ALFRED DE SIMONE - PFC
- jersey city
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- July 27, 1949
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- June 24, 1969
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
- South Vietnam
Alfred De Simone was born on July 27, 1949, in Brooklyn, NY, and attended John D. Wells Junior High School before moving to Jersey City, NJ. His home of record is Jersey City, NJ. He enjoyed a variety of sports including baseball, golf and bowling, but especially liked to go fishing.
Alfred enlisted in the US Marine Corps at the age of 18 rather than wait out the draft. His wife, the former Lillian Ogrodowski, said, "Ever since he was young he wanted to join the Marines." But his main goal in life was to raise a family. He served in the 1st Marine Division, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines. He attained the rank of Private First Class (PFC).
On June 24, 1969, at the age of 19, Alfred De Simone was killed in action near DaNang as a result of a gunshot wound to the body received from hostile small arms fire while on a squad size ambush. He left behind a wife and their unborn child. The couple had been married about seven months.
He had been awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in a previous battle.
The following is the text from the speech given by De Simone's daughter, Bonnie, on Monday, May 28, 2001, in celebration of Memorial Day at the NJ Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, Holmdel, NJ:
This is the story of the greatest man I never met, the man who changed my life.
Alfred DeSimone was born on July 27, 1949. He and Lillian Ogrodowski knew each other their entire lives. They started dating when they were just 12 years old. They did many things that most 12 year olds do together...and one other thing...they fell in love.
They spent a lot of time together...they made plans and dreamed about the future. By the time they were 18 years old, they were married. Then, Alfred DeSimone got called to serve in the Army in Vietnam. But he wanted to be a Marine. He served in the First Marine Division, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines. He received his first Purple Heart a few months into his first tour of duty...but this was just a small accomplishment in this extraordinary man's life.
He was awarded a week of R & R in Hawaii. He immediately wrote a letter to tell Lillian, and she, even faster, boarded a plane to be with him there. They, just like they did when they were 12 years old, and again when they were 18 years old, when they said I do, made plans and celebrated their love. Lillian had a rough plane ride home and soon she realized it wasn't airsickness that made her so ill.
She wrote, "I think we may be a family"...and Al was thrilled. The doctors soon confirmed her suspicions, and she wrote the good news to Al. Just like always, they began making plans. In what was to be Al's last letter home, he wrote, I am so happy and cannot wait to be a daddy...p.s. I hope it's a girl.
Al got his wish...You see that man was my father. And while his wish for a girl came true, he never got to see his daughter. See, just three short months later, on June 24, 1969, he was shot and killed in Quang Nam province. He left behind the loves of his life. His beautiful wife Lillian, pregnant with the daughter he was hoping for, the daughter he would never see, a 20-year-old pregnant widow, barely a woman herself. And in all the plans they made, they had never planned for this.
I never met my father, and that has been my greatest disappointment and my greatest blessing. I remember growing up wishing I could have been like the other kids, wishing I could have had a father...I wondered what my father would have sounded and looked like...I never got to hold his hand, feel his touch or have him tell me he loves me and that he is proud of me...I'd ask my mother to tell me about my father, but every time we'd look at his box of mementos or photographs, she'd cry, so I just stopped asking.
But every time I could, I would sneak into that box and sniff his uniform. I just wondered what he would have smelled like. I would read his letters over and over. Tracing his penmanship with my finger. When you never have a father, you wonder about a million things. And, yet even though I never got my wish, to have known my dad, I feel like he is closer to me than anyone.
Of anything I have ever done, or ever hope to do, I am the proudest to say that I am Alfred DeSimone's daughter.
I've learned a lot about this hero...about how much he loved kids. Even though he had no money himself, he bought ice cream for all the kids in the neighborhood. How much he loved animals and nature and how much he wanted a family. In the face of a nation that told him not to go to war...he chose his country and the things it stands for...liberty, freedom and justice, and he was willing to lay down his life for it.
In place of pictures I would have had of my father and I, I have hanging on my wall a rubbing of my father's name from the Vietnam Memorial. And this somber memory makes me smile every time I look at it.
It is his name, it's Alfred DeSimone's name. It's my father's name and it's the name of a great American hero. My dad is more than just this name on the wall. He is my flesh and blood. He is my heart and soul. I want him to know that I am so proud of him and all he stood for and I am proud to be his daughter.
Now I spend my time reaching out to other children who have never known what it would be like to be tucked in at night, or taught to ride a bike or be kissed on the cheek when you're having a bad day.
All of this has had a major impact on my life and many others. My mother was devastated by the loss of her great love and the father of her child. I recently spoke with her about it and she started to cry. She said she is still distraught by his loss and that no matter how many years go by, the pain is still there.
Memorial Day, for many travelers packing the Garden State Parkway, is a happy start to a long summer. For those like us, it is our chance to remember and reflect. But it is not a sad time...it's a time when we can tell the world things like, "I am proud to be Alfred DeSimone's daughter."
I salute all those men and women who served and I thank you. God Bless you all and God Bless all our fallen veterans and families.
Sources: Bonnie DeSimone (daughter) and NJVVMF.
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