I was born too late. By the year of my birth, 1864, the glorious events in the liberation of my beloved Sicily were complete. My father, rest his soul, participated in these events, met our greatest hero, and led a life of adventure, honor and fame. He fought with the immortal Garibaldi to expel the damned Neopolitans from our land. How could I do anything to equal that glory? My many travels to America count as nothing more than the clucking of well-fed hens compared to my father’s single season as a Garibaldini, a Soldier of Garibaldi.

Let me turn the wick up on this old, cracked oil lamp to cast more light as I start to write my story. I am comfortable seated in the kitchen of my house at an ancient oak table I use for writing, my wife uses to roll out pasta, and the whole family gathers around for meals. This spring night in my native Cerami is warm. A mosquito whines in my ear. I swat him and wipe my stained finger on my dirt-crusted work pants. My wife, two daughters and youngest son sleep in the bedrooms down the hall from the kitchen where I sit with my glass of red wine. Today is April the 15th in the year of our Lord 1915. A great war rages across Europe. Let the Germans, English, French and Turks destroy themselves. This war is not our concern, as the King of Italy well knows. My ancestral farmhouse and orchards in the middle of our island have nothing to do with the guns and bombs of northern nations. Here we have known no war since Garibaldi liberated our island.

That liberation and my father’s role in it is the heart of the story I want to tell. Whoever reads this story learn this about my family - we Anellos live for pride and honor.

My father loved to tell the story of how he helped Garibaldi, the Great Liberator, free our Sicily from its bondage. As a young boy I heard the tale in parts and pieces over many years. Often on a lazy Sunday afternoon after the mid-day meal of pasta, onions and sausage had been cleared from the table by my mother, some of my father’s friends who had been on the Great Adventure would visit us. These were the Veterans, the true Soldiers of Garibaldi. They sat around our large oak kitchen table, opened a bottle of my father’s wine and smoked their black cigars and old pipes until the room became a blue haze like the smoke from burning olive branches.

Whenever a bottle was emptied of its dark wine, my father laid it down on its side in the middle of the oak table and proclaimed: “Here, my friends, the death of a worthy soldier! Bring on another volunteer!”

The pipes stayed lit for only a few puffs with their cheap tobacco before subsiding in a sputter of saliva. A candle on the table provided the source for lighting a dry pine twig that carried the resurrecting flame to the pipe bowl. The cigars stayed lit; they stank like smoldering donkey dung and made me sick.

Perhaps my father did not see me hiding in a corner behind the large earthenware crock that held our pickled olives my mother used in cooking. Or perhaps he didn’t care if I was there. Or maybe he liked having me for an audience. I never could divine my father’s reasons.

Between puffs on pipes and cigars, the men talked of their long march years earlier across Sicily, the battle of Kalat-al-fimi, and the taking of Palermo from the Neopolitans. These are the glorious battles every child is taught from books in primary school. I learned of bravery and death from the men who fought there.