Ida Ayres never served a day in the armed forces, but she knows a thing or two about the sacrifices of war.
When we think of war and conflict, we think of the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way, as we should. But what about the parents, children, siblings and spouses who are left behind to worry and pray?
“Through four wars, I have been the daughter, sister, wife and mother of men who served their country,” Ida explained to me.
During World War I, Ida’s father, Sam DiRenna, fought for the Italian army. DiRenna, who was born in a small town near Naples, was captured by the Germans and spent four years in a concentration camp. He survived by eating potato peels and garbage scraps. The Germans branded his forehead — a scar he retained for the rest of his life.
Thankfully, he lived. He was declared a hero in Italy for overcoming the brutality. He eventually settled in America. He sent for his wife. They gave birth to Ida and two sons, Angelo and Pasquale. Life was hard during the Depression years, but Ida’s family prevailed.
But then America was thrust back into war — a war in which both of Ida’s brothers would serve. In 1944 Angelo enlisted in the Navy. Pasquale followed in 1945. Angelo was stationed on the LST 1040 and Pasquale served on a carrier.
Their letters home arrived every three or four weeks, then Angelo’s letters stopped coming. Six months passed without a word. Ida was distraught, her mother barely able to function. Finally, word came that Angelo’s ship had been in a typhoon. But he survived.
Both brothers returned home and the world was finally settling down. The economy grew at record rates. Ida eventually would marry and have two sons. Her husband, Harry, had fought in Korea before she met him (he’d doctored his birth certificate and found himself on the front lines as a 16-year-old kid). After they married, he was called to serve another tour in Korea. Thankfully, he returned home safe.