Today was a pilgramage I’ve been wanting to take for a very long time–almost a lifetime in fact.
I went to the little town of Spigno in Italy where my uncle, Pvt. John Thomas Jackson, was killed in action on May 19, 1944, 78 years and two days ago today.
I’d always heard stories about my uncle, my father’s brother, who he called “Goof” and his other brothers and sisters called “Peepsie.” That he was killed in Italy was the first thing I learned. Later I found out more details: He was only 19 years old when he went overseas. He was in the 351st infantry, 88th Division. His division was asked to take a hill near Spigno, which no one wanted to do. My uncle, who had the reputation of being a daredevil, said, “Let’s do it,” and volunteered. A friend of his wrote to the family after his death and told them he’d been hit in the chest by a shell and killed instantly. The body was eventually returned to his home in Virginia and each season I put flowers on his grave.
After hearing these stories all my life, as soon as I began to plan this trip to Italy, I knew I had to go to Spigno, to see the place where my uncle fell. I’d always been told if I’d been a boy, I’d have been named John Thomas Jackson, after him. (I do have a cousin named John Thomas Garrett after this same uncle.) So I felt a special connection to him.
And today, I was there.
The landscape has changed drastically from when the 88th Division tried and succeeded to take that hill. The town was pretty much destroyed, but was built back over time. Now it is a quiet, sleepy little town that shows none of the ravages of war.
There were two plaques here, one commemorating the people who fled the invasion and survived, the second commemorating the soldiers from Spigno who had died in World War 1, World War 2, and the civilians who died during the battle. And a war memorial with the second plank and a piece of WW2 artillary.
And so this is where Jenna Jaxon was today, honoring my uncle and returning with pictures to share with my family members back home.
A pilgramage completed at last.
Tomorrow I’m off on another adventure with Ella Quinn. Check back in then to see where in the world Jenna is!