Vet treasures memorabilia, stays involved in local groups

November 09, 2005|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Tom Vucina

Age: 79

Occupation: Retired in 1988 after 25 years as a machinist with Mack Trucks

Hometown: New Brighton, Pa.

Where would you see Vucina? A World War II veteran, Vucina is involved in local AMVETS, VFW and American Legion organizations.

Because he had repeated the third grade, Vucina was a junior in high school when he turned 18. He laughs at his history - that he was drafted into the armed services in 1944 and graduated from high school in 1947.


He then attended the University of Miami for two years, where he played football on the practice team as a 23-year-old freshman.

Vucina served in the infantry in three battles and said both of his legs froze due to the cold during the Battle of the Bulge. He continues to receive treatment at the Martinsburg (W.Va.) Veterans Affairs Medical Center as a result.

His Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Good Conduct medals are sources of great pride. Vucina also carries a ring on his key chain that came from a German SS soldier.

A new addition to his collection is an American flag that his son-in-law, Harry Block, brought home for Vucina from Iraq. Block, a loadmaster with the Martinsburg Air National Guard and now in the Florida Guard, was part of a fighter squadron that called themselves the Mad Hatters.

Their job was to fly injured soldiers to Berlin and bring supplies back to Iraq. Each trip they made, they would take American flags with them and when they landed safely, the flags would be distributed to whoever wanted them.

Block, who was injured 31 days after he was deployed, returned home with an Iraqi Freedom flag and personalized certificate for Vucina.

Vucina is the original owner of the Greenberry Hills house he and his wife, Alice, bought for $13,000 in 1963. The Vucinas were married for 46 years before her death almost six years ago.

They raised one son and three daughters in their Green Valley Drive home. He has been a member of Zion Lutheran Church in Williamsport for about 40 years.

Vucina worked on and off as a substitute school teacher in the county for about 20 years, some of those years while he was working at Mack. He has written 10 children's books and is writing a book called "Walking in the Snow" about his experience during the war.

Vucina also speaks to groups about his wartime memories.

Despite a New Year's fall in his carport, he was determined to stay active. A regular at Pen Mar Park on Sunday afternoons, he said he and his "lady friend" went to all 18 dances during the season this summer.

"I consider myself a young, old guy," Vucina said.

Hobbies: "I buy and sell antiques and collectibles," Vucina said. He scours Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, yard sales and flea markets looking for interesting items.

What does Vucina like best about Washington County? "Living," Vucina said. "And the people. You know what builds up a town - people."

He enjoys the moderate climate and said he doesn't miss the dust and smoke from the steel mills where he grew up.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024 or e-mail

The Herald-Mail Articles