FOURTH CLASS WAYNE ALBERT COLANTUONO was born on November 22,
1946. His home of record is
Gloucester City, NJ.
Wayne Colantuono enlisted in the United States Army on March 8, 1946. He began his tour of duty in Vietnam on July 17, 1967. He was killed in action by shrapnel fragments on October 20, 1967 at Tam Ky, Quang Tin, South Vietnam.
Specialist 4th Class Colantuono' body was recovered. He was brought home to New Jersey and buried at Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly, New Jersey.
Wayne Colontuono, second from left
Philadelphia Inquirer - May 9, 1994
Honors For A Loved One Lost In Vietnam
By Josh Zimmer, INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT
"I am like falling apart," she said, hustling to make last-minute preparations.
Then Vietnam War veteran Karl Sherrer stuck his head through the kitchen screen door two floors above Broadway and Essex Street.
"You got a color guard coming in and everything?" he asked.
Sherrer, his gray-streaked black hair held back in a ponytail, asked if he should exchange his black POW-MIA shirt for the formalities of uniform. He said he would probably be the only local Vietnam vet available for that afternoon's ceremonies.
But Colantuono told Sherrer not to bother.
To honor the reissuing of the medals that her brother, Wayne A. Colantuono, received after dying in combat almost 27 years ago in Vietnam, she said, Col. John Rawley of the 82d Airborne Division Association would be directing the color guard for family and friends.
Colantuono had received a military burial at Beverly National Cemetery in Edgewater Park, but his family had never gotten around to a collective commemoration. Saturday's party served to redress that.
Throughout the overcast afternoon, those who knew the young Colantuono and those who knew of him remembered the hard-headed, fun-loving youth who would have turned 47 this year if not for a jungle war that unfolded thousands of miles away from Gloucester City's concrete and steel.
On October 20, 1967, Spec. 4 Wayne A. Colantuono, a paratrooper in the 502d Battalion of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, died of shrapnel wounds at age 19 while fighting a bitter engagement with North Vietnamese troops at Tam Ky in South Vietnam.
On Saturday, medals expressing the gratitude of the United States and South Vietnamese governments were presented in his honor, accompanied by tears, salutes, downcast eyes and the strains of a wailful bagpipe.
In one corner, Eileen Colantuono, 48, and her sister Joanne Keck, 36, stood by their mother, Mary Colantuono, 68, who had been released unexpectedly on Friday from the hospital following a third stroke.
As Eileen Colantuono and her sister wept, family friend George Fallon, who helped obtain the extra set of medals, summed up the lingering feelings for the son and brother.
"Everybody knew if you met Wayne once, you knew Wayne a lifetime," said Fallon, who fought with Colantuono at Tam Ky.
All the time, a military photo of Colantuono with his flashing blue eyes and laughing smile stared out upon the guests. Overhead flew three American flags.
As an only son, he never had to fight overseas, friends said. Eileen Colantuono said her brother had volunteered for the service.
A dangerous stint in the daring 101st Airborne followed. Soon Colantuono became another casualty in a conflict that severed thousands of personal ties.
"A lot of his friends were over in Vietnam at the time and never got the opportunity to attend something for him," said Eileen Colantuono.
The reissued medals, including a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, will hang in the family recreation room, said Colantuono.
A fateful encounter two years ago provided the emotional spark for Saturday's memorial.
After a ceremony at the war memorial at Monmouth Street and Broadway, Fallon told Saturday's guests, he recalled seeing an older woman weeping on the other side of Broadway. He went over to comfort the stranger, who turned out to be Colantuono's mother.
"Only a woman could love a son like her," Fallon told the guests under an intermittent rain. "I gave the woman a hug."
After the encounter, Fallon said, he sat down with Eileen Colantuono to arrange a fitting honor for her brother.
So Fallon called Rawley, who contacted a friend at the U.S. Army Personnel Center in St. Louis. Last year, the medals were reissued.
Colantuono said the family had wanted to hold the memorial on October 20, and then on November 22, her brother's birthday. But each time, Mary Colantuono found herself in the hospital and the service was delayed.
The older Colantuono, who said she never stops thinking about her son, surprised everyone on Saturday with her appearance. "I didn't think I could get there, but I did," she said.
One of the guests was Wayne Colantuono's high school buddy Harry Burman, who finished a tour with the 101st just before Colantuono began his. Before the ceremony, he recalled plans left unfulfilled by Wayne's death.
"Wayne and I, we were supposed to meet when he would return," said
Burman, 47. "We never did. I went home, and he got killed shortly thereafter."
As his wife stood by, he said, "We had always planned it that if either of us got married, we would be the best man."
Once the one-hour presentation concluded with the playing of Taps under an American flag at half-staff, people split up to eat and talk.
The family seemed pleased - but also relieved.
"It doesn't get any easier over the years," Eileen Colantuono said. "It was just a real emotional day."
But in a sentiment echoed throughout the day by friends, relatives and military personnel, she said her brother had not died in vain.
"He died for us to be free today," she said.
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