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In an honorary ceremony that at times grew emotional, the Long Island City Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2348 was officially renamed after World War II veteran and Astoria resident Rocco Moretto, who was recognized for his service and longtime dedication to the post.
Officials from the post and United War Veterans Council, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and friends and family gathered June 6 — the 69th anniversary of D-Day — to celebrate outside Post 2348, later renamed the Rocco Moretto VFW Post 2348, at 135 41st St. in Astoria.
Moretto, 88, a U.S. Army veteran, was drafted in February 1943 and served in Europe as a combat infantryman with Co. C, 26th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He landed with his unit on Omaha Beach in Normandy June 6, 1944, and fought with his unit in every major engagement for the rest of World War II, including the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of the Huertgen Forest. He remained in combat for 11 months until May 8, 1945, known as Victory in Europe Day.
During that period, Moretto was one of only two men from his original company of 219 who survived without being captured or wounded. He was discharged as a staff sergeant and returned home in 1945.
Following the war, Moretto worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, later Amtrak, until he retired in 1985. He has received a number of honors, including in 2004 when he was presented the Legion of Honor Award from the government of France, the country’s highest military honor. Moretto is a longtime member of the United War Veterans Council of New York, post commander of American Legion Post 6 in Manhattan and has been affiliated with LIC VFW Post 2348 for more than 45 years.
“Rarely do we get to be in the presence of a hero like Rocco Moretto,” said Vallone, who presented Moretto with a special Council citation as well as a $5,000 check — a donation raised with the help of The Strand Smokehouse in Astoria — to be put toward Post 2348. “He’s a local Astoria hero.”
Marleen Levi, director of communications and volunteer outreach for United War Veterans Council of New York, dedicated a poem to Moretto, and Pat Gualtieri, the executive director of the council, presented him with an American flag flown and carried during the 2013 presidential inauguration.
Moretto thanked members of Post 2348 and the United War Veterans Council, his friends and family, and said that when he learned several months ago that the renaming ceremony would take place, the news came as a surprise to him.
“This is an honor I’ve never dreamed of receiving,” he said. “And believe me when I say that I’m overwhelmed, especially when it comes to the 69th anniversary of D-Day, a day I’ve thought of throughout my lifetime.”
Moretto, who described the event as “mind-boggling,” said the official renaming of Post 2348, an organization he said continues to remain an essential part of the community and his life, stands as one of his most memorable and humbling honors, and one that will remain unforgettable.
“I accept this great honor bestowed upon me today, in memory of those great men I served with on D-day,” he said. “God bless America and may God bless everyone here today.”
Reach reporter Chris Engelhardt by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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