Distinguished Service Cross

The Distinguished Service Cross
The Distinguished Service Cross

Who was the first immigrant in your family? My great-grandfather Rocco Velocci came to this country all alone in 1912 at the age of 16. He arrived by boat to Ellis Island just like many other Italian immigrants at the time. Initially, he began working as a laborer on the Lackawanna railroad in Pennsylvania, where he helped lay tracks and construct tunnels. However, in 1917 when the United States entered World War I, he was drafted into the Army. He soon found himself right back in Europe fighting in the Meuse-Argonne Forest. The Meuse-Argonne Campaign is still known as the single deadliest campaign in American military history. Among other soldiers, Rocco received The Distinguished Service Cross for extreme gallantry during combat, which is the 2nd highest military honor that can be given to a U.S. Soldier. Upon returning from the war, even though he had fought for the United States, he was still not granted citizenship. As a result, he went through the legal process to get past this obstacle. Soon after, Rocco went back to his home-town in Frosinone, Italy to marry my great grandmother. Then, they both returned to the United States where they started our family. The reason why I picked The Distinguished Service Cross is because it represents the overwhelming odds that my family overcame to have a chance at a better life. This medal serves as a reminder to stay resilient during tough times, and to honor the life of those who are the reason we are here today.

Place(s): France
Year: 1912

– Julia Velocci

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more