There’s a lesson in here somewhere.
Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon
Republican Democrat [“your other Republican”], scheduled a ceremony for his town hall meeting in Multnomah on Saturday, 3 January. The honoree was to be Dario Raschio, a 100-year-old veteran of the U.S. Navy, who was going to accept a framed shadow box with his World War II decorations in it, along with a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol. Raschio was to accept the honor on behalf of all his fellow veterans of World War II.
The Eastermoreland Neighborhood Association site posted this summary of Raschio’s service:
Raschio grew up in Portland and joined the Navy in 1941, serving as an observation plane pilot aboard the USS Chester and participating in five campaigns in the Pacific Theatre.
After one particularly harrowing mission on Easter Sunday of 1944, Raschio crash-landed in the Pacific and his plane began to capsize. Raschio and his crewman prepared for the worst, but were rescued a few hours later by a Navy destroyer.
But there’s more to Mr. Raschio, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
As Senator Wyden made his opening remarks at the Saturday town hall, protesters began chanting outside the windows, and then invaded the town hall to shout Wyden down. The first video here, which captures their incontinent idiocy, is worth watching just for the adult, self-controlled black man who tries to persuade them to be quiet, and let Wyden finish his laudatory introduction of Dario Raschio.
The second video has Raschio speaking, very much as if he were 30 years younger than he is. He didn’t talk long. But in order to make himself heard, he had to make the appeal that’s going viral on the web now:
The protesters did not stop until Rashcio spoke up and said, “Give me a chance. At least let us show a little respect for this occasion.”
The audience erupted into cheers at that point. The news story continues:
He accepted the medals on behalf of those who died in WWII and ended his short speech by saying, “God bless America. And you people that are here for a cause, whatever it might be—show respect to Sen. Wyden.”
Who is Dario Raschio? You can read some of his story here. He came from a broken home, raised by his mother, who kept a boarding house in Portland in the 1920s. He spoke only Italian when he started school at the age of five. He remembers being poor and “ethnic”:
He recalls the rail trestles and cobblestone streets. He remembers Jewish men driving scrap wagons through town and watching his Jewish neighbors light their Sabbath candles on Friday evenings.
‘We Jews and Italians got along,’ he says. ‘We were all poor.’
He didn’t always get enough to eat, in fact. He served as an altar boy for the mass attended by the sisters who taught him:
One morning at the sisters’ Mass, he passed out for lack of sleep and breakfast. A Holy Names Sister, whose name he does not recall, scooped him up and gave him cookies and milk as a restorative.
‘I pray for you every day,’ she told him.
That sure felt good to hear, he recalls.
Eventually, however, he was able to go to Oregon State and study science. Coming out with his degree, he hoped to teach science in school, but was turned down for job after job because he was a Catholic. He did get a job with one of the Catholic schools in the Portland area, although it didn’t last long, and later worked in a government job for a brief time.
In September 1941, he did what many young men of ethnic background did: joined the military for a hitch. Raschio was in Navy recruit training when Pearl Harbor was attacked. In 1942, he married his sweetheart, Maria Dardano, just before shipping out to fight in the Pacific theater.
Ed Langlois of Catholic Sentinel takes up the story:
As a Navy pilot, he flew observation floatplanes that were catapulted off heavy cruisers. They flew ‘low and slow’ and were a favorite target of Japanese gunners, he says.
On a blustery Easter Sunday 1944, he was to carry a photographer to survey Japanese runways on a South Pacific island. While aloft, the plane began taking heavy fire. He steered back toward the ship, but not before scouting out the Japanese narrow gauge tracks that he believed led to an ammo dump.
As he came down on the water, a sneaking wave hit one pontoon and snapped it off. His plane capsized, sending him into the brine. He deployed his life jacket and tried to swim to his craft, but the winds carried it further away. The carrier was too distant to help and not maneuverable enough to save him under fire. He prepared to die.
It was then that he thought of St. Michael Parish and that Holy Names Sister whose name he could not recall but who had promised to pray for him.
‘I said to myself, ‘Sister, if I ever needed help, now is the time,” he recalls.
Before long, a Navy destroyer came and pulled Raschio and the photographer out of the water.
The ship’s captain told the men that a shark had been circling them.
An exhausted Raschio told the captain about the train tracks and their approximate location. The ship moved in that night and began firing its big guns. After a few salvos, the night sky over the island lit up for miles.
‘Oh, man. Talk about fireworks,’ Raschio recalls. ‘Just like daylight.’
The captain got a citation for destroying the dump.
Near the war’s end, Raschio was transferred to the naval air station at Klamath Falls. He and Maria moved into a chilly cabin nearby and he taught aerial gunnery.
He became a local celebrity because he was the only pilot with war experience. He gained fame once for flying back from San Francisco through a storm with serum needed to save the life of a boy at the nearby Japanese internment camp.
Raschio’s status as a war vet finally got him into the public school system as a teacher, and he taught for 34 years, retiring in 1980. He and Maria had three children. Maria passed away in 2010, after a marriage of 68 years.
But before she did, the couple took up ballroom dancing. From Langlois’ 2005 profile again:
It’s [dancing is] their therapy, they say.
‘I have a theory,’ Raschio says, standing on the front porch of his home. ‘Growing up, I never had a family. So I think the Man Upstairs thinks he did me wrong, and he should do something about it now.’
Raschio has a new dancing partner now, and shook a leg with her at his 100th birthday party in November 2014. His take on life:
You know my life was not always rosy… I’m one hundred now, but I still think I’ve got a few more dances in me!
It’s the content of your character, stupid.