Grandview Terrace veteran looks back on his 30 years of military service
By Meghann Finn Sepulveda
Memorial Day has profound meaning for retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Tony Saputo. At only 18, he joined the Army and spent the next 30 years of his life serving our country. Today, the 91-year-old World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veteran holds fond memories of the experience that shaped and inspired him to make a difference in the lives of veterans in need.
An early military career
In 1945, Tony joined the Army after graduating from high school. His decision was based on a strong sense of patriotism, like many others who lived in the U.S. at that time. Tony followed in the footsteps of his father, who had served in the Italian Navy before he immigrated to the United States. Tony’s four younger brothers followed him in joining the military.
“It really felt like I was doing something right for the country,” he says.
During World War II, Tony was an enlisted member of the 3rd Infantry Regiment and was stationed at Fort Myer, Virginia. He traveled to Germany, Austria and Italy, where he served as an artillery and missile crew member.
He was encouraged to take college courses at night through the Army Bootstrap program and earned a bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Nebraska.
In 1950, Tony fought in the Korean War, serving three tours of duty. During that time, he was promoted to sergeant first class and later received a commission as an officer.
When he returned to the U.S, he was appointed to various leadership positions within the Army including training, management and assigning troops to combat.
He remained focused on academics and achieved a master’s degree and a doctorate in management science.
After serving in the Vietnam War, Tony retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1974. During his military career, he was awarded 28 medals including the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit.
“It was a life I would do again in a heartbeat,” he says.
Following his military retirement, Tony secured a position with the government at the Pentagon as chief of joint operational testing and evaluation for military transport aircraft, where he worked for 17 years.
It was there he met his wife, Rosemary, who worked for the Department of the Army Inspector General.
When Tony retired from the government in 1990, he received the U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award and the U.S. Air Force Exemplary Civilian Service Award for his accomplishments. He was also recognized by President George H.W. Bush for his 47 years of combined military and civilian service.
New life out West
Soon after retirement, Rosemary began experiencing health issues. Doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center suggested the couple move to a dry climate to improve Rosemary’s medical condition.
In 1993, they headed to Sun City West and within 18 months, Rosemary’s health dramatically improved.
The couple lived for 10 years in their Sun City West home before eventually moving into Grandview Terrace, where they reside today.
After settling in Arizona, Tony joined the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting veterans, and today gathers donations of clothing and furniture for homeless and disabled veterans. He is a member of the Military Officers Association of America, and also supports local schools, collecting computers, bicycles and musical instruments for children in the community, with most donations coming from Grandview Terrace residents.
In 2007, he was inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society.
As Memorial Day approaches, Saputo pauses to think about those who have given their lives defending our country and all who have served.
“It’s a day to look back at the veterans who are struggling,” he says. “It’s also an opportunity to find ways in which we can better their lives.”