Joseph “Jack” C. Rogillio used to listen to a familiar song, “Louisiana Lullaby,” on the juke box after his ship watching duties scouting for enemy ships in Kure Beach, N.C. He was like many young men of that time, preparing to embark on a journey through Europe in defense of his country on the cusp of World War II.
Rogillio’s storied service seems like one meant for Hollywood. He had two combat jumps: one at Normandy and the other during Operation Market Garden in Holland. He served with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, from the well-known Band of Brothers series. For his service in WWII, he was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, all for actions in combat.
Sgt. Jack Rogillio enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard in 1936. For three years until the unit was federalized, he was paid $18 every three months and had annual training at Camp Beauregard. Rogillio admits that he joined for the money at first. Money was also the reason why he signed up with the 101st Airborne Division to become a paratrooper. At the time, jump pay was $50 which was more than his wages as a sergeant. Once he joined up with the “Screaming Eagles” he would depart for Airborne training in Europe. It would be 35 months until he would return home to Louisiana after leaving his wife whom he wed shortly before deploying into theater.
1st Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment also has a storied history, having performed all five combat Airborne operations during World War II.
Seven Soldiers from Able Company, 1st Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Airborne) found themselves fellowshipping with an American hero during a visit to his home May 9 near Fort Polk, Louisiana. Jack’s son, Joe Rigillio, said that he was looking forward to the visit from fellow paratroopers and that he had not seen him so alert in a while.
May 9, 2017 - Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Airborne) proudly with Joseph "Jack" C. Rogillio (98), a World War II combat veteran with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Airborne), near Fort Polk, LA. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Chad Ashe)
“An old Soldier was honored. He was given the chance to revisit his youth, share time, and talk with his lost comrades in arms, join with other warriors to share the bond that only those who have experienced combat can know,” said Joe Ragillio on a social media post.
The visit had many highlights for the “Geromino” Soldiers and noncommissioned officers. Of them was Sgt. 1st Class Robert J. Heffley, Able Company, 1-509th.
“This trip was a truly humbling experience. Jack is part of such an amazing legacy, one that I have grown up studying and only dreamed of continuing as a young Ranger,” said Heffley.
“Only days ago, it looked like Jack would not be with us any longer,” said Heffley of Jack’s failing health condition.
Rogillio, now 98 years old, has on and off days according to his son Joe.
J.R. “Randy” Vidrine, Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) who served with 82nd Airborne Division in combat operations in the mid-1960’s, considers Jack his friend. Jack is a member of the 82nd Airborne Division Association, Inc. where Vidrine serves as the chairman of the Acadiana Chapter.
Ssg. Thomas Marshall, Able Company, 1-509th moved to the United States from England in 2009 and joined the U.S. Army in 2010. Being from a country also involved in the war, Marshall is from one of the cities in England that was most effected by the multiple bombings there. From 1939-1944, his grandfather was evacuated as a child to a nearby farm in Wales to avoid the attacks.
A line from the song “Louisiana Lullaby” once listened to by Jack those years ago says, “I want to wonder where the willow weaves and lonely crickets cry.” With tears in his eyes, Rogillio said goodbye to the 1-509th Soldiers, still in disbelief that the paratroopers made the time to spend the afternoon with him.
“It was sincerely one of the most humbling experiences of my life,” said Marshall. “Jack is a true warrior who has survived some of the toughest battles ever fought and changed the course of American history.”
“As an older Soldier now, the benefit went both ways beneficially,” Vidrine said on the impact the visit had on everyone involved. “Jack was energized by their visit,” said Vidrine.
“Once we learned of his condition, we literally dropped everything and came running. That’s just what paratroopers do. We take care of our own; we are all family,” said Heffley.
By U.S. Army Maj. Chad Ashe
Provided through DVIDS
Comment on this article