Let’s Hear Your Story: WWII, The Pacific, Malaria & Jungle Rot

Let’s Hear Your Story: WWII, The Pacific, Malaria & Jungle Rot
Courtesy of Tony Lombardo
Courtesy of Tony Lombardo

By Tony Lombardo

I have been afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis for over 34 years and get around with the aid of a power wheelchair. To put it mildly, it ain’t easy.

Along the way, I have met individuals who illustrate and exemplify the true meaning of the word C-O-U-R-A-G-E. I could never repay them for what they have taught me, thereby enabling me to make it to this point in my life.

As a means of “paying it forward,” I am grateful to introduce Let’s Hear Your Story (LHYS), a column that collects personal accounts depicting the power of emotional stamina contained within the human spirit.  Today’s story was submitted by Tony Giammona, a WWII veteran who once tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers:

Things were going very well for me until December 7, 1941. In very short order, I was drafted into the US Army. I L-O-V-E baseball. While on furlough in 1942, I participated in a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbet’s Field. Playing on the infield was like playing in my living room. The coaches expressed interest in my hitting and infield abilities asked me to continue on with the tryout. I explained that I was in the military and would be going overseas soon. I was asked to contact the Dodger organization upon my discharge. Unfortunately, that never happened.

In 1943, I found myself in New Guinea with the US Army’s 594th Amphibious ESBR (Engineer Shore & Boat Regiment). I was stationed there until “Jungle Rot” (also called “New Guinea Crud”) and Malaria took their combined toll on me. To make a “long story short,” I was medically discharged from Lowell General Hospital in the early part of 1945.

I came back home to Brooklyn as a young man with Malaria and a skin disorder. Needless to say, I was very self-conscious of the drastic changes. In fact, it got so bad that I refused to go out and play baseball. I pretty much “locked” myself in my house and refused to be seen by anyone.

However, one gorgeous summer day, as I sat in my house, I decided to break free. I said to myself, “If you like it, you look. If you don’t like it, don’t look.”

I resumed playing baseball and continued on with my life. Attitude is everything.

Editor’s note: If you would like to share your story of courage and resilience with Tony Lombardo, send it to editor@bensonhurstbean.com.

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