ARDSLEY, N.Y. Bruno Viani knew what he was getting himself into when he volunteered to head into the World War II battlefields.
What he didnt know was that his first encounter with the enemy would be his last.
On Saturday, with the approach of Memorial Day, Viani recalled his story inside Ardsleys Atria Woodlands Senior Living Complex, where he has lived for the past five years.
It was crazy, Viani said of the hours after he was hit by an enemys sniper bullet in 1944. A lot of it was too crazy to write.
Viani grew up in the crowded streets of lower Manhattan during the midst of the Great Depression. After graduating high school and working various odd jobs, he was looking for a diversion from the busy city life.
In the spring of 1940, Viani joined three of his friends and signed up for the 27th Infantry, a part of the New York National Guard. Viani spent the next four years training and moving around the country, with stops in places like Watertown, N.Y., Alabama, California and Hawaii.
In 1944, after attending Officers Candidate School, Viani was selected for the infantry and arrived at North Carolinas Fort Bragg to report for duty with the 100th Infantry Division. From there he shipped off to France, stopping first in Marcé and later in the mountains of Lorraine, near the German border.
Once there, the 24-year-old first lieutenant had a lot of nervous nights.
Youre scared, Viani said. Youre always scared about what the future may bring. But you do what you have to do.
At about 10 a.m. on Nov. 6, 1944, a couple of weeks after arriving in France, Viani found himself at the front of his first battle when his unit came under heavy machine-gun fire from German forces.
I was the point man, a scout, and I didnt realize they were right on top of us, he said.
Instinctively, Viani did what he was trained to do drop to the ground and roll.
The next thing I knew I was laying there and didnt know if my arm was still attached to my body, he said.
A snipers bullet had found his left arm, ripping through his shoulder and breaking his arm before settling in his ribs. Viani spent the rest of the day in and out of consciousness before waking up in an Army hospital.
For nearly a year, Viani would call four of those hospitals home before coming back to the United States in 1945. From there, he went to Halloran General Hospital in Staten Island where he underwent reconstructive surgery.
Once he recovered, Viani returned to New York City, where he worked for the next 50 years as a salesman and married his wife of nearly six decades, Evelyn. Together, they would raise three children.
Today, Viani spends much of time painting in the Atria Woodlands art studio. Since picking up the hobby four years ago, Viani has created 22 pieces, a handful of which hang in the hallways at Atria.
But Viani is reminded of his tour of duty by the baseball-sized scar on his shoulder and the occasional pain in his arm. Still, Viani said, he wouldnt trade his time in the Army for anything.
I would do it all over again, he said. The experience I had was invaluable.
Leaning back in his chair, reminiscing about his past, Viani says he has no regrets.
What a life Ive had, he said.
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