The One’s Who Stayed in Italy – A Visit to the Sicily-Rome Cemetery and Memorial

Guest Post by: Bridget Staroscik O’Reilly

Sicily-Rome Cemetery and Memorial, Italy

I’d been wandering through the field of crosses for about fifteen minutes, pausing here and there to read a name and a date. I knew that our soldiers had fought in Italy during World War Two, but for some reason it never occurred to me that they would have been buried here.  In retrospect it made sense, but I still felt a little sad for these soldiers whose families probably were never able to visit their young man’s final resting place.

As I looked out over the sea of marble, something caught my eye and drew me closer.  It was an inscription like on all the other crosses, but this one had no date and no name. Instead it said simply ‘A Soldier of the Second World War Known Only to God.’ I felt the tears well up in my eyes.

Here in this beautiful place, at a time when I’m sure it was not at all beautiful, a young man had lost his life. A mother had lost her son, maybe a sibling had lost their brother. Perhaps a young girl had lost her sweetheart. As I had walked through this World War Two cemetery, almost all of the stones had brought up this same thought. This was different though. All of those people at home; the mom, the dad, the sister, brother and sweetheart… They never knew what had happened to him.

That thought stayed with me long after I left the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery. The hardest thing to do in life, for me anyway, is accepting what it is that I don’t know. That’s what these graves of the unknown soldiers represent to me, the not knowing.

The mothers whose sons just never came home; a sweetheart who held out hope that maybe someday he would return to her…  World War Two may seem like ancient history to many of us but to those who lost someone and those who’s loved ones were MIA the pain remains. These young men paid the ultimate price for the cost of freedom. And yet because their identities were lost in battle, there is no one to visit their graves.

I know Italy is filled with historical sights. A list of places to see and things to do can easily outstrip the time you have to spend there. Still, maybe instead of spending an afternoon wine tasting, you can visit these lost boys. Take a moment to stand by their marker and say a prayer. Maybe it seems like it was all so long ago, and for many of us it was literally before our lifetime. Yet no matter how long ago it was, the life you live is the one you choose to live. Whether you realize it or not, the fact that you have that choice is an incredible gift. A gift that was given to you at least in part, by a young soldier of the second world war, known only to God. Is it really too much to ask that you take some time to say thanks?


More info can be found on the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and memorial at



  1. Bruce MacLean says:

    Thanks for your posting. My father’s twin brother, whose name I carry as my middle name, lies in this cemetery. My father (now 92) has never visited. I think it is time to go. Your comments have prompted me to take my father to visit before he dies.

    Thank you for your insight,

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