- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Not far away, there’s a U.S. Marine full of gratitude for what his brothers at Patuxent River Naval Air Station have done.
World War II veteran Richard Crosariol said he wakes up every morning to the sight of the noncommissioned officer sword that those Marines presented to him recently, in honor of his service at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
“I keep it in my bedroom. I salute it every day. What I’m trying to tell you is, I don’t think that there was a prettier sword in the world,” Crosariol said from his Indian Head home this week.
The Patuxent River Naval Air Station Marine Aviation Detachment and the sergeant major of the Marine Corps visited Crosariol on Jan. 12.
“We wanted to show our gratitude for his making the way for those who followed,” said Sgt. Maj. Wallington Sims Jr. of Pax River.
Crosariol said he had no idea those Marines would be coming to thank him 71 years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, at the age of 94. It brought tears to his eyes.
“All of a sudden, I began to think,” he said. “I remember most of the stuff I did out there.”
On Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Crosariol was stationed on the USS Maryland, which was docked and tied to the USS Oklahoma. The Oklahoma capsized, trapping more than 600 men underwater. That day, sounds filled Crosariol’s ears — of rapping bullets, an announcement for men to head to their battle stations, bombs hitting the water. He saw men dying, and he wanted to help. But he had to help load a 5-inch anti-aircraft gun.
“You take care of everything that you need to protect the ship,” Crosariol said.
“I met a lot of friends, and they’re gone,” he said.
And when the war was finally over, men he’d known for years, “I never saw them again,” Crosariol said. “When I see that sword, I also think of those fellas.
“I can tell you right now that I’m very pleased and thankful that I’m here,” he said.
Crosariol’s military service was a stark change from his simple life as a boy. His parents immigrated to the United States from Italy. They settled on a farm in Arkansas, where Crosariol was born. His mother would work in the garden, sing songs and recite poetry in Italian.
“She always kept me at foot,” he said. In Italian, with an accent that switched from Southern country to the old country, Crosariol repeated a poem about God coming to the garden to prepare his dinner.
While his father was away in Chicago, making windows, Crosariol stayed with his mother, helping her harvest grapes, raise pigs and make butter. He hunted for dinner, often bringing home rabbits or squirrels.
“For food, we didn’t have any problem,” he said.
Crosariol wanted to stay with his mother as she aged and needed his company. After she died, he joined the military.
“I didn’t want any service. I wanted the Marine Corps,” he said. He’d heard about the trouble Adolf Hitler was causing in Europe and decided to enlist at 21, before the United States joined the war. He retired after 20 years as a sergeant major.
“We went through all those problems over there,” Crosariol said. “It doesn’t take long to kill 15 or 20 people at one time. If you’re standing there and you’re not hit, you feel, ‘somebody here is taking care of me.’”
Today, if he feels down, Crosariol said he looks at the sword presented to him last month.
“It just makes me feel good,” he said. “Whoever thought a Marine like me would be getting such a gorgeous, gorgeous thing?”