Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Peter King on Friday posthumously presented military awards, including the Purple Heart, to the family of an Air Force radio operator and tailgunner killed in action during World War II.
More than seven decades after his death, Sgt. Nicholas Faraone Sr. was honored with a Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the Bronze Service Star during a ceremony at the American Legion Post 411 in Islip.
During the 1940s, Faraone, then living in Farmingdale, was working as a singing usher at the New York Academy of Music in Manhattan.
He was set to sing a duet with Tony Bennett — under the stage name Don Rogers — but put his musical career on hold after the attack on Pearl Harbor to join the Army Air Forces.
On Nov. 8, 1944, on his first ever bombing mission, Faraone’s Boeing B-29 superfortress burst into flames and crashed into the Pacific near Iwo Jima. He was 21.
“Sgt. Nicholas Faraone was brave,” said Gillibrand. “He was selfless. He was talented. He chose to serve our country in a time of great need and he gave his life so we can be free.”
King (R-Seaford) added that World War II soldiers like Faraone “are really etched in our nation’s history and our memories.”
Nicholas Faraone Jr., a retired social studies teacher now living in Islip, was born four months after his father’s death and never met his namesake.
For years, Faraone said he was “consumed” with learning details about his father’s life — a mission that was chronicled in a front page Newsday story — but he ran into a brick wall attempting to garner details of his father’s time in the Air Force.
He would pore through letters from his father to his mother, Josephine; searched through library records and tried unsuccessfully to track down Faraone’s former Armed Forces colleagues.
“It was as if I was trying to find a snowflake in a blizzard,” said Faraone, who in 2001 was finally able to track down a close Air Force friend from an online newspaper story.
“The stories helped me piece together the man who I can truly never know,” he said. “I just wanted to know him as a man by the people who knew him.”