EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. (NEWS10) — World War II Veteran Al Soria immigrated from Italy in 1940. His unique journey brought him a sense of unrivaled patriotism and pride in America.
At 96-years-old, Soria hasn’t lost his wry sense of humor. When asked for his birthdate, he chuckled, “It’s been so long that I forgot.”
However, Soria said some memories are imprinted on your mind, like the day he arrived in America with his father.
“My father said, you see that statue? I said, yeah, that’s the Statue of Liberty,” Soria said. “He said, that’s America, that means you have freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”
Soria was born in Torino, Italy, in 1925, the same year fascist dictator Benito Musolino came to power.
“I can tell you in order to go to school, you had to belong to the fascist party,” Soria said.
Soria’s father was of Jewish descent, and it became apparent that the Soria family was no longer welcome in their home country.
At 14-years-old, coming to New York City felt like another world.
“You can do anything you want. You can call the president an SOB, and nothing will happen,” Soria said.
Al saw a photo in Life magazine of a member of the Army Ski Patrol, and his unique skill set from his years spent skiing on the Alps dawned on him.
“And I said boy when I’m drafted, that’s what I want to be,” Soria said.
At 18, Al joined the prestigious 10th mountain Division – training side by side with Olympic athletes in the high altitudes of Camp Hale in Colorado.
Then a long-awaited dream, he received an assignment to Italy.
“I had a chance to liberate in a small way to liberate my country from fascism and dictatorship. So, I was hoping to go back to Italy.”
When Al arrived, he saw the Italian people were starving. He was heartbroken and had to find a way to help. So, he started a civilian chow line with his unit’s leftovers.
“I was a part of them, you know. They always told me about relatives they had in Brooklyn of the Bronx,” Soria said.
Al fought in some of the final battles against the Germans in his home country, earning several medals, including the Victory Medal. For him, it was a victory against oppression, against hate.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would. I’m not a hero; I was just doing my job,” Soria said.
In his final years, Al said he wished that others saw America as he did as a 14-year-old boy on the boat to Ellis Island, the way he still sees it now.
“It’s the best country in the world, no matter what,” Soria said.