STAMFORD, Conn. -- Impatient to serve his country during the Korean War, Stamford's Gabe DeLuca decided to stop waiting for the Army to call and instead joined the Air Force in 1951.
“I passed the physical for the Army in March, and I was waiting for them to contact me. I got frustrated waiting, so I joined the Air Force,” said DeLuca, 83, who served from July 9, 1951, to July 8, 1955.
On Sunday, he will serve again, but this time as the Memorial Day parade grand marshal in Stamford.
DeLuca said he was floored when he was told of the honor on May 9 by Pasquale “Pat” Battinelli, chairman of the city’s Patriotic and Special Events Commission.
“I was very shocked when Pat told me,” DeLuca said. “I never expected it, but I am very honored.”
DeLuca wasn’t sent to Korea. He served in Alaska and South Carolina and was honorably discharged with the rank of airman first class.
He earned his bachelor's degree in accounting at the University of Bridgeport, graduating in 1968.
He and his wife, Dorothy, have three children: Maureen, 56, who lives in Bermuda and will be flying up to watch her father in the parade; Robert, 54, and Douglas, 49, both Stamford residents.
DeLuca has also served the city of Stamford. His numerous letters to the editor caught the eye of Republicans, who urged him to run for the Board of Representatives, which he did successfully in 1977. He has served the 14th District ever since, with only a two-year break from 1985 to 1987.
“I try to do what is best for the people,” DLuca said of his political life. “I try to give input and get things done.”
The parade starts at noon Sunday and begins at Hoyt and Summer streets. It continues down Summer Street, turns left on Broad Street, then makes a right on to Atlantic Street and finishes at Veterans Park, where a ceremony will be held.
While DeLuca is proud to be picked as grand marshal, he said Memorial Day is about the servicepeople who gave their lives for the country.
“To me, it is to honor the people who died for the country and its freedom.”