SACRAMENTO, California – ‘Army’ and ‘family’ are two words that share a single significant feeling for the Delizo family, Filipino-Americans in Elk Grove whose roots in America and the U.S. Army began in World War II.
The late Anastacio Delizo, a native of the Philippines, survived being a prisoner in the horrible Bataan Death March; his son, Rudy, retired from the U.S. Army as a sergeant first class; and now Monina (Delizo) Isaac, a granddaughter to Anastacio, is a civilian management analyst with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District.
The close-knit nature of Filipino culture and the closeness of U.S. Army ‘brothers in arms’ continue to be touchstones for the family. Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we spoke with the Delizos and recounted their proud ties to America and the U.S. Army.
“Grandfather Anastacio was a Philippine Scout which was a military organization of the United States Army from 1901 until the end of the Second World War,” said Isaac. “Only recently I learned he served as a private with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
The Philippine Scouts were brought into the U.S. Army after the Philippine Islands were freed from Japanese occupation. Many served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
Anastacio Delizo was honorably discharged June 30, 1946. He passed away in Sacramento, California, in 2011.
“I remember him telling us kids, ‘I can’t hear so well, because I used to blow up bridges,’” laughed Monina. “At the time, we didn’t know whether to believe him or not.”
In 1970, Anastacio’s son Rudy Delizo, Monina’s father, left the Philippines to prepare a home for his family. Rudy joined the Army in 1972 and by 1973 he was able to bring his wife, Sonia, and their three children — Monina, Cecille and Ron — from the Philippines to his first duty station at Fort Richardson, near Anchorage, Alaska.
The Filipino community was strong in Anchorage. “They immediately adopted us,” said Sonia.
The yearly Filipino cultural festival was newsworthy, attracting the governor of Alaska and other dignitaries and visitors with displays of Filipino tinikling dances and great food.
“Filipino friends are all referred to as auntie and uncle,” Rudy explained. “It is a respectful sign of friendship” and reflects the closeness of their culture.
The snow in Alaska was a brand new experience for the Delizo family. The kids loved it.
Monina came to Alaska as a third-grader. Her memories include seeing moose crossing in front of the family car, watching the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds practicing overhead, seeing the Northern Lights, playing outside in the midnight sun and making lots and lots of snow angels.
From Alaska, the family moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for three years.
Rudy’s most memorable duty was serving on the staff of Colin Powell while Powell was a brigadier general at Fort Leavenworth. General Powell promoted Rudy to staff sergeant during his stay at Fort Leavenworth.
The family moved to Germany in 1983 and traveled throughout Europe during that assignment.
Returning stateside, the Delizos bought their first home in 1986 near Sacramento to be close to family. Rudy retired at Fort Ord in 1993 with 21 years of service.
Monina still treasures the friendships that came from growing up on Army posts. She began her career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District in 2009.
Monina’s mother, Sonia, retired from federal service in 2010 at the Sacramento District. Sonia’s federal career included service as a nurse in Kansas and as an accounting technician in Germany.
And Rudy will proudly wear his staff sergeant dress uniform in the June 7 parade for Filipino-American veterans in Elk Grove.