Ann Capucilla may be 96, but the U.S. Army veteran who served during World War II hasn’t lost any of her sense of humor.
The Raleigh resident, who served in the Army for 32 years – most of them as a drill sergeant – kept a crowd of about 100 people enthralled during her remarks at Sunday afternoon’s Veteran’s Day observance in front of the town’s Blue Star Memorial on First Avenue.
Capucilla was the highlight of an otherwise solemn ceremony that included patriotic songs, a brief wreath-laying ceremony and a line of veterans and others walk up to the wreath to place red carnations beneath the memorial.
Boy Scouts from Pack 365 posted the colors to open the ceremony and Kathy Wall led the crowd in singing the national anthem.
Capucilla made her way to the speaker’s podium and kept the crowd bouncing between funny stories and sincere appeals to keep veterans top of mind all year long.
Capucilla recalled joining the Army’s Woman’s Auxiliary Corps shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed. She remained in the Army after the war and later married an officer, a rule she said she knew she was breaking when, as an enlisted man, she fell in love with an officer. “You weren’t supposed to trust the officers,” she said. “But I made an exception.”
Capucilla moved from assignment to assignment in the Army, serving as a truck driver only long enough to wreck an army truck. “They came to me and asked me if there wasn’t anything else I would like to do,” she said, sparking laughter among the crowd.
She found her niche as a drill sergeant and served the remainder of her duty teaching young recruits how to be soldiers.
She recalled one group she trained while she was stationed in Daytona Beach. On the first day of training, she began to teach them how to march on the beach. When the soldiers mocked her feminine voice, she had them march straight into the ocean. After that, she said, the soldiers didn’t give her any more trouble.
But Capucilla also told the audience gathered in downtown Knightdale, that veterans are grateful for the words of praise they receive nowadays. “When people come up to you and say ‘Thank you for your service,’ they think it’s such a blase thing to say, but it really does mean a lot to us. So please keep saying it,” Capucilla said.
She took note of the changes in the public’s perception of the military. “We got a lot of thank-you’s after World War II, but after that a lot of people entered the service because they were drafted or they didn’t have anywhere else to go and the reception they got was not like it was (following World War II) and it was not like it is becoming nowadays.”
She also took time to encourage everyone to remember veterans all year long.
“Let’s pray now that this country will do for us what we did for it, that it will give us its best just as we gave it our best,” Capucilla said.