EAST BRIDGEWATER — The Town of East Bridgewater, including Veteran Service Officer Christopher Buckley and Board of Selectmen Vice Chair David J. Sheedy, presented U.S. Marine and longtime East Bridgewater resident James Ingargiola with a special citation on Tuesday, April 6 following the 95-year-old veteran’s recent battle with COVID-19.
Ingargiola was hospitalized on Feb. 5, after feeling weak and badly dehydrated. He was transported via ambulance to Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, where he was diagnosed with COVID-19 the following day. After a brief stay at Sachem Center for Health & Rehabilitation in East Bridgewater, Ingargiola was released on March 23 and has made a full recovery.
To recognize Ingargiola for his service and recent health battles (he also recently overcame a lung cancer diagnosis), the Town hosted a special ceremony at the East Bridgewater Council on Aging on Plymouth Street.
Vice Chair Sheedy presented Ingargiola with a Certificate of Appreciation that reads in part:
“The East Bridgewater Board of Selectmen wish to express our appreciation and thanks for the devoted service given to our country by James Ingargiola for his service in the United States Marine Corp during WWII … Our community and its citizens gratefully acknowledge your dedication and work over the last year beating lung cancer and COVID 19. We extend our sincere appreciation for your patriotic service over the years to the Town and its residents.”
Sheedy also thanked the many friends and family members who came to support Ingargiola, and said the Town of East Bridgewater is a better place because of him.
“I think if we all had some of the strength and dedication that Jim has, we’d all be better people,” Sheedy said. “It’s really just incredible what you have survived, and I know your family is very proud.”
Ingargiola was also presented with a card and challenge coin by Halifax Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6258 Commander David Walsh, a close friend of Ingargiola. The card and coin came from VFW National Chaplain Joseph Gallick, who expressed his appreciation for Ingargiola’s service.
A veteran of the United States Marine Corps., Ingargiola served during World War II where he attained the rank of corporal. He was a member of the 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Division based in Guam and Iwo Jima, and was aboard a ship where he was able to watch the raising of the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945.
Ingargiola spoke of his passion for military service, his positive outlook on life and his recent health battles.
“I love this country so much, and can’t imagine being born and raised anywhere else,” he said. “It was a tremendous honor to serve, and my whole life I’ve always tried to be a fighter and never give up on anything. This disease was no different.”
Ingargiola admits he thought he might not beat COVID-19 during the days following his diagnosis, and he even called family members to say goodbye to them. But he was committed to fighting, and now that he is home and recovered he simply wants to spend time with his loved ones.
Ingargiola recited the poem “Ragged Old Flag” for those gathered Tuesday, a poem he memorized long ago. He said he is also fond of singing, having a particular love of Frank Sinatra.
“James is as alert as most of the veterans I work with, and is by far the oldest and wisest,” VSO Buckley said. “He has set the bar high for the veterans in this community, and seems to always find a way to raise it even higher like he did today. We all thank him for everything he’s done for this country, and everything he does for this community on a day-to-day basis.”
A Life of Dedication
Ingargiola left Brockton High School early to enter the military during World War II. He was discharged in 1946, and upon returning home he quickly got married and started a family. That didn’t leave much time for him to continue his education. Years later, when he was well into his 70s, he was given an honorary degree from Brockton High School as part of the city’s Operation Recognition program.
Then in 1995 he enrolled in Bridgewater State University to pursue a degree in English after one of his daughters — who was a BSU student at the time — presented him with an enrollment form. At the age of 75, he received his college diploma.
“It wasn’t easy, but I was always a kid at heart and I was determined to finish,” Ingargiola said. “It was special to graduate, after all those years.”
He has since kept his writing skills sharp and even wrote a book about World War II and his life in general. His family has recommended that he revise it with a brand new chapter about beating COVID-19.
A Love of Family
Several family members were in attendance for Tuesday’s ceremony. While it might be uncommon for a 95-year-old who recently battled lung cancer and COVID-19 to be in such good spirits, none of Ingargiola’s loved ones were surprised that the veteran seemed to be his usual talkative self.
“My father always says that he hasn’t been depressed a day in his life,” said his daughter, Janis Hedges. “He’s been sad, for sure, but he has always been such a positive person. His COVID diagnosis was scary for all of us, but he was determined to beat the odds. That’s just the type of person he is. It’s what we all love about him.”
In total, Ingargiola has 11 children, 25 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren (with one more on the way). He said of all the things he has accomplished in his life, his family is what he thinks about the most.
“My children mean so much to me, and my grandchildren are all so brilliant,” he said. “If my great-grandchildren are half as smart as them, I will leave quite a legacy behind, and I am very proud of that. No matter how many more years I have left, I can’t ask for anything more than that.”