Peter "Pete" Bonacchi

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

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If you have been following DPI for some time you will recognize the photo “Vietnam Vets“, Brooklyn, N. Y. (1985). It is the last of the four rotating photos on our homepage. The soldier on the right with the Purple Heart and Silver Star was my very good friend Peter “Pete” Bonacchi. Pete is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, section 60. This section is in the front part of the cemetery overlooking the Potomac about halfway between the front entrance and the Pentagon.

In 1985 I was attempting to write a book about the difficulties of returning Vietnam Veterans in adjusting to civilian life. Pete had served in the Brown Water Navy during his time in Vietnam. He introduced me to a number of other vets who were having difficulties adjusting. In Vietnam, an RPG rocket had taken off part of Pete’s right leg, and so he was using a prosthetic. On May 7, 1985 New York City held a welcome home parade for Vietnam Veterans. Pete asked me to join in the march. I told him that I had served in Korea, but he insisted that I was “one of them” and so in the dark, morning hours I drove into Brooklyn to assemble at Cadman Plaza with Pete’s group. To say that Pete was the “leader of the pack” was an understatement. Everyone looked up to him. Many men were in uniform, and I had a partial uniform on which I had not worn for 15 years. Emotions ran high for me. I’m not ashamed to say that I was crying that morning.

Pete Bonacchi on the right. Assembly at Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn

Pete Bonacchi on the right. Assembly at Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn

The march began to advance over the Brooklyn Bridge and then down Broadway, the “Canyon of Heroes”. People were throwing confetti from the office buildings, and the march ended at Battery Plaza. How often does one get to be a participant in such an event? The answer is, never! One day Pete and I decided to take a trip from Brooklyn down to Washington, D. C. to go to the “Vietnam Wall”. Down and back in one day just on a whim. But a day I will never forget. Pete was luckier than any of the other men he introduced me to or so I thought. These other veterans died one by one from either suicide or Agent Orange. They really had died in Vietnam but just didn’t know it. And so the book was never completed. Pete married and became a father. He and his family moved to Florida. My wife and I visited him and his family one time. We used to send Christmas cards to each other for years. One day we received a call that Pete had died. He had some pains and had died from Agent Orange poisoning. If there is a dedication for DPI that I could make it is to Pete Bonacchi, my friend.

The photo of his grave marker was taken from an app in the iTunes store called Grave Locator. It searches the database at Arlington National Cemetery providing the location, directions to and photo of grave markers of those who are buried at the cemetery.