Happenings in District 4
by Jhennicea Morrow
Ross and Jack Campagna, father and son blinded veterans, pictured at low-vision support group meeting at which Central/Northern Arizona Regional Group threw a party for Ross’s 100th birthday and helped him join BVA.
The newest BVA member in our Arizona Central/Northern Regional Group just celebrated his 100th birthday. The group surprised him and his son Jack (also a blinded BVA veteran) with many well-wishes, cake and ice cream, and song. Guests were privileged to hear descriptions of some vital historical events by an actual participant in those events.
Ross Campagna, World War II Army veteran, was born on Flag Day, June 14, 1916 in Omaha, Nebraska, of Italian Immigrants. He likes to joke that "I was born waving the American flag."
Ross met Connie at a church picnic and it was love at first sight. They have been blessed with three children, seven grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.
Ross and Jack Campagna live quite close geographically to our regional group vice president, Gerry Lamberg, and they have become friends. Gerry mentioned to me that Ross would be turning 100 this year so I had Gerry ask them to attend our low-vision support group, which was meeting a few days prior to their leaving for Omaha to celebrate this special birthday with a large and loving extended family. Ross and Jack agreed and I phoned members of the support group, BVA members, and hospital staff to inform them of a surprise party.
On the designated day, Ross and Jack came into a packed meeting room and were surprised by shouts of "Happy Birthday" and some singing. Balloons floated, various snacks were made available, and cake was served as both posed and party-goers listened attentively as Ross answered queries and told stories about General George Patton, his unit, the battles, the cold, and survival. The two hours passed much too quickly and the two had difficulty leaving due to well-wishers surrounding them.
One of Ross' major life accomplishments was serving in the Army Reconnaissance with the 4th Armored Division under General Patton. He and his fellow soldiers marched from Normandy, France, to Czechoslovakia, taking part in five campaigns, including the Battle of Bastogne and the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. At one point, when the German Army had the 101st Airborne Division surrounded, Ross' unit fought diligently and liberated the 101st. Joining forces, the unit proceeded to Hitler's home, the Eagle's Nest, but missed Hitler, to their great disappointment. Ross' unit also liberated a smaller concentration camp in Ohrdruf, Poland, near Buchenwald, where 11,700 prisoners were being held.
After the War, Ross and Connie settled in Omaha to raise their family. Ross worked for the Army Corps of Engineers until retirement. In 2014, he participated in an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II Memorial and meet with other veterans. While there, he met another veteran and was thrilled to discover that veteran had served in the 101st Airborne Division saved by Ross' unit during the war.
For this birthday, Ross and Jack traveled to Omaha to celebrate, surrounded by his large, loving family. He also purchased a lottery ticket. It seemed appropriate!
Being the opportunist I am, I accompanied the men as they went to their vehicle and stopped to fill out an application for BVA membership. It took a bit of time before they returned, supplied DD-214s, and acquired the necessary letters stating legal blindness status.
Ross and Jack Campagna will participate as guests of honor of the Blinded Veterans Association’s Arizona Central/Northern Regional Group in the 2016 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade.