PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — When he returned from combat at the close of World War II, Philip Sangenario didn’t seek out special recognition for his service.
He married, went back to work at Colonial Press, the bookbinding company in Clinton, Mass., where he would rise through the ranks to become president, and talked little about his experience, according to his brother, John.
“He would drop a word here or there along the way, but he wasn’t interested in the notoriety of it all,” John Sangenario said. “He was just interested in doing what he realized, as a citizen, he should be doing — getting it done and over with, and coming home and resuming his life. That’s what he wanted most.”
On Thursday, Sangenario, who parachuted into combat in Normandy on D-Day, and went on to fight in the Rhineland, the Ardennes and Central Europe, received a posthumous honor for his bravery during a ceremony at Pease Air National Guard Base. U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, whose office assisted the Sangenario family to secure the medals, presented them to John and his wife at a ceremony in the morning, attended by members of the 157th Refueling Wing.
“This is a day where we right a wrong, and we recognize one of the American heroes of the D-Day invasion,” said Col. Paul Hutchinson, wing commander of the base.
Holding one of the medals his brother was posthumously awarded, John Sangenario said he pursued the honors in order to help preserve the memory of his brother’s actions.
“I’m the last in our family, in my generation anyway,” he said. “I’m 81. I have the memory that needs to be preserved.”
John said money was tight for the Sangenario family in the years before the war, and when Philip was a sophomore, he dropped out of high school to work at Colonial Press, a book binding company.
He enlisted in the military at 19, joining the Massachusetts National Guard. When he was 21, Philip Sangenario volunteered to join a division of paratroopers, the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, which led him into combat in Europe.
When he returned to Massachusetts after the war, Philip Sangenario married and eventually resettled in Lancaster, Mass. He died in 1991 at age 70.
About a year and a half ago, a historian who is familiar with John Sangenario’s wife asked John for information about his brother’s experience, and spurred him to pursue the medals on his brother’s behalf.
John Sangenario contacted Ayotte’s office for assistance in December, and the medals were delivered Jan. 17. Philip Sangenario was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, American Campaign Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze oak leaf cluster, American Defense Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and Honorable Service Lapel Button.
“Without your persistence, and without your fortitude, we wouldn’t be standing here today,” Ayotte told John Sangenario, “and it’s a real tribute to your love and respect and honor of your brother that you have pursued this.”
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