When Marian “Dolly” (DeMarino) Sackett, 89, tells stories of her eight brothers who served in the U.S. Navy, she cannot feel more proud.
Dolly, the oldest of 15 siblings, recalls when the eldest brother, Dominick “Mingy,” enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1950. He was 18 years old.
“My brothers were not very tall. We lived in Marguerite. There were no opportunities there for them, for (Dominick) and for us,” she said.
The DeMarino family moved to Marguerite, Unity Township, in 1941. The siblings were raised by parents, Michael and Lucy.
After seeing their oldest brother enlist in the U.S. Navy, younger brothers, Michael Jr., Joseph, Thomas, Lawrence “Larry,” John, Francis “Butch” and Rocco “Rocky” each followed in his footsteps in serving their country. A ninth brother, Ernie, tried to enlist but due to a “medical problem” he couldn’t get in, Dolly mentions.
The younger brothers looked up to Dominick, according to Dolly. After one of their neighbors enlisted in the U.S. Navy, Dominick and two of his friends followed suit.
Dominick served during the Korean War from 1950-54, where he was stationed in Seoul, South Korea. Michael Jr. joined in 1955 and served aboard USS H.J. Ellison DD864. He served until 1959, with brothers Joseph and Thomas serving aboard the same ship.
Joseph entered the U.S. Navy in 1955 and he was a 20-year Navy veteran. He became Chief Petty Officer before retiring in 1975. The service “was his life,” Dolly says.
Thomas spent one year in the U.S. Navy during 1960, though he didn’t enjoy service at first.
“After two weeks, he called home, ‘Mom, get me out of here!’ Then he wrote back in a few weeks and said, ‘Forget it, I’m okay,” Dolly shared.
Thomas was a “good sailor though,” she adds.
John entered the U.S. Navy the same year as Thomas and was stationed aboard a supply ship. Dolly recalls a story when John’s supply ship was passing USS H.J. Ellison DD864. According to Dolly, John yelled to his brother aboard the other ship, “Hey Junior, you got a letter from Mama!”
Lawrence was a seaman who was stationed at Fisherman’s Island, Virginia. Francis “Butch” spent four years in the U.S. Navy, serving aboard USS Wexford County LST-1168. Francis was also a Vietnam War veteran.
The youngest brother, Rocco, spent 16 years in the U.S. Navy from 1972-88. After returning home to work in Latrobe, Rocco went back to serve four more years in the U.S. Army where he was stationed in Germany until 1992. During his time in the U.S. Navy, Rocco was stationed in several places including Illinois, Florida, Guam, New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia.
Though Dolly has many reasons to be proud of her eight brothers who served their country, one reason stands tall above the rest.
“I’m proud of them for one thing — they all got honorably discharged,” Dolly said.
Dominick and Francis both received National Defense Service Medals for their service in the U.S. Navy.
The DeMarino children attended either Greensburg High School or Latrobe High School. Dolly graduated from Latrobe in 1948. With her mother occupied with work, Dolly considered herself to be “like a mother” to her siblings.
“My mother had two families. The older ones and the younger ones,” Dolly said, referring to the age gap between family members. “If it wasn’t for us older ones, the younger ones wouldn’t have had a home to live in.”
While her brothers were serving far away, it was Dolly whom they would often call. They would call her to complain, ask for advice or tell stories. Dolly noted that she was always willing to talk on the phone with her brothers, any time of the day.
Though her brothers had many funny stories to share, some were more serious. Her brother Michael Jr. served during the Six-Day War in Lebanon. One night when he was standing guard, his friend asked him to switch shifts. Michael Jr. agreed...the other man was killed, according to Dolly.
She also remembers how each brother stayed at her house the night before they were sent to their duty station. Dolly’s husband, Richard, treated her brothers like one of his own, she says.
One fond memory brings tears to Dolly’s eyes. After Mingy completed basic training, he did not return home as he was sent straight to South Korea. While on leave, he paid a surprise visit to Marguerite.
“Then one day, my mother was standing on the porch and she saw him coming up and she fainted. She never did that before,” she said.
Lawrence, John, Francis and Rocco are the surviving brothers and remain close with each other, Dolly says. Dominick, Michael Jr., Joseph and Thomas have all passed away. The DeMarinos had five other sisters, Phyllis, Loretta, Geri, Anita and Vicky. Another brother, James, died three months after he was born.
After returning home, most of the DeMarino boys relocated across the country to places like Ohio, Minnesota and Virginia.
Dolly lives in Greensburg with her husband, Richard Sackett. They have six children, 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Dolly keeps photographs, records and documents to help her remember what her brothers accomplished while in the U.S. Navy. Sharing stories with her siblings is among her favorite things to do.
“They were everything to me,” she said.