After all these years, Albert Litterio can’t talk about his late brother without choking back tears.
Identical twins, Albert and Robert Litterio were inseparable. They were teammates on the Edgewood High School football team, served in the ROTC and planned to enlist in the Army together after graduating in 1967.
But Robert surprised Albert and his family when he left for basic training two days after receiving his diploma.
“I remember he told me, ‘You take care of Mom and Dad,’” Albert Litterio said. “I didn’t know he had enlisted.”
Robert Litterio shipped out to Vietnam in December 1967 and was killed in action on Sept. 4, 1968, while serving with the 4th Infantry Division. He was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
Even something as mundane as looking in the mirror to shave each morning can be difficult for Albert Litterio.
“It still hurts,” he said. “Time doesn't heal my wound. I can't forget it. When I see myself in the mirror, I see a shadow, a reflection, of my brother. Even when I comb my hair, I see two people. I feel him right there with me. I still miss him very much. We were very close.”
As he has done every year since 1988, Albert Litterio will attend the Memorial Day ceremony at the Edgewood Vietnam Memorial on Monday at Mata Memorial Stadium. Litterio, 62, will stand resolutely with others to honor his brother and others from the Edgewood Independent School District who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War.
“It’s very emotional, especially when they play ‘Taps’ and have the gun salute,” Litterio said. “It’s like a flashback to when we buried my brother. But as hard as it is, it’s great to see the community pulling together and helping each other try to heal those wounds.”
Edgewood Class of '67 lost 10 graduates in Vietnam War
The Edgewood Vietnam Memorial honors 54 men who were killed or listed as missing in action, and graduated or attended one of three high schools in the Edgewood Independent School District.
The Edgewood High School Class of 1967, which lost 10 graduates in the Vietnam War, spearheaded the drive to erect a memorial to the school district’s casualties after its 20-year reunion.
Dedicated on Memorial Day in 1988, the Edgewood Vietnam Memorial stands as a poignant reminder of a community’s sacrifice and a monument to its unflagging patriotism.
Edgewood’s Class of 1967 has dutifully honored the fallen with a moving ceremony on every Memorial Day since 1988. The program includes a haunting roll call of the names on the memorial.
“I knew a bunch of these guys,” Albert Litterio said. “When I hear their names, it’s like an echo.”
Edgewood High School, which closed in 1996, lost 35 ex-students in the Vietnam War. The other 19 listed on the memorial graduated from or attended the district’s two other high schools, Kennedy and Memorial, or lived in the district when they enlisted.
“I’m very proud of the Edgewood Class of ’67 and of the Edgewood community for having this memorial and having the ceremony each year,” Litterio said.
'It never will be the same'
Litterio’s father, Emilio, a Korean War veteran, died in 1985, but his mother, Dora, 85, attended the Memorial Day ceremony annually until missing the event last year.
“She had a stroke and she’s in a wheelchair now,” Albert said. “She always got very emotional at the ceremony, and I’m afraid it would be too much for her now. Of course, she still feels the pain of losing a son. Sometimes I’m at home with her and she’ll talk about him and start crying. She says it never will be the same.”
Sylvia Roman, the oldest of the three Litterio children, also lives in San Antonio.
"It's emotional," Roman said. "We always remember the ones who are dead. I just cope with life. Life has to go on."
Highly popular in high school, Robert Litterio played offensive tackle on the football team and catcher on the baseball squad.
“I was a defensive tackle in football, so I was always a little more aggressive than my brother,” Albert said. “He was more gentle. He was always trying to help out people.”
Litterio said his brother was nicknamed “Cookie” by his Army buddies because he always shared the cookies his mother sent him.
Albert Litterio never enlisted in the service after his brother’s death. He went to college, married and raised a family. Now a grandfather, Litterio said he often thinks of all the things his brother missed in life.
“I’ll always feel that emptiness,” Litterio said. “I’ll always remember how we used to do things together. I still miss that.”