Veteran ready to remember war after decades of silence
WASHINGTON D.C. (WAOW) -- It's the trip of a lifetime. For one day, dozens of central Wisconsin veterans traveled to Washington to see the memorials built in their honor. For one veteran, it was a chance to face his past.
Elio Argentati didn't want to remember.
“Korea was a very nasty place,” said Argentati.
The Korean War veteran was an aircraft maintenance officer in the Air Force.
“I picked up wrecks,” he said.
But for years, he kept it all to himself.
“I stayed away from any remembrances of the place for many, many years," said Argentati.
Five years ago, that changed.
Lori Grundy teaches 7th and 8th graders at Horace Mann Middle School in Wausau. Argentati is her father.
“He would not talk about,” explained Grundy. “Then I convinced him finally to please come into my classroom."
"She made me,” Argentati joked.
But, it worked. Every year Argentati makes the drive from his home in Michigan. He shows pictures, and tells stories to Grundy's class. It's a way for him to finally open up.
“I think it's very important for them to understand, and know, at least from my part, the Korean War,” said Argentati. “They don't probably realize it today, but someday they'll look back and say, you know what, we saw history.”
Last month, it was his turn to see history.
Newsline 9 traveled along with 83 veterans, and Argentati and his daughter, on the 15th Never Forgotten Honor Flight. It's an organization that gives veterans the chance to the see war memorials built in their honor.
For Argentati, it was a chance to really come to face to face with his past.
“I think it's a real experience,” said Argentati as he stood at the base of the WWII memorials in Washington.
With his daughter by his side, Argentati saw the memorials, the waterfall at the WWII memorial, the world's larges bronze statue at Iwo Jima, and the names of thousands lost in the Vietnam War. But, what really meant the most was the Korean War memorial.
So, with his daughter by his side, Argentati toured the bronze statues representing soldiers just like him.
“It's very natural looking,” he said as he walked by the statues.
He stopped to touched the wreaths and flowers laid out for those who were lost.
“I guess that's the way things were there. Not I guess, I know, that's the way things were there,” Argentati said.
“Coming here is something you hear about and you read about and you see on the TV and in newspapers. But to actually come here and see in full color, and see all the veterans and their expressions, it's something you take with you forever,” said Grundy.