NEWS | Dec. 9, 2020

Guardsmen honor World War II veteran on his 99th birthday

By Spc. Marla Ogden New York National Guard

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Wearing a Dodgers baseball cap and a pin that read, “It’s my birthday,” World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient Joseph Casaburi was greeted by four New York Army National Guard Soldiers on his 99th birthday.

Casaburi, who served as a private first class, was saluted by four members of the 53rd Troop Command on Dec. 8 outside Andrus on Hudson Senior Care Community. They wished him a happy birthday and thanked him for his service.

Casaburi returned the salute, with tears in his eyes.

“You’re all a surprise,” Casaburi said. “I feel so proud and humbled to see these men and women in uniform show up for me … it’s overwhelming.”

Casaburi, known as “Uncle Joey” to his family, served as a member of the United States Army Air Force from 1942 to 1946 and was deployed to Germany on the front lines of World War II.

One of the Soldiers who salted Casaburi, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni, assigned to 53rd Troop Command, said he was honored to show his support.

“Uncle Joey set the bar, something that we all aspire to,” Pietrantoni said.

Pietrantoni was joined by Sgts. Suhkreet Kaur and Sammie Martinez, and Spc. Marla Ogden.

The Army was invited by the Casaburi family to celebrate this occasion.

“He always said that being in the Army was the best years of his life,” said Cora Roman, Casaburi’s daughter.

For his service, he received the Purple Heart, the American Service Medal, the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.

He received the Purple Heart for his service in Germany, where he was struck in the leg by a mortar fragment while on the front lines. Casaburi still has shrapnel in his body.

“If you wanted to meet Superman, that’s Uncle Joey,” said Andrew Lawrence, Casaburi’s nephew. “He survived WWII, the Korean War, and survived COVID-19 at 98-years-old and is now turning 99 today.”

This year for his birthday, Lawrence wanted to arrange a special surprise for his uncle after having survived his battle with the coronavirus and being away from his family for an extended period.

“It’s hard because when you lose family contact and don’t get to experience daily life, you tend to slip a little,” Lawrence said. “So, this surprise will get him through the last of it and keep him fighting until he can come home.”

The Soldiers were honored to attend.

“It’s inspiring to see him with a smile on his face after having gone through so much,” Kaur said. “It motivates me to stay positive during these times.”

“It was a rewarding and fulfilling experience to honor such a remarkable person and Soldier,” said Martinez.

Casaburi was not only surprised by the Guard members, but also the Hastings-on-Hudson police and fire department, mayor, and Channel 12 News.

“I love this country and our military,” Casaburi said. …"Let’s end this virus so I can see everyone next year at my 100th birthday.”