PH: Hampton man receives posthumous medals for WWII service
PORTSMOUTH - A Hampton man who sought to honor his late brother's heroism during World War II saw his efforts come to fruition Thursday at a posthumous medal award ceremony at the Pease Air National Guard Base.
Philip Sangenario was an Army National Guard private who was among the first paratroopers who parachuted into Normandy, France, on D-Day as a member of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
He never received medals for his service, an injustice that his brother, John Sangenario, 81, sought to correct. He contacted U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte's office for assistance, setting in motion a series of events that led to Thursday's ceremony.
"This is righting an injustice that needs to be righted," said Ayotte, R-N.H., to a crowd featuring Sangenario's family and members of the Air National Guard Base, including Col. Paul Hutchinson, commander of the 157th Air Refueling Wing at Pease. "Can you imagine the courage it took to jump from that plane on D-Day, not knowing what would happen?"
The Sangenario family received the Bronze Star Medal, American Campaign Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze oak leaf cluster, American Defense Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze service stars with arrowhead, World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Honorable Service Lapel Button.
They also received a silver star, which Hutchinson described as "one of the most significant medals" representing valor in combat and a tribute to Philip's service.
"This will be a lasting memory of him. We say to the family, 'Keep this near and dear,'" he said.
After the ceremony, a tearful John Sangenario said he is the last of his family's generation and wanted to honor what his brother did.
"I have a memory that needs to be preserved," he said, "so my kids can understand they have the genes of a hero."
Sangenario said his brother, who passed away in 1991, "really was a representation of what we now call the 'Greatest Generation.'" After the war, Philip returned home, got a job as a book binder at a printing press and later became president of the company, John Sangenario said.
He said Philip never talked much about the war and family members never pressed him for details. "He wasn't interested in the notoriety of it all," he said.
Multiple generations of the Sangenario family attended the ceremony, including two of John's five children. Philip never had children, he said.
Susan Sangenario, John's daughter-in-law, said the ceremony was "magnificent" and that she "never knew that so many medals were due to (Philip)."
The family thanked Ayotte for assisting their mission, but Ayotte said the pleasure was all hers. "To me this is the greatest privilege I could have as a United States senator," she said. "That's the least we can do for them."
Ayotte said that if other constituents have family members they believe were not honored for their military service, they should contact her office, which will work on their behalf to secure medals of honor.