By Andy Meverden, Chaplain, Colonel USA, Retired, Director of Chaplaincy
The week before Thanksgiving, I received an email notifying me of the death of Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Annello, US Army Retired, Korean war POW and Silver Star awardee. Joe lived in the Denver area where I met him several times. Shortly after the email, a friend of Joe’s family called asking if I would be available to officiate his military burial honors. The next day I visited Joe’s Korean-born wife, Joan, along with their good friend, Jeff, a Gold Star father who lost his Green Beret son in Afghanistan. I listened to the circumstances of Joe’s death and discussed the modified full honors the military would provide due to Joe’s valor award (Silver Star), along with my role as chaplain. As we talked, I realized that this was going to be a “big deal.” All burials are, but this one, due to Joe’s heroic wartime experience would be unique.
The book “Forged in Fire: The Saga of Hershey and Joe,” tells about two men; Hershey, a Japanese-American Army corporal and WW2 Veteran and Joe, an Italian-American sergeant, who exhibited amazing valor and self-sacrifice while fighting an overwhelming force of Communist Chinese soldiers during a difficult night attack on their positions. Both men led their squads in repelling wave after wave of enemy soldiers until their ammunition ran out. Then Joe and Hershey ordered their squads to retreat with the wounded while they themselves covered their withdrawal with machine guns, rifles and grenades.
Joe and Hershey were captured and ended up in the same group of prisoners. When directed to march into North Korea, Joe was so badly injured, his buddy, Hershey carried him ten miles. Falling behind, Hershey was ordered at gunpoint by his captors to leave Joe in a ditch to die. After Joe’s amazing rescue by U.S. Army tanks, and Hershey’s release after a nine-month captivity in North Korea (for which he received the Medal of Honor), the two returned to the U.S. There they reunited and remained friends for over sixty years. I strongly recommend the book. It’s an easy read but it will have you on the edge of your seat!
Back to the burial: Wednesday, November 21, 1:30 p.m., Fort Logan National Cemetery, Shelter B, Joe arrived in a flag-draped casket carried on an open carriage pulled by two draft horses, followed by a rider-less horse with caparisoned boots (turned backwards). Six U.S. Army Soldiers of the 4th Engineers of Ft. Carson carried Joe into the shelter. I welcomed the attendees, prayed prayers of comfort and committal, interspersed with readings from John’s Gospel, reviewed Joe’s service record, read his Silver Star Citation and prepared the group for military honors (Volleys, Taps, Folding and Presentation of the U.S. flag). The Honor Bell tolled seven-times, with life-long friend and wartime buddy Cpl. Hershey Miyamura (MOH) assisting, followed by Amazing Grace played by a piper. In my remarks I shared Jesus’ words: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NAS). Several loud “Amens!” echoed in reply. The loudest from a Medal of Honor recipient.
Storyboard with photos of the solemn event:
For more stories about and by CBAmerica chaplains, visit www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. For information on endorsement for chaplaincy, military and civilian, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.