While living in Italy from 1999 to 2006 I became friends with an older gentleman named Mario Carli. Mario was in his early 80s by then, his wife had passed and he lived alone. His daughter lived an hour away in Genoa. He spoke good English and after my Italian became good we would speak in both languages.
Mario had been in World War II first fighting with the Italians and the Axis powers then, after the murder of Mussolini, fighting on the side of the Allies. During this latter time he was captured by the Germans and spent two years in a concentration camp. He did not speak of this too often.
After the war he joined the Merchant Marine and sailed across the Atlantic often and disembarked in Galveston, Texas. During the 1950s he and his mates would get off the ship in Galveston and experience the town.
He told me how they would go into town and see two lines for restaurants, rest rooms, etc. One line for whites and one line for blacks. He and his friends did not like this so they would stand in the lines for the blacks. The white folk would try to tell them that they were in the wrong line but Mario and his friends would pretend that they did not understand English.This was their peaceful protest.
For the seven years I knew Mario he always had a smile on his face except for one day. That was in 2001 when US President GW Bush and the military began bombing Iraq. I saw him that day and he told me about the concentration camp and the nightly bombing runs and the sleep deprivation, the women screaming, the children scared.
I have not seen Mario in 12 years and I am sure that he has joined his wife in spirit. He was one of my teachers in life and I tear up whenever I think of him.
We need more Mario's to show us the way.