Army veteran served in the Invasion of Normandy more than 70 years ago
Congressman Brian Higgins presented military medals and honors, including the Bronze Star, to the family of World War II Veteran Private First Class Samuel J. Insalaco.
"For your father's bravery, commitment and sacrifices, it is truly our honor to present you with these medals on behalf of a grateful nation," Higgins said as he presented the service medals to the Insalaco family.
Born in Pennsylvania, Samuel J. Insalaco moved to Buffalo and enlisted in the U.S. Army May 28, 1942. He completed his infantry training in Camp Croft in South Carolina, and served with the 1st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.
The 1st Infantry Division led the fight against the Germans in the Invasion of Normandy June 6, 1944 - in the largest seaborne invasion ever. The unit fiercely fought the Germans and became the first to capture a major German City in WWII when Aachen was seized Oct. 21, 1944.
The Tunisia Campaign was another battle Insalaco never forgot. He fought in Battle of Hill No. 523 in 1942, which was known as one of the bloodiest battles fought in North Africa during WWII. It was there where he became one of many soldiers captured by the enemy. He later escaped.
Insalaco fought in a total of five battles during WWII before being honorably discharged in 1945: the Invasion of Normandy, Northern-France, Rhineland, Sicily and Tunisia.
Insalaco passed away in 1989. His son, Nick, recently sent a letter to Higgins' office. He wrote, "This year, as the nation and the world mark the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, the Invasion of Normandy, I can't help but think of my Dad and the other brave servicemen that risked their lives to free the world. They were truly a different breed, 'The Greatest Generation.' It is with his memory in mind that I am requesting the assistance of your office in securing information regarding any and all service awards or medals that may have been awarded to my father for his years of service in the U.S. Army during WWII."
"Soldiers like Private First Class Insalaco are recognized as heroes, because it was their determination to not give up in key battles like the Invasion of Normandy, which helped to turn the tide of the war leading to a victory for the Allied Forces," Higgins' camp said. "It is also important that we reflect upon the sacrifices that were made. According to some estimates, the Allied Forces suffered more than 10,000 casualties, and more than 4,000 lost their lives on D-Day."
Like many veterans, Insalaco was in a hurry to get home when the war ended, so he never looked into whether he was eligible for any medals. He married Sophie and they raised a family on Buffalo's West Side on 10th Street, between Hudson and Maryland. Insalaco's sons also served in the military. Nick served in the U.S. Army Reserves during the Vietnam War and Tom served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam.
Higgins worked to secure Insalaco's medals and presented the family with the Bronze Star; Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award; Presidential Unit Citation; European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 1 silver service star; World War II Victory Medal; Good Conduct Medal; and the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII.
The Bronze Star is the fourth-highest individual award in the U.S. military awarded to members of the military for meritorious service in a combat zone. The silver service star on the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal recognizes the five battles Insalaco fought in. The Presidential Unit Citation is awarded to units of the U.S. Armed Forces for the extraordinary heroism while fighting against an enemy.
Nick currently lives in Tonawanda. Sam Jr. lives in Hamburg, and Tom lives in Grand Island.