Tom Brokaw's bestseller The Greatest Generation tells stories of individual men and women who came of age during the Great Depression and Second World War. Without complaint, they then went on to create interesting and useful lives and the America we have today.
Although none of our 51,000 members are featured in Brokaw's classic, it's a sure bet that thousands within our ranks could qualify for their own chapter in his book.
We had earlier reported on member John Taylor of Somerville who was blinded in a Japanese Kamikaze attack, went on to graduate from Notre Dame, raised a family, and became a career employee of the Commonwealth's Division of the Blind.
In December 1944, Germany was losing ground in Europe and was on the verge of being defeated.
On December 16, the Nazis unleashed an unexpected, desperate counter-attack in the Ardennes, a wooded plateau region, which encompassed parts of France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The ensuing warfare ultimately resulted in 81,000 American casualties and will forever be etched in military annals as the Battle of the Bulge.
On January 9, 1945, P.F.C. Frank Scordino's squad found itself surrounded by Germans. Overwhelmed and out of ammunition, Frank and his surviving squad members were taken prisoner.
"We were facing tanks with their guns trained on us, only thirty feet away. They could have easily killed us but, for some reason, they allowed us to live. Others in the same situation were not so lucky."
Ultimately, Scordino ended up at Stalag 4B in Muehlberg, Germany. "This camp was pure hell," he said. "The camp was for British Air Force prisoners and we were the first Americans.
"The Brits had been prisoners for some time and had better food and slept on bunks in their own barracks. We slept on a cement floor, had no heat and were fed nothing but turnip soup, minus the turnips, which I think went to the British. Occasionally, we received soup made from potato peelings, but never saw a potato."
Three months later, wracked with dysentery, suffering with pneumonia and partially frozen feet, Scordino's weight fell from 145 pounds to about 95.
"Each morning my job was to take the dog tags off any Americans who had died and were going to be buried," Scordino said. "Finally, I couldn't stand up and my spirits couldn't have been any lower. I didn't think I was going to make it."
However, fate intervened when a German lieutenant loaded Scordino on a jeep, gave him some food and personally drove him to a hospital in Leipzig, Germany.
"We were strafed by a U.S. P-51 plane but weren't hit. That German lieutenant saved my life," Scordino related. "To this day, I don't know why he saved me.... I like to think it was one human being helping another. Strange things happen in war.
"Life wasn't that much better in the hospital, but at least my feet thawed and I was given enough food to survive. Eventually, the Germans were crushed and we were liberated, but of all people, by the Russians. They did nothing to help us, so finally three of us hitched a ride from a Russian truck driver who dropped us off at an American compound."
From that point, it was on to LeHarve, France, where Frank was deloused ("I had lice from head to feet.") and fed eggnog for three weeks to increase his weight. Then, it was a "hellhole" troop ship back to America.
His homecoming was not joyous. It wasn't until then that he found out his older brother Anthony, a fighter pilot, had been killed in action. "It was one of the saddest points in my life," he remembered. There is now a Lt. Anthony J. Scordino Square at the Orange Line's Ruggles Street Station of the "T" Line.
Discharged from the Army, like other veterans in Brokaw's book, Scordino was determined to make a better life. Working two jobs, he made time to attend Northeastern University to obtain an accounting background. He also found time to meet, fall in love with and marry Dorothy Roscia. They later borrowed $500 from Dorothy's sister and bought a house in Dedham for $12,500.
His first public sector job was with the City of Boston at the city's Civil Defense Agency. He then asked his friend Frank Bellotti to help him find a job with the state. Within a week, he was working for the Department of Revenue. He went on to rise through the ranks in that agency, finally retiring as audit manager in the Natick office of the D.O.R.
Life hasn't been easy since retiring. After a lengthy battle with cancer, his wife died. He is treated on a regular basis at the West Roxbury VA Hospital for conditions relating to his war experiences. But he is not complaining. "I have three wonderful children and some great friends, including Joe Moakley. I believe in the power of prayer, especially praying on behalf of others who are having difficulty."
What Frank didn't tell us is that before he was captured, his bravery as a 19-year-old B.A.R. (Browning Automatic Rifle) point man had helped to hold off the Germans and prevent other positions from being overrun. He was awarded two Bronze Stars for heroism and is prominently acknowledged in the literary chronology of the Battle of the Bulge.
To Frank Scordino we say God bless. You are truly a member of The Greatest Generation - a generation to which so many of our members belong.