Thomas DeLuca has served in World War II, spent time on the front lines as the Philippines were liberated from Japan and dodged submarines in the Pacific and at 93 years of age, he continues to serve.
DeLuca, who resides in Fort Salonga, serves as the junior vice commander of VFW Post #9263 and has been a member of the post since its founding in 1962. He will proudly march with his brothers in arms this Monday at Commack's Memorial Day Parade. Each and every veteran who marches has a story of the service they've given to our nation. DeLuca took a few moments to share some of his with Patch.
DeLuca said he never wanted or expected to join a VFW post.
"I had no interest in joining a group when I left the service. I was going to leave it all behind me, otherwise you got into trouble. I had a wife," DeLuca said.
Drafted into the U.S Army during World War II, DeLuca's first-hand experience makes it easy to see why he wasn't eager to relive it.
DeLuca said he was an artist when he was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. His first assignment was to a communications unit, serving stateside helping to give orientation presentations to incoming soldiers, create public relations campaigns and public outreach. One of his favorite tasks was creating exhibitions for the Virginia State Fair with tiny model ships, tanks and portraits of the generals.
That quickly came to an end when the unit was disbanded towards the later half of World War II. DeLuca said he volunteered for an overseas unit assigned to the South Pacific.
"You know, once you become a soldier, you become a man. You go into the army a boy, and come out a man," he said.
DeLuca said he spent roughly 36 days traveling across the Pacific Ocean, as the transport ship dodged submarines before making port in New Guinea and then making camp on Leyte island in the Philippines. DeLuca spent time on the front lines as U.S soldiers worked to recapture and liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation.
"I will never forget a raid in Leyte. I was running, running like the dickens when I looked down and realized I almost stepped on someone," DeLuca said. "I realized it was the captain laying there in a trench, and I asked him why. He said it was too far to run back to the foxhole."
DeLuca would later receive a Philippines Liberation Ribbon for combat in Leyte and the liberation of the Philippines.
Another historic moment, the World War II veteran said he will never forget is the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"After the second atomic bomb, we all started making bets when the war would be over," DeLuca said.
He placed his bet on August 15 - his wife's birthday - and won the $40 pool when the Japanese surrendered. It was a big pot, considering DeLuca's monthly wages including overseas war pay and longevity were only $69 a month.
These are some of memories DeLuca said he reflects when he marches in the Memorial Day parade each year, an event he now wouldn't miss. He also enjoys volunteering to teach fine arts classes at the Northport V.A. Hospital.
"It's good. It makes you feel so very good," he said.