A new monument was announced in Rhode Island for a World War I hero who died fighting in France during the war. The monument will replace one that was destroyed over the summer.
The original monument to Italian American Carlo Lafazia was vandalized over the summer in Providence, Rhode Island. The vandal was never identified or arrested.
“I was shocked and saddened when I learned that the Lafazia Square Monument was damaged beyond repair this past summer. Carlo Lafazia made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and he and his family deserve the utmost respect and honor, as do all of our veterans, even 100 years later,” said city Councilman David Salvatore.
He continued, “Lafazia represents the history of Italian immigrants in our city and their indelible contribution to our city, state and nation.”
In honor of Lafazia, who was from Providence, a resolution to name part of the street where the new monument will be placed as “LaFazia Way” was approved by the town’s city council. The resolution was passed on October 7.
Lafazia fought with the 16th Infantry Division, first landing in France in 1917. Just a month before an armistice to effectively end the war was agreed to in 1918, Lafazia was killed in the line of duty on October 11, 1918. He had been participating in the Meuse Argonne Offensive, a part of the Western Front in France.
“Several years after the war ended, the United States disinterred the bodies of 14,000 American soldiers from French cemeteries so that they could be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Sadly, Carlo Lafazia was not among them, and could not be laid to rest at home because his remains were never found,” said the nephew of Lafazia, Jeremiah C. O’Connor Sr.
“While his memory was not afforded that honor, thanks to the Providence City Council and the City of Providence Special Committee for the Review of Commemorative Works, Carlo Lafazia’s sacrifice will not be forgotten,” he continued.
Dubbed in 1933 by the town as an “Emblem of Italian loyalty to the Stars and Stripes,” Lafazia was a first generation American, with his parents coming from Italy. O’Connor noted that the base of the monument had served as a sort of de facto grave for his uncle, as his body was never recovered.
“What we have now is a war that’s been forgotten, the men that died and suffered in that war who’ve been forgotten, and I don’t think that Carlo should be one of those,” O’Connor said, according to The Providence Journal. “Not as long as I’m alive he won’t be.”
Local officials hope that the rededication will provide expanded opportunities to learn about World War I, and their community’s participation in it.
“We’re going to relocate it to a new area that is going to allow for an education opportunity, first and foremost about the history of Private Lafazia and the contributions that he made, and secondly, some of the history around World War I and what that meant to the Eagle Park community and to Rhode Island as a whole,” Salvatore explained.
The new monument is slated to be finished by 2022.
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