Moving can be stressful for some people and a downright pain for most. But for WWII veteran Dominic Pulito, the whole experience gave him a fresh look on life.
“He is a completely changed person, since he moved,” his caregiver Berdina Payne said. “He is more talkative…so much happier,” she added.
The 96-year-old Pulito, who was living in a cramped apartment near Dublin, was moved in less than three hours by about a dozen volunteers from Post 4719 of the VFW, American Legion Post 800 and the staff of the Military Veterans Resource Center.
The team of veterans and civilians moved Pulito from Claremont Retirement Village near Dublin to a stand-alone ranch-style house on the near East Side of Columbus.
Pulito, a veteran of World War II, flew the P-51 Mustang in the US Army Air Corps. The P-51 escorted heavy bombers (B-17s) on massive daylight bombing raids over Germany. Long-range bomber escort became necessary as many unprotected bombers were coming back to base heavily damaged, when they came back at all.
“Everytime the bombers went on runs, more than half were shot down for awhile, ” Pulito said. “So they called us up to go over there to protect the bombers. We provided close air support up to their bomb runs and after,” he added.
According to aviation-history.com, The P51 Mustang had an astonishing success rate. Its ratio for kills to losses was said to have been 19 kills for every one Mustang lost. The P-51 helped turn the tide of the war in the Allies favor.
Pulito said that he was one of the few enlisted pilots in the war because when the war kicked off, not enough recruits met the requirements to be a pilot. He said he entered into a special training program that enabled him to become a pilot without a college degree. Upon graduating, he was one of hundreds of staff sergeant pilots.
A photo of Pulito with his plane hangs on the wall in his living room. Other mementos are sprinkled throughout the house, making it a real home. Photos of Pulito hard at work for the late Gov. James Rhodes, military awards, photos of family, German cuckoo clocks, Honor Flight memories and elephants, lots of elephants.
“He loves them,” Payne said. “Always has… ever since he was young boy. He just has a thing for them,” she added.
Payne cannot believe the change in Pulito’s outlook on life and attitude in general since the move.
“He’s a different person now. He is so happy, so full of life,” she said. Payne secured the rental house from a friend who owns property. She has done the same for other veterans in her care as well.
“He is getting the same 24/7 care he had at the old place,” Payne said. “But this is home…the other place wasn’t home. He wanted a real home and here he has just that.”
The house has wide doorways and larger rooms allowing Pulito to move about in his wheel chair much more easily. “I love it here. It’s so nice and roomy,” Pulito said.
“All the veterans did a beautiful job…very smooth move. I appreciate all you have done for me,” Pulito said.
A couple weeks after the move, Arnold Heightland, the Veterans Food Bank manager, came back and installed a flag pole and a removable wheel chair ramp for Pulito.
“He goes out and salutes that flag several times a day now,” Payne remarked.
A official housewarming party will be held in Pulito’s honor in a few weeks once the weather warms up.
“We want all the volunteers and their families to come. We are going to go all out. We’ll have food, games, Dominic will have all his friends over…it’ will be a great time,” Payne said.