By M. Scott Morris
SHANNON – A couple of weeks ago, Thomas Locastro thought he was going to meet the president of the United States in Washington, D.C.
He would’ve loved the opportunity, but it didn’t work out that way for the 67-year-old Army veteran.
While sitting at his table in Shannon, he used a certain four-letter word to describe the “detail” he’d volunteered for, then he smiled and said that even for that type of detail, it’d been pretty good.
During the Vietnam War, Locastro fought through jungles as a member of the 101st Airborne Division, then he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, where he went village-to-village and house-to-house.
Those experiences made him eligible to join the Golden Brigade, and the Golden Brigade recently needed volunteers to help staff a Medal of Honor ceremony.
“Twenty-four were awarded, 21 posthumously,” Locastro said. “This whole episode was all history, history in the happening.”
He and nine others from the Golden Brigade met with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews of the recipients, and made sure everyone got on the right buses to get to the White House in time for the ceremony.
Locastro was disappointed to learn that he was supposed to stay at the hotel, where he watched the event on a live feed with injured soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We all smoked cigarettes outside and we talked about the kinds of drugs the Veterans Administration was giving out and how the VA was treating them,” Locastro said.
The Medal of Honor winners had fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. One had served with Locastro.
“No, I didn’t remember him. You’ve got to understand, we started with 200 men. By May 1, we didn’t have 50 left,” he said. “Our company had a lot of casualties. They started bringing in replacements and replacements. He was one of them.”
Though he didn’t get to see the ceremony live, Locastro appreciated being part of the historic event, and it made him think about others who were just as deserving, even if their names weren’t called out that day.
“You think about Okinawa and Bataan and places all over Korea, Germany, Vietnam,” he said. “There are a lot of soldiers that got killed that were heroes who went above and beyond the call of duty, but no one was there to see it, or no one survived to report it.”
He had pictures made with many of the relatives, including the grandson of Pfc. Leonard M. Kravitz, who fought and died during the Korean War.
“We talked for a while. I didn’t know who the guy was,” Locastro said, referring to rock musician and “Hunger Games” actor Lenny Kravitz. “There were a couple of people coming up to get his autograph.”
Locastro said he went to a pawn shop to help cover the cost of his trip. One Medal of Honor recipient’s relative appreciated the effort enough to buy the volunteer breakfast and lunch.
And that’s not all. Locastro didn’t meet the president, but the man who paid for the meals owns three “Badabing Badaboom” strip clubs.
“He told me if I ever wanted to go to west Florida and go to the clubs, I’ve got a free spot,” Locastro said. “How about that?”