A 96-year-old World War II veteran traveled hundreds of miles from Massachusetts to South Carolina in late May to pay his respects to the Army lieutenant who died saving his life in Germany more than 70 years ago.
During fighting in the Hürtgen Forest, then-23-year-old Lt. Frank DuBose stepped in front of an artillery shell, shielding then-20-year-old Army Private Anthony Grasso from an explosion that caused injuries to his head and neck. DuBose was awarded the Silver Star after his death, and Grasso earned two Purple Hearts during his time in the Army.
"He stood between me and the blast, taking the brunt of the shrapnel," Grasso told Fox News on Thursday.
Grasso was profiled, along with several other World War II veterans, in the book "All Souls Day: The World War II Battle and the Search for a Lost U.S. Battalion,” written by Joseph M. Pereira, who earlier this year discovered the location of DuBose’s grave at Quaker Cemetary in Camden, S.C.
"At that point, he didn't hesitate to say, ‘Let’s go down,'" Pereira told Fox News in May. "This weekend is the day when he will finally be able to say the words to Frank that he wanted to say 76 years ago, which was, ‘Thank you for saving my life.’"
"His story is a 76-year-old story of two things. One is fighting PTSD. He had it in the worst way. And the other thing is survivor's guilt. And those two things have shadowed him throughout his life," Pereira said.
"It is very cathartic for him," he added. "It is a lifetime of grief and sorrow just lifting off his shoulders. I could see it in the glint of his eyes this morning when he was surrounded by everyone."
Local police accompanied Grasso on his trip to the airport, where he was met by a military guard and members of his community in Norwood. He was also joined by Pereira, “Uncle” Sam Rounseville, Gayle Bellotti, and multiple members of his family.
Grasso told NBC Boston, “I never thought I’d get this, and I thank everybody,” adding about DuBose’s sacrifice: "I have to pay my respects for saving my life. I can never, never, never forget what he did for me. If you wasn't there, you can't realize it."
Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrisey said the trip wouldn’t have been possible without financial support from the community.
"There aren't many people of this generation left that have such a simple request," Morrissey said. "And this is to pay tribute to the person who saved his life."
According to CBS Boston, after arriving at the cemetery, Grasso saluted DuBose’s grave and said, “one final salute. Thank you. God bless you, Frank. I’ll meet you soon. I feel that I completed what I was out to do.”
He also placed a white rose on DuBose’s grave.
“No one but me and him know what we went through that final day, and I’m glad I had a chance to pay my respects to the man that saved my life,” Grasso said.
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