MIDDLETOWN, NJ – World War II veteran and former Highlands Councilman Tony Bucco was honored by Quilts of Valor at the Croydon Hall Senior Center Tuesday, and presented with a handmade quilt honoring his service during World War II.
Anne Carreiro, a member of Priscilla’s Quilters of Middletown, made the presentation and explained the significance of the quilt and how it is made, at the brief presentation ceremony.
The nonagenarian, one of seven sons of Rocco and Victoria Bucco, an immigrant couple who came to the USA from Messina and Calabria, Italy, served in the Army as did one brother; two other brothers served in the Army Air Corps, another served in the Navy and one in the Marine Corps. All came home safely, although one brother suffered severe frostbite, serving at the Battle of the Bulge under General Patton, and another flew 53 missions in the Pacific arena. All the Bucco brothers grew up in Aberdeen. The seventh son in the family, the oldest, was married before the war began and had seven children, so was deemed ineligible to serve. “He would have, with all the rest of us,” Bucco said this week, “because our parents told us all to love America.”
“These are my real heroes,” Bucco told Carreiro when she called him a hero. “These are my heroes, as well as all those who never made it back home.”
Quilts for Valor is a nationwide organization of volunteers who cut, sew and quilt bed size quilts tor presentations to veterans who served in war zones during any war; some have been given in nursing homes or hospitals, others at homes or at patriotic events. No two quilts are ever alike, but the women sew commemorative signature pieces in each of the quilts so the military hero will know who made the quilt and where it came from. In Bucco’s case, the quilt was made in Middletown by Rose and quilted in Pennsylvania by Wendy. The design was modified by Rebecca’s Quilters from a design by noted quilter Mark Lipinski.
The former Highlands Councilman, who still lives in the borough with his wife, Carol, recalls that at five foot one inch tall, he had trouble getting into the army himself. He was put on the list of volunteers anxious to serve as soon as the war broke out, but when his draft number and volunteer number came up at the same time, he was drafted…and the Army had to custom make a uniform to fit his small stature.
Following basic,infantry and weaponry training, Bucco took the 18 day cruise across the Atlantic under strict secrecy. It wasn’t until he was brought to a tall building in Brisbane, Australia that he laws told the reasons why. He and five other soldiers learned their intelligence test results had gotten them positions as clerks for the commandant of the South West Pacific…General Douglas MacArthur. Bucco was 19 years old.
As glamorous as it sounds to be holed up in offices with MacArthur, Bucco says it simply wasn’t so. Most days were spent in large rooms with maps of the Pacific theater covering the walls, the windows covered by heavy drapes to prevent spying. His mission, and that of the other five clerks, was hauling confidential papers to another site for burning, scattering, and finally burying the ashes.
Bucco was transferred with MacArthur when he went to the Philippines and worked in Manila from March until the end of the war five months later.
The only time throughout his more than two years with MacArthur that the General spoke with him was when he was passing behind Bucco, and the soldier snapped to attention. MacArthur put him at ease, and said softly, “By the grace of God, if things go right, we’ll see all you boys go home.”
In thanking Carreiro for the quilt and the presentation before several friends, his wife, Carol, and his son-in-law, Kenny Mitterando, Bucco reiterated his love for the United States and “Old Glory, you certainly appreciate it so much more when you’re in a foreign country and see it waving in the breeze….long may she wave over the land of the free!”