Even if his doctor orders him not to, Dante P. Guzzo is going to be in the Northland Community Fourth of July Parade.

Even if his doctor orders him not to, Dante P. Guzzo is going to be in the Northland Community Fourth of July Parade.

It's the first time he's been invited to participate in a parade celebrating Independence Day, to have his service to his nation recognized.

Plenty of politicians have gotten to ride in Cadillacs, waving to the crowds lining this or that parade route. Others have been feted, as well.

"Every year, it's a developer or one thing or another," said the 88-year-old World War II veteran, who received both the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross.

But not Dante "Tony" Guzzo.

Not until now.

"And I've been waiting since 1945," Guzzo said last week. "They've run out of politicians and now they've got me."

A former resident of the Northland area, Guzzo now lives at the Worthington Christian Village.

He will be, doctors' orders or no, among the local WWII vets to be feted as part of the 2011 edition of the Northland parade, a community tradition for just under half a century.

Event chairman George Schmidt indicated last week the parade is still in need of a color guard or honor guard to march ahead of the World War II veterans, some of whom, including Guzzo, will be riding in vintage Army jeeps. The parade will begin at 11 a.m. July 4, traveling along Karl Road from Morse Road to East Dublin Granville Road.

Dante Guzzo was born in a row of flats across from a Timken plant at the intersection East Fifth and Cleveland avenues. His boyhood home was next to a theater and just down from a "beer joint." From there, the family moved to and Guzzo remembers these details 801 E. Third Ave., where was a member of the "Third Avenue Gang."

"Nice, clean bunch of guys," he said.

The United States entered World War II not long after he graduated from a Catholic high school following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Guzzo said he initially tried to enlist in the Coast Guard in December 1942 but and he says most people don't know this President Franklin D. Roosevelt had ordered a freeze on enlistments.

Guzzo tried again in January. February rolled around, and he found himself in the Army.

Following basic training at Fort Thomas in Kentucky ("They had barracks there and everything!") Guzzo was assigned to Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Wash., where he was on laundry detail. Many transfer requests later, Guzzo was in Georgia at Fort Benning, learning to become a paratrooper, despite not meeting the pre-war height requirement of 6 feet.

"World War II came, they didn't give a damn," he said.

The first time he jumped out of an airplane, Guzzo said, was also the first time he was ever on an airplane.

Guzzo said he was sent into combat in December 1943.

"All my buddies were gone who were with me over there," he added wistfully.

He earned his Purple Heart after sustaining shrapnel wounds after participating in the eight-mile-long paratroop drop that was part of the Allied invasion of Normandy that began on June 6, 1944.

"It wasn't a hard wound," Guzzo said, shrugging it off.

As for the conduct that won him a Distinguished Service Cross when Guzzo personally took out two "pillboxes" of German soldiers who had him and others pinned down, the old soldier said it wasn't really his idea.

It was this voice.

"Tony, you can do it," Guzzo said the voice told him.

Guzzo felt: If you say so.

"I just grabbed my gun, zigzagged to this pillbox and knocked it out and then I went to a second pillbox and knocked it out, without getting hurt," he said.

After the war, Guzzo made his way back to Columbus by way of New York City. He accepted the state's offer of $20 a week for up to 52 weeks, or until they found work, for returning veterans.

"It took more than a week to make a solider of you, so they figured it would take more than a week to make a civilian out of you," Guzzo said.

He'd have taken the $20 for the whole 52 weeks, but then his future bride, Louise, invited him to a Sadie Hawkins dance.

"After she asked me to go out, I got a job," Guzzo said.

He briefly worked for a wine merchant on Park Street before going into construction in his uncle's business. Guzzo said he personally put in the concrete curbs along Indianola Avenue.

"I just saw a few years ago they redid it," he said.

Guzzo and a partner went into the concrete business in 1964, working with mostly custom builders. After his partner abruptly decided to quit, Guzzo worked as a superintendent for Complete General Construction until he retired.

He and Louise, who died on Dec. 14, 2006, had three children, two sons and a daughter.

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