Born and raised in South Boston, Bill Martin was drafted into the Navy in 1966 despite poor eyesight. Because he was a college graduate, he was sent to Officer Candidates School in Newport, R.I. Trained as a supply officer, Martin would serve in active duty and the Reserves for 30 years; he would see action off the coast of Vietnam and take part in Desert Storm. He retired from the Navy in 1997 with the rank of captain. As of this interview in 2019, Martin is the Veterans Services Officer for Kingston, Mass.
James Martin had just become a teacher in the Boston Public Schools when he joined the Marines in early 1967. He would be sent to Officers Candidates School in Quantico, Va.; he would receive further training in infantry and communications before he was sent to Vietnam. He would serve with the 11th Marines in a variety of duties, from signal officer to bartender.
“Pat” Flynn joined the Army in 1943, wanting to join the 10th Mountain Division as a skier. Instead, he was trained for combat infantry. He served with the 157th Infantry Regiment, and saw action in Italy and France. After the war, he stayed a civilian for about a year before rejoining the Army for another 20 years. Flynn would see action in Korea with the 9th Infantry Regiment, and in Vietnam as part of the Special Forces.
Interview conducted by James Ramsey
Margie Labedz was the daughter of a World War I veteran who did her part in WWII as a member of the Victory Troubadours, a group of singers and dancers who entertained at local veterans’ hospitals. She also remembered other activities on the homefront such as rationing and air raid wardens. Her future husband, as well as her brothers and her two sons, have served in the military. Labedz is a lifetime member of the VFW Auxiliary.
Kevin Strel left a halfway house in New York City at the age of 17 to join the Army. Trained as a medic, Strel would be sent to Korea as part of the 9th Infantry Regiment. For the next year, he would rotate between patrolling the DMZ and being on base treating personnel and Korean civilians. He would finish his three-year enlistment at Fort Dix and Fort Devens.
Andre Proulx joined the Navy shortly after the start of WWII. He was first assigned to a cruiser, the USS Flint, then transferred to the USS Douglas H. Fox, a destroyer. Proulx was assigned to one of the vessel’s 5-inch gun mounts; he survived a kamikaze attack during the Battle of Okinawa. In 2013, he was among several veterans who received overdue medals.
Arthur Robert was a second lieutenant with the 403rd Civil Affairs Company when his unit was deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm. Robert would end up in Kuwait City organizing the transport of supplies. Robert would later serve with the Mass. National Guard, retiring in 2005 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Arthur Kovacs had finished two years’ study in civics engineering at the University of Buffalo, as well as some time in Haiti as a medical missionary, when he was drafted into the Army in 1970. He started out being trained to handle mortars, but soon transferred to clerk school. After basic, he was sent to West Germany, where he worked as a legal clerk in Frankfort. He was discharged in 1972.
Raffael deGruttola enlisted in the Army in 1953, shortly after graduating from Somerville High School. Because of his talents as a musician, he earned a spot in the 18th U.S. Army Band in Fort Devens. He would also earn a spot in the 1st U.S. Army Band in New York City, as well as attending the Naval School of Music Conservatory in Washington, D.C.
Mario Aiello grew up in Readville (part of the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston) and was drafted into the Army in 1942. He became a Technician 5th Grade, and was part of the 5th Army’s 75th Field Artillery Battalion. Aiello saw action in North Africa and Italy, and would earn a Bronze Star.
This interview was conducted with Aiello’s son, Stephen Duggan, at the Bedford VA Medical Center.