Pearl Harbor Survivor Honored For Lifetime Of Service

By: Kendra Potter Email
By: Kendra Potter Email

A Pearl Harbor survivor from Pueblo was honored as a hero and recognized for a lifetime of service to this country at a special ceremony.

Rocco Piganell is known as a longtime educator to the community of Pueblo. But 70 years ago Wednesday he was at Pearl Harbor as the Japanese attacked.

“It’s was just scary, that’s the way I could put it, just scary. I wondered, what’s going to happen next? You could see those planes flying around and bombs dropping, people running around and horns were blowing,” said Piganell. He adds, “It was just helter-skelter and pell-mell.”

They were terrifying moments for the 21-year-old serviceman. Seventy years later, Piganell still remembers where he was on December 7, 1941. He says he was at a hospital getting a physical exam so he could come back to the States. Piganell vividly remembers the moment he heard the news.

“We hear this radio blasting out, ‘All servicemen and firemen report back to your stations. The Hawaiian Islands are now under attack.’ And just at that time we heard the bombing, and looked out and there it was, right there,” said Piganell.

Piganell says he couldn’t stop wondering what was going to happen next. “You’re just on pins and needles.”

The longtime serviceman says while it was scary, it was comforting to know that he was not alone.

“You are never alone. You always have other soldiers around you; that is what keeps you going,” said Piganell.

On the anniversary of the attack, Piganell was honored at special ceremony at the Union Depot. State Representative Sal Pace represented the Colorado General Assembly and commended Piganell for his service.

The Second Lieutenant fought for the Army throughout the remainder of World War II and was taken as a prisoner of war during the Battle of the Bulge.

“’We would march on the road everyday for four months. It would get so bad; we were so tired, weak. We spent nights in barns or attics. During late March or April I would wake up and the guy next to me died sleeping,” said Piganell. He adds, “Or you would walk along the road with the same clothes on, no shower, and every now and then a guy would just fall over dead on the road.”

Piganell was rescued by American Troops on April 11, 1945. Then under the GI Bill, he earned a degree in Mathematics from Eastern Kentucky University. He again went to fight for the United States in the Korean War. He narrowly escaped death, surviving being grazed by an enemy bullet.

He then returned to Fort Carson, was deployed to Fort Hood, Texas to train for deployment during the Cuban Missile Crisis and served there until retiring in April of 1963.

But his public service did not end there. He spent 27 years teaching in Pueblo, between Centennial and Central High Schools.

Piganell was recognized today as one of Pueblo’s heroes for not only his service to our country, but his service to the classroom.

“We honor your service to our nation, our state, and our city, and thank you for spending your life fighting for our great nation,” said Rep. Sal Pace during the ceremony.

“It’s feels great, I really appreciate all this,” said Piganell.


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