“To the men and women who served to defend and honor our country and bring stability and peace to our world” reads the stone memorial dedicated May 6 at the cusp of a median that splits West Moyamensing Avenue just west of 15th Street. On a rainy Friday morning, South Philly veterans from several wars came out for the ceremonious debut of an “All Wars” memorial installed by the Sports Complex Special Services District (SCSSD).
After brief words from SCSSD executive director Shawn Jalosinski, vets from primarily the Korean and Vietnam wars took turns posing for photographs in front of the nearly $4,000 stone memorial set atop a strong foundation and surrounded by red, white, and blue flowers. The stone is engraved with the symbol for the five U.S. Military branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy, plus a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action symbol.
Ted Scairato Sr. was the primary motivating factor for the SCSSD project. The 2013 South Philly Review Difference Maker is the director of Community District IV, a Korean War veteran, and a resident of the 2900 block of South Sydenham Street. He grew up at 18th Street and Snyder Avenue, went to St. Monica Parish, 2422 S. 17th St., and school, as well as the Edward Bok Technical High School, formerly 1901 S. Ninth St. He married his wife right “out of service” and moved down to Marconi, had a son and four daughters, and jumped into his father’s specialty for work – graphic design.
“For a year or a year-and-a-half, I was after them to do something,” Scairato said.
But he was happy with a rainy inauguration, mostly because of the turnout. Another Korean War vet wished him goodbye, saying “everything turned out great.” The Korean War vets were all decked out in sharp, striking jackets embroidered at Triple Play Sporting Goods, 827 S. Ninth St.
“Oh yeah, I’m happy they supplied us with all this,” Scairato said, pointing to the multiple tents that covered the sidewalk in front of the memorial and the seating area where vets scarfed sausage sandwiches and sipped coffees and Cokes.
The All Wars aspect, he said “was the fair thing to do,” and he mentioned wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, asking “should we be there? We should be guarding our borders, not putting people in harm’s way.”
Danny Ricci, of the 3100 block of South Colorado Street, was raised around 10th and Wharton streets and went to Korea in 1951. He came back at 22 and got married and said he “postponed my wedding to go fight.” He earned himself a Purple Heart for taking a bullet to his shoulder and said a little cold and rain are nothing compared to malaria and frostbite. Bob Carrero, a lifelong resident of 19th and Wolf streets, graduated from South Philly High, 2101 S. Broad St. and went to Korea in ’52 in the Air Force. They rightly pointed out that there is an explicit Korean War Memorial at Penn’s Landing at 109 Spruce St. Dedicated in 2002, it honors the 610 servicemen who died in service from the five surrounding counties.
Domenic Venezia, a resident of the 2900 block of South 17th Street who also grew up with Ricci near 10th and Wharton, enlisted at 18 and came back to Philly at 21.
“The first thing I wanted was a car,” he said, and got himself a 1948 Plymouth. Another Korean War vet, Tony Tomeo, from the 1800 block of Jackson Street, joined the Army in ’49. When he got back to Philly in ’51, he admitted he was a little “peed off seeing guys hanging around the corner.”
Tom Bartley, from 18th Street and Oregon Avenue, was drafted out of Camden into the Vietnam War.
“You didn’t feel safe until you were in the plane flying home,” he admitted, returning home in ’68. It wasn’t exactly the triumphant return some other vets enjoyed.
“It was a very unpopular war, people spit on you,” Bartley said, confirming that he “lost lots of friends in [Vietnam].” His wife Marybeth, whom he married in ’74, told him about the memorial ceremony.
The SCSSD has operated since 2002, when the Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Eagles and Comcast-Spectacor entered into an agreement that preceded their builds of new stadiums. Its entire operating budget is covered by those three entities. Jalosinski said they service approximately 4,100 households and 9,000 residents.
“Ted Scairato introduced the idea of an All Wars Memorial to the SCSSD Board back in ’13, [and] the Board proudly and unanimously approved,” he stated.
Contact Staff Writer Bill Chenevert at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 117.
Photographs by Jeffrey Kern