March 2023

Marc Bacigalupo

This story is an extremely special one to me. I would like to express my gratitude and love towards my Nonno for sharing his story.

Marc Bacigalupo enlisted into the ROTC program while in college in May of 1963 where he stayed for 5 years.

He served for 2 years in active duty and then 3 years in the reserve.

He served in Aberdeen, Maryland and Ft. Lewis, Washington.

Read the rest of Marc Bacigalupo's story below:

I am constantly inspired and awed by you and your life story. You have pushed me to become the person I am today. I am deeply thankful to have a grandfather like you in my life.

Thank you, Maria


When did you enlist into the military? How long did you serve?

"When I entered college, I decided to join the ROTC (Reserved Officers Training Program) for several reasons. I was always interested in the military, maybe my experiences as a boy during WWII. Also the ROTC program paid me some money every month for being part of the program; that made it very attractive as it helped with my college expenses. Most of all I think joining the military was an exciting thing to do, and with the ROTC approach I could enter the military as an officer, a second Lieutenant. I served for two years on active duty and then 3 years in the reserve. I joined the military in May of 1963 and left in May of 1965."

Why did you choose the army?

"I enlisted through the college ROTC program mostly for financial and love of military life, though that was more a dream than reality. I ended up in the Army because the ROTC program that I joined in college was an Army program."

What was a basic day of training like?

"I found basic training especially the officers training program difficult and stressful. I think the objective of the program, besides training one in the use of the weapons of war, was to create a very continuing stressful environment to see how much pressure you can handle, to try to create the real pressures of what one is put under in real conflict."

What was it like adjusting to military life?

"In the military life is not your own. You don’t make your own decisions, even as an officer there is always someone above you telling you ultimately what to do. In addition, as an officer you really always have to do the right thing as you are the example for your men, they are always watching you. If you don’t do this, sacrifice when necessary, you cannot ask your men to sacrifice as well."

Is there someone you served with that you remember fondly?

"When you’re a young officer in the Army there’s so much that you don’t know and have to learn quickly, and so you get to depend on those with lost of experience, those who have been in the military for many years, those who may be making the military a long term career.

One of those was a Sergeant Bouch; he had been in the service for a while, was very smart about things, and really helped me learn a lot about the job that I needed to do. Another was my platoon Sergeant; I remember him fondly in that I knew I could always depend on him. He knew how to take care of the men in the platoon, and I learned from him.

The third, was the sergeant major of the company when I was made commander of a company of 400 men, again he helped me, guided me to make the right decisions. I think I would have been lost, maybe made more wrong decisions without the help of the sergeants that worked with me. Life in the military even here in the US can be dangerous because of the live fire training that we did. Therefore help of experienced people made my job so much easier."

Can you describe your favorite moment from your deployment?

"The great thing about the military is that you will have so many different experiences that will never have in civilian life…..while on manuevers in the mohave desert we slept in big tents of about 20 people, when suddenly there was this large poisonous snake crawling around the tent….you should have seen a whole bunch of soldiers run. But the best part is that you are living with the same people 24 hours a day, every day, and as a result you develop a close personal friendship with these same people."

What do you remember about the day you enlisted?

"In a way I was lucky as my immersion in the military was gradual. The ROTC experience in college was mostly classroom stuff….so not really providing real life experience. The beginning of my immersion was a six week “summer camp” in the fields of Kansas. This was not the usual summer camp. It consisted of long marches, both day and night, with heavy packs on your back, weapons training/firing, competing with others in everything, yet working together as well and developing leadership qualities in actual live situations. About 10 months later I was called to active duty and reported to a post in Aberdeen, Maryland. There I again participated in more basic training as well as an Ordnance officer school.

You ask about my first day, what I remember. I really consider my first day the day I reported to my post in Fort Lewis, Washington. I was a brand-new Lieutenant, now with the responsibility of leading my platoon, a group of about 48 men. They would look to me, a 22 year old man, to provide guidance to them in so many ways, and some of the soldiers that I would be leading had many years in the military already as they had made the military their career. Naturally I wondered if I was good enough to have this responsibility. It was a little scary as I felt I had to do things right, I had to be the best, I had to set the right example, I could not make too many mistakes, as they would look to me for leadership."

Where did you serve?

"I served in Aberdeen Maryland, the US Army Ordnance Corps post for about two months and the rest of my two years in Fort Lewis, Washington. In my stay at Ft Lewis, we also went on maneuvers for about two months in the Mohave Desert, California, Arizona and Nevada. This was about two months of camping out (cold at night, hot during day) in the desert, and taking part in mock battles between two armies."

Pictured above: Marc Bacigalupo and two other soldiers on maneuver in the Mohave Desert

Pictured above: Marc Bacigalupo at military ball while in ROTC at university in Detroit

When did you leave the military? How do you think your time in the military affected you?

"When I left in May of 1965, the Vietnam war was just starting to heat up and so I was lucky that I left as a few months after I got out my old unit was activated to go to the war in Vietnam, and that war destroyed the life of many men, men who died there, but also men whose whole being, mental and physical, was destroyed by being part of this war.

Later on at IBM, I worked with someone, a graduate of West Point who fought in Vietnam. He could never readjust to life in civilian life after all that he had done and seen. I think being in the military helped me have a more responsible attitude about life, helped me become more mature as an individual."

Pictured above: Marc Bacigalupo in different dress uniform

Is there anything you wish civilians understood about military service?

"We are service member 24 hours per day 7 days per week until we leave service. I would not trade being in the Army for anything. I loved and I miss it. Working at the VA keeps me close."

What were your first few months out of service like?

"I was lucky as I had applied to go to graduate school so I had a plan as to where I was heading, but for one leaving the military without a concrete plan has to be somewhat difficult to find one’s way in life after the service, especially one who returns from an actual war."

Thank you for reading my story.

Marc Bacigalupo

Enlisted into the ROTC program in May of 1963 ~ Served in Aberdeen, Maryland and Ft. Lewis, Washington

3/4/20236 min read