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Keep Our Soldiers in Your Thoughts

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Be sure to keep brave U.S. soldiers in your thoughts this Thanksgiving

Opinion by Silvio Laccetti

Tucson, Arizona | Published: 11.21.2006

It was all quiet on the 11th day of the 11th month this year when trooper Tom Pavloski passed away. America had lost yet another soldier, one of its "greatest generation." But, saddened as we are by their deaths, we are thankful for their lives. We are especially thankful for their youth, sometimes lost in battle, but dedicated to us, the living.

I met Tom 30 years ago, and it was my privilege to be one of his close "pals" for the last 15 years. Still, when I read his obituary, I was flabbergasted to learn about his five Bronze Service Stars and other decorations. I knew him, but I never knew what he had done. Like most World War II vets, Tom rarely talked about the war.

Tom lived zealously in the present, with a winked eye toward the future. He was a man's man, a soldier's soldier. Unlike some, he did not go to college or pursue some grandiose dream after the war. He worked hard jobs in construction and roofing. Later he was the bartender at Joe's Tavern in the gritty industrial town of Harrison, N.J. In retirement, he became the night watchman at Worthington Pump Company.

He was a simple American, tough but loving of his family and doting toward his grandchildren. Single-minded, he never walked away from a fight. He kept a club behind his bar counter, and he knew how to use it. He always helped the underdog and would give a poor guy a meal — but not a drink. He did what Americans do.

Most of all, Tom was a thankful man. You knew that being around him, but I found out why by accident. In his late seventies, he would be flying to Colorado five or six times a year to be with his daughter and son-in-law, Melissa and Nick, and their family. I asked him if flying bothered him. No, he said, he didn't care for planes but had no fears.

Then he told me of a time in the Pacific Theater — he fought in New Guinea and the Philippines, among other places. He and a group of his buddies were sitting on some construction materials when a squadron of Japanese planes strafed the site. The young man next to Tom was killed; another of the group wounded. No, he didn't like planes.

Afterward, he treated every day as a blessing and bonus from God. He celebrated Thanksgiving every day and knew its meaning.

No day was wasted. In his late seventies. he did construction work on Melissa's ski house high in the rarefied air of the Rockies. Once he took me and his granddaughter to the pancake house in Broomfield, Colo. He drove Nick's 1967 Chevelle SS stick-shift muscle car, garnering envious looks from all the young guys in town.

One of his joys was horse racing, and out of this comes a defining tale. It was Kentucky Derby Day, time for a big party. Tom picked long shot Real Quiet to win. It did.

"Tom, why did you pick that one?" I asked. He spoke in a low tone: "Well, I liked the name; it's like me, quiet." Yes, Tom was the Quiet Man, a Thankful Man, an American Man.

Today it is a quiet day in the tiny town of Eynon, Pa., northeast of Scranton, where Tom Pavloski was born 89 years ago. It's quiet at the Wozniak-Pavloski VFW post in that little town. The post bears the names of Alfred, Tom's brother, and their friend who died in World War II. In this quietude, I can imagine the reunion of brothers and comrades who served the nation so well.

Let us be thankful for Americans such as these. And in a quiet Thanksgiving Day moment, let us remember the land they loved so well and all those who defend it today.

Silvio Laccetti is a professor of social sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. His e-mail is slaccetti@stevens.edu.

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