”

mmiller@patriot-news.com

Sam Lombardo has been many things in his 90 years.

As a child in fascist Italy, he felt the hand of dictatorial oppression.

After moving to America, he developed a patriotism so strong that as an infantryman in World War II, he made his own U.S. flag while fighting his way across Europe.

As an author and speaker, the retired Army officer has since used his pen and voice to sing this nation’s praises.

The dedication earned the Carlisle (PA) resident an induction into the Legion of Honor of the Chapel of Four Chaplains.

The chapel at the Philadelphia Navy Yard commemorates the heroism of four Army chaplains who drowned after giving up their life jackets to other soldiers when their transport ship was sunk by a German submarine in the icy North Atlantic in February 1943.

One of the chaplains who sacrificed themselves was Rabbi Alexander Goode of York.

The chapel’s Legion of Honor recognizes those who “have rendered selfless service to humanity without regard to race, religion or creed.”

Lombardo received the legion’s bronze medallion, its second-highest award, for “extraordinary contributions to the well-being of others.”

“I feel honored, but also humbled,” Lombardo said. “I’m wearing this for these [chaplains] and all the soldiers who gave their lives.

“I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but nothing that compares to what they did,” he said.

Former state Rep. Jerry Nailor of Mechanicsburg PA, nominated Lombardo, the author of the World War II memoir “O’er the Land of the Free,” for the award.

He said he’s especially impressed with Lombardo’s ability to convey to audiences the meaning and sacrifice of World War II and his love of country.

“Sam is always going to the schools and talking to students,” Nailor said. “He has a way to really relate to them. … They learn something with him being there that I don’t think they’re going to forget.

Patricia Aversa, a legion of honor administrator, said her nonprofit group cited Lombardo for his enduring effort to share his experiences and to pass on the legacy of World War II.

Lombardo said he has much to repay this nation because it gave him a haven from tyranny.

He was only 10 in 1929, when his family left Italy, then ruled by dictator Benito Mussolini, but the pain of those times remains fresh.

“I know what it means to be oppressed,” Lombardo said. “Even at that age, I could feel it.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sam Lombardo sent the clipping of the article to the Checkerboard. His note said, “I am honored and humbled in receiving this award. I will wear it with pride and in honor of the four chaplains and all those brave men who perished.”

Gentle heroes

The Chapel of the Four Chaplains promotes cultural harmony and religious tolerance. It is named for Army chaplains Alexander Goode, George Fox, Clark Poling and Joseph Washington, who died in the sinking of the transport ship Dorchester during World War II.

Goode was a rabbi from York, Fox was a Methodist pastor from Vermont, Poling, of New York, was a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church and Washington, of New Jersey, was a Catholic priest.

All four gave their life jackets to other soldiers and went down with the ship.

For more information: www.fourchaplains.org.

Last modified Oct. 22, 2010

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