Illinois veteran leads drive to make Pearl Harbor Day national holiday

Danya Hooker

More than 60 years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.”

While the memory of the day that claimed more than 2,400 lives at Pearl Harbor lives on in the minds of many Americans, for World War II veteran Angelo DiLiberti, infamy is not enough.

“We’re trying to get Pearl Harbor Day established as a national holiday,” he said. “We want to bring the significance of the holidays back to make people realize what the sacrifices were and what made America great. I guess we’re all hard-headed veterans.”

On Dec. 7, the 66th anniversary of the second-worst attack on American soil, Batavia residents wishing to honor those who died are invited to St. Charles American Legion Post 342 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5036, which will host a Pearl Harbor Day remembrance at the St. Charles Place Steak House and Banquets, 2550 W. Main St.

DiLiberti, a 34-year veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces, said the event typically draws about 100 people. He predicts higher turnouts in future years. In his travels across the country, he’s seen a growing number of people pushing to make Pearl Harbor Day a national holiday.

He’s also working with several local and national groups to establish the first World War I national memorial and to create a prisoners of war memorial.

“We’ve been hearing all kinds of things of different activities and different holidays that they’re proposing, but nothing about the guys that kept this country free,” he said.

Since his retirement in 1983, DiLiberti has worked with several veterans services groups. Whether he’s counseling returning soldiers, taking wounded soldiers on boat rides along the Fox River or organizing trips to memorials in Washington, D.C., DiLiberti has kept himself plenty busy since retirement.

“We’re really a bunch of die-hard old codgers,” he said. “It’s a sense of camaraderie that no civilian will ever know.”