Against the backdrop of a beautiful, blue fall sky, World War II veteran Gus Siciliano took hold of the rope handed to him and carefully raised the American flag and the black Prisoner of War (POW) flags outside his Vineland, New Jersey home. It was clear to those present that he was overcome with emotion as his poignant wish came true.
Siciliano says he is very proud of his years in the military as a tail-gunner in a B-17 airplane, including one year spent as a prisoner in a Nazi prison camp. Although he is 92 years old and in hospice care for Cancer, he still lives in his home with his wife of 60 years, Helen, and until recently, flew both the U.S. and POW from a flagpole in his front yard. That is, until a recent severe storm destroyed both the flagpole and the flags. Because he and his wife live on a fixed income, they were not able to replace the flagpole on their own.
Knowing how important the flags were to Siciliano, his hospice social worker submitted a wish application on his behalf to Twilight Wish Foundation, requesting assistance with this special wish. Twilight Wish is a national nonprofit that works hard to make the dreams and wishes of low-income senior citizens come true. Twilight Wish put the word out about Siciliano’s wish and a local service organization, Bucks County Service Industry Charities, responded. They raised the money and installed the base for the new flagpole, donating the material, new flags, and their time.
Around the same time, a Twilight Wish employee having work done in her home and mentioned the wish to her contractor, who in his spare time is an active member of the troops support group Warriors’ Watch. The contractor was touched by Siciliano’s story and offered to have members from Warriors’ Watch join in the wish granting. So, one winter day, over 50 riders from Warriors’ Watch arrived at Sicliano’s house to recognize and thank him for his military service. Several of them lifted the flagpole into the concrete base while the others saluted Siciliano.
“Gus, you’re going to raise your own flags, sir,” one of the soldiers said.
Siciliano took hold of the rope and began to raise the flags, saying “this is one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had.” As the bikers rode off, Siciliano saluted his new flags one more time.