by James J Messina with Chuck Messina
My father, who was the most influential person in my life, passed away on March 20, 2008. As an intimate gift to his children, he wrote and illustrated his life story. In the end, it took him eight years to complete his autobiography, and I was so impressed with his storytelling and artistic talent that I reached out to a journalist who had an interest in regional history. Following an interview with my father, the local newspaper ran a two-page article chronicling his life growing up in West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, and his time serving as a Marine in World War II. The journalist applauded his work as an enormous achievement, and an important part of history. He encouraged me to publish his story and share it with the public, which is something I had wanted to do for a long time. My dad however was not interested, and said it was merely a token of love for his children to remember him by. This is an American tale about a working-class man who lived an honest life, believed strongly in God, and fought for his country. He represents thousands of other hardworking Americans with untold stories of integrity and honor. It’s also a compelling story of survival that begins in a gritty Pennsylvania steel town during the Great Depression and then transports the reader into the steaming jungles of Guadalcanal, where a young Marine faces death in one of the most pivotal and bloodiest battles of World War II. Steel Soldier serves as a testament to the special man my dad was. It’s not a gripping mystery that concludes with a thrilling climax. Rather, it is a series of vignettes, with some entertaining moments of a bygone era, which have been compiled by a very talented storyteller. To look at him, you’d never guess this mild-mannered, unassuming, and kind man had once been a fierce warrior. As long as I live, I will always admire, respect, look up to, and honor my father and all the men and women who have fought for this country. He was loved by everyone who knew him, and to me he is a true American hero. Semper Fi Dad
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