November 22, 2014

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Veterans Day: Rittman hosts memorial to Italian-American soldiers

LORAIN – A small Italian flag waves proudly in front of a black slab of New Hampshire granite.

The stone monument is one of 104 that borders the graves of veterans buried in the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman, about
12 miles south of Medina.

Etched into the monument are the names of the nine Italian American Veterans organizations spread throughout Ohio, followed by a quote summing up what inspired them to fight:

“They came as immigrants, served as citizens and died as Americans,” it reads.

The monument was dedicated on Sept. 30 by members of the nine organizations, but it was the current commander of the Lorain Italian American Veterans Post 1 who made it possible.

Gino Manacci wanted to do something for the nearly 1 million Italian-American veterans who served during World War II.

“We needed to do something for them,” Manacci said. “They were too important to our history and our victory.”

Two years ago, as head of Ohio`s Veterans of Foreign Wars, he organized an effort among Italian-American veterans groups to put a monument in the Rittman cemetery, which was built in 2000 and is only the second national veterans cemetery in the state. The other is in Dayton.

The monument cost $2,500, with the inscription donated by Milano Monuments in Cleveland.

Manacci said it was important to place the monument at Rittman because so few people know that the cemetery exists. Construction began on the cemetery in 1998 after the Department of Veteran Affairs identified the Cleveland area as being in need of a veterans` cemetery.

There are more than 540,000 veterans living in the cemetery`s service area, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site. The cemetery can provide burial space for about 106,000 veterans and their dependents.

“They need to know about it, their wives need to know about it and their families need to know about it,” Manacci said. “They`re entitled to this.”

Leo Citro, a Lorain resident who is the national commander of the Italian American Veterans, said the monument goes a long way to honor all Italian Americans who served.

“It`s an honor to have that there to represent all Italian Americans, and especially Italian-American veterans throughout Ohio and the nation that served our country, fought with valor in the wars and became productive members of society,” Citro said.

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.