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Hero who survived 3 wars honored at Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony

Posted at 9:07 PM, Nov 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-11 21:33:26-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Each veteran at the Commonwealth's Veteran's Day Ceremony had their own story of bravery and sacrifice as hundreds gathered at the Dogwood Dell Amphitheater at Byrd Park Sunday to say thank you.

"To our veterans and to their families may God bless you, to the Commonwealth of Virginia, may God bless you," said Governor Ralph Northam as he addressed the crowd. "And to the greatest country, the United States of America, may God bless you. Thank you all and happy Veterans Day."

For one Vietnam veteran standing in the crowd, sacrifice meant fighting for freedom overseas while knowing there's still a battle to be won back at home.

Leon Andrews

Leon Andrews

"My freedoms were denied me even during the time I was in Vietnam. I could not vote in the south -- the states that I was born and raised in," Leon Andrews remembered.

For another veteran at the ceremony, sacrifice meant risking his life -- over and over again.

"You go when you're told. There's no choice at all. You go," Joseph Tarantino said.

At just 17 Tarantino joined the army and was sent across the ocean to fight in World War II.

"They immediately sent me to army training -- which was in the infantry. By the way, that didn't please me very much because you get in the infantry, you usually get hurt," Tarantino said.

Joseph Tarantino

Joseph Tarantino

Years later the almost 92-year-old still remembers the destruction he saw once he got there.

"I walked through big cities like Frankfurt and Shwankfurt and some of those other cities in Germany -- they were completely leveled. Completely leveled."

But little did he know at the time, this war wouldn't be his last. Tarantino ended up fighting in the Korean war in the 1950s and later served in Vietnam.

He recalls arriving in Danang, Vietnam, where a soldier he was relieving told him things had been quiet.

Commonwealth's Veteran's Day Ceremony

Commonwealth's Veteran's Day Ceremony

"The building was being bombed and I looked over to him and said, 'Hey Bob, you lied to me.' And we both started to laugh -- during the bombing."

For Tarantino the uncertainty or even the violence that comes with war wasn't the hardest part.

"The worst thing is the separation from your family. That's the worst thing," Tarantino said.

But he said small acts of appreciation and time spent with loved ones, makes that sacrifice worth while.

"The world looks pretty good right now," he said.

Commonwealth's Veteran's Day Ceremony

Commonwealth's Veteran's Day Ceremony