Mario Castiglione was born in Sicily, Italy, the second of three sons. He lived in his native country with his brothers, Fredo and Rocco, but when he grew up he moved to the United States in search of happiness, like many other Italians of the time. He settles in New York, but shortly thereafter World War II breaks out and to Mario’s chagrin Italy is on the wrong side. Wanting to do the right thing and to honor the names of Italian immigrants in the United States, Mario enlisted in the U.S. Navy. War was always ugly, but Mario had to serve in some of the ugliest moments in war history: When he took part in the bloody and brutal battle of Iwo Jima, part of him died along with many, many of his comrades in arms, and he never really recovered from the horrors he experienced at the time. When the battle was over, he was one of the few who returned from Japan alive and (physically) healthy, eager to leave everything behind. Fortunately, he met a woman in his own neighborhood who was of Italian descent: Louise, who was the living promise of a normal life away from blood and bullets. Louise fell in love with Mario, and they married shortly after.
Luisa did not fight in the war like her husband, but she suffered all the prejudices and social stigmas of Italians in the United States during the war: in a way, she too survived. She and Mario worked hard to build a family, and she gave birth to their son Frank shortly after their marriage. Mario had not done his military service and had found a normal, honest job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, although he was a modest construction worker: He wanted to be as far away from the battlefield as possible, hoping to spare his son the horrors he had experienced in his youth. But despite all his efforts and Louise’s, Frank grew up in the opposite of what his parents wanted, and as he grew older he became more and more fascinated with the military. As a young man, Frank started thinking about joining the Navy, just like his father before him, but Mario didn’t see it coming: He died the same day his son stepped in. It was to Louise that Frank followed in his father’s footsteps, that Mario sought to spare her, and accompanied him from afar in his years of service, always hoping and praying that he would come home alive. When Frank had met and fallen in love with a good woman, Mary, Louise had hoped she would save him from the carnage he craved. But her old heart kept her from realizing how wrong she had been in her own hopes.
Mario and Luisa Castiglione are a strong and honest couple who strive to improve the life of their son Frank and hope that he will have an easier and more peaceful future than their past. Both survivors embrace normality in a way, because they know the worst and are committed to everything they do, and they have to offer that normality to their only son, who is happy and can’t imagine what Frank will face in the war.
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