McGRAW — Not only is 10th-grader Abbey Augur going to the shores of Normandy to learn about one World War II veteran’s sacrifice there, but she will deliver a eulogy for Leo A. Indelicato, an Auburn native, who was only 19 when he died on D-Day June 6, 1944.
Augur, of Solon, a McGraw High School sophomore, is accompanying Caitlin Goodwin, a social studies teacher in the McGraw School District on the trip June 15 to 27 funded by the Albert H. Smalls Normandy Institute.
Augur will then deliver the eulogy at Indelicato’s grave in the Normandy American Cemetery, Goodwin said. “I was super excited,” said Augur, when her teacher told her about the opportunity. “She’s like, who knows if we get in?”
Goodwin applied to the institute, along with over 120 other applicants across the United States. Thirteen teachers and 13 students were accepted. The purpose of the institute is to teach young people that freedom is not free, according to the institute’s website.
Augur said her teacher cried when she found out they were accepted.
“We were charged with locating a soldier,” Goodwin said. “There’s a registry on the American Battlefield Monument Commission website. They have a list of who died, what state they are from, but nothing else. They do have service numbers, but that would take too long,” she said.
“My dad’s a World War II buff,” Goodwin said. “He said, ‘You will never believe this. Mom and I were in Auburn. We went to Indelicato’s Meat Market … The guys that run it, their uncle died in the D-Day invasion.”
The teacher and student had to research a person who died that day and was buried in Normandy — someone like Leo Indelicato.
“We started researching,” Goodwin said. “We first looked at the battalion he was in — 299th Engineer Combat Battalion, B Company … Then we called the family.”
Goodwin and Augur visited the Indelicato family in Auburn in April.
“They were emotional. They cared about it,” Augur said. “They were excited for me.”
A photo of Leo, left, and Sam Indelicato of Auburn both served in World War II. Leo died at 19.
Leo’s father was a butcher from Palermo, Italy, and immigrated to the U.S., where he opened Indelicato’s Market in Auburn. Leo was born in Auburn in 1925.
Leo and his brother, Sam, both enlisted, of the four brothers. Leo didn’t come back.
Sam came home, got married and started working in the deli, eventually taking it over from his dad. Sam died in 2014.
Goodwin and Augur met Sam’s children, who still own and operate the market today: Sam Jr. and Lee. Leo’s great nephew, Brian, is next in line to take over.
They found out that Leo was kind, a good student, not the most popular, but he loved baseball.
Leo trained in Camp White, Oregon, in 1943 and did amphibious training in Florida before going to England to train for the invasion.
Leo’s battalion was the only engineer battalion to land on both Utah and Omaha beaches on the morning of D-Day. Their goal was to blow up obstacles before the full invasion, Goodwin said. Leo was killed during the first assault.
A 299th Combat Engineer Battalion history plaque in the Indelicato family.
During their trip, Augur and Goodwin will learn about World War II at George Washington University in Washington D.C. and at Paris and Normandy in France. They will see where the British, Canadian and U.S. forces stormed the Normandy coast, as well as other sites.
“I love learning about World War II,” Goodwin saod. “I had a grandfather who served in the British Royal Navy, in Africa and Burma. Mom was a history teacher. Dad’s a war buff.”
Kaaren Pierce of Cortland, a social studies teacher for the Cortland School District for 29 years, had Goodwin as a student. She remembers her more because of her involvement in student council.
Goodwin represented the council at the local, state and national level and then was a counselor at Outlaw Ranch in South Dakota, a leadership camp, after high school.
“I’m just amazed,” Pierce said of her opportunity in France. “She tries out for everything … She keeps growing and growing and growing.”
History is so important today because of globalization, Pierce said.
People need to understand the history, the culture and the traditions of other people.
For those who want to know more, Pierce says: “Read. Watch … For me books are the best. Any form at all is better than nothing.”
Goodwin thought Augur would be a good match for the program. She is mature enough to miss the June Regents exams and take them in August. She has the support of her family.
“My whole mom’s side was always in the military,” Augur said. “I think I had some great uncles that served in World War II.”
“Most of the time, kids these days don’t appreciate the sacrifices of World War II veterans,” said Augur.
“This has happened to actual people … war is not glamorous. War is hell,” Goodwin said. “All sacrifices matter, for all of the generations.”
“I have always been kind of a history buff. When you grow up with a lot of this stuff, you become that way,” said Brian Indelicato, Leo’s great nephew.
He said teens today need to know more about his great uncle’s sacrifice. “That generation is almost gone now,” he said. His family is honored that Leo Indelicato is being remembered.
Goodwin got the message.
“This is the man that went on that beach, and cleared those obstacles … to defeat the Nazi empire. That’s what this is about. Not a number or a battle plan. These are their stories,” Goodwin said. “I am such a history dork. It means a lot to me to be able to tell other people’s stories.”