Last year marked the 70th anniversary of the start of America’s involvement in Pacific Theater during World War II. Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion at Normandy. But today, July 10, is the 70th anniversary of the war that made its mark on my own family.
Seventy years ago, allied forces, including many National Guardsmen from northern New Mexico, invaded Sicily in an amphibious assault that would pave the way for D-Day nearly a year later.
It occurred to me that this was the 70th anniversary as I looked back on photos of a Nazi flag captured and signed by those New Mexico National Guardsmen, which included three of my great-uncles – Clemente Gallegos, Eloy Gallegos and Antonio DeTevis, Jr. My father and I went to see the flag at the Albuquerque Museum in 2011, which I wrote about here.
My Grandfather, Carlos Gallegos, was also a member of the 120th Engineer Battalion (Combat.) Company C. But he was attending officer school in Seattle at the time of the Sicilian campaign. He would later join Company C, including his brother, Clemente, in Europe. However, he would not see his brother, Eloy, who was killed in action in Sicily, just before its conclusion and just before the allies would chase the Germans onto mainland Italy. I found out later that Eloy was killed while with his brother, Clemente, in an orchard of olive trees in Sicily, according to Uncle Clemente’s daughter. I have not been able to find an official military record that details the circumstances of the death of Uncle Eloy.
I was recently reminded of my grandpa’s service in the war when he was reinterred at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe with military honors. His remains were moved from Las Vegas to the National Cemetery. It was something else to stand behind his casket, 30 years after his death, while soldiers folded the American flag and handed it to my father.