With a great uncle, two uncles and a father serving in World War II, Diana Fecarotta had a tough act to follow. But because of her family’s example, Fecarotta went on to distinguish herself in service to her nation: serving in the Marines from 1966 to 1968 and the Air Force Reserve from 1972 to 1975.
Yet her contributions are far from over. Fecarotta is now the first woman to serve as a commander of an Italian American War Veterans post, taking the lead at the IAWV Guido Belmonte Post #4 after a quarter of a century as a member.
“It’s the utmost humble honor,” says Fecarotta, whose four grandparents all hail from Sicily. “What’s most important for her in the new position “is representing Italian Americans and veterans, and serving others.”
Fecarotta already has a track record of service spanning decades. She edits The Red Clay, an international magazine of The Khe Sahn Veterans, and is a charter member of Women in Military Service for America. A 45-year member of the American Legion’s Post #919, Fecarotta almost chose the Peace Corps before deciding to join the Marines. Stationed in San Diego, she worked in Basic Supply at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. “As Woman Marines, called WMs, we freed men to fight,” she says.
With the 50th anniversary of U.S. ground troops landing in Vietnam, Fecarotta has witnessed a shift in attitudes about American soldiers of that era. “I recall how returning veterans were not welcomed home, but now I’m elated that ’Nam Vets are now finally [recognized],” she says.
Fecarotta earned an undergraduate degree at Loyola University Chicago and a master’s in education at Northeastern Illinois University. She taught elementary and adult students for many years, “and with help of the Veterans’ G.I. Bill, I was also able to become financially secure and go on to purchase a home for my mother.”
That woman, Francesca M. Lombardino, had what Fecarotta calls “the most positive, heartfelt influence on my life. She was always supportive, going that extra mile with constant, unconditional loving care and encouragement every step of the way.”
One particular memory stands out for Fecarotta, who grew up in the Grand and Ogden neighborhood. “I remember her having our school uniforms ironed and lined up daily, though my strong Sicilian grandmother helped us with the rental apartment” in the six-flat she owned. “I’m amazed how Ma got us through Catholic School on her office job salary. Certainly, my precious Mom so helped to make me the woman I am today.”
The commitment to family and military continues in other ways, too, as Fecarotta lives with her disabled veteran brother, Martin R. Fecarotta. It’s just one more way that she shows the values she learned in the military: “a greater sense of love for country; consideration of fellow man; independence, self esteem and sufficiency; and how very able we can be.”