Over 700 birthday cards are being forwarded to World War II veteran Tom Dimperio of Ceres on the occasion of his 100th birthday on Aug. 18.
Cards poured in from citizens, school children, church members and fellow veterans to honor Dimperio, a lifelong Ceres resident who earned three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for his service during World War II. The collection effort was organized by Congressman Josh Harder who is working with Dimperio’s family to present the cards in a celebration next month. His office said cards will be accepted until Sept. 6. Cards should be sent to Josh Harder’s Modesto office at 4701 Sisk Road Suite 202, Modesto, CA 95356.
“Thank you to all who have participated in recognizing my great uncle’s birthday,” said Jason Rose, a great-nephew who approached Harder’s office. “What an amazing community we live in to honor a very special man who has served his community, family, and this wonderful country we live in so that we can have freedom.”
The congressman’s office has reached out to the White House to request a special presidential greeting and arranged to have a flag flown over the Capitol on Dimperio’s birthday in his honor.
The ailing veteran has been living at a veteran’s facility in Menlo Park away from his wife Genevieve.
Tom Dimperio, was born in Hoboken, N.J. on Aug. 18, 1919 but came to California five months later. He grew up on a 21-acre ranch on Richland Avenue in Ceres. He attended Ceres Grammar School (Whitmore School) where he graduated eighth grade in 1934.
Tom went to Camp Gruber in Oklahoma in December 1942 for basic training until June 1943. He was then sent for combat training in Louisiana for three months. After that was Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.
Assigned to the Fifth Army 88th Infantry Division, Dimperio’s journey to war started aboard a troop ship to Casa Blanca, North Africa, arriving on Christmas Day 1943. After months of mountain training, he and his comrades were sent to Naples, Italy in February 1944. Hitler had invaded Italy on Oct. 9, 1943 and advanced to Rome.
March 1944 was the first time the Ceres native saw combat. He was 24 and scared.
On May 5, 1944 in Castle Forte, Italy, Dimperio was wounded when a Nazi mortar shell exploded and he was struck by seven pieces of shrapnel, one of which is still embedded in the bone behind his left ear.
Dimperio’s life would forever change on Oct. 2, 1944. During a charge on the Nazi’s soldiers between Florence and Bologna, Dimperio and company rose over a hill and started down the slope only to be cut down by a hail of machine gun fire. One round struck his upper left chest, exited out the arm pit and smashed into his upper arm bone, completely shattering it.
His life was spared when he dragged himself behind a large pile of manure. He was rescued off the battle field and spent 25 months of recovery in hospitals. He was discharged from the Army in November 1945. After the war, Dimperio worked at the Texaco station in 1951 and 1952. He took a Civil Service exam to work at the post office. He was given a job in Modesto in 1952, retiring in 1978.