Unit: 75th Ranger Regiment, 3rd Battalion
Home Town: Vineland, NJ
Died On: 10/03/1993
It had become a tradition in a family that had sent sons off to war: After Sgt. Dominick M. Pilla, 21, deployed to Somalia with his Ranger company in August 1993, the family put together a package of pepperoni sticks and balls of provolone cheese. Dominick's father, Benjamin Pilla, had gotten such a package when he was serving in Vietnam. Frank Pilla, Dominick's brother, had gotten one while off the coast of Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War. Dominick Pilla's package was returned unopened to his parents' home in Vineland N.J. He had been killed before it reached him.
Dominick Pilla had heard his father's war stories and had seen the pictures he'd brought home from Vietnam. “I told him how people get killed and get wounded, lose arms or legs,” says his father. “It's not all glory. He knew that.” Regardless, Dominick Pilla decided as an adolescent that he wanted to join the Army and be a Ranger. He enlisted in the Delayed Entry Program while in high school, then took up a rigorous exercise and body-building program to prepare for Ranger training.
Benjamin Pilla and his wife, Diane, say Dominick Pilla had the cockiness of a quick study who excelled at his interests. For example, he liked riding Benjamin Pilla's 1,400cc Harley Davidson motorcycle, among the biggest made. “He took his motorcycle test on it and passed,” Benjamin Pilla says. “Most guys fail the first time on the big bike. He was a natural.” The bike sat for months after October 3. “I couldn't ride that thing all winter,” Benjamin Pilla says. “I just let it sit there because it reminded me of him too much. The last letter I got from him from Somalia, he said when he comes back, he was going to buy one so we could go riding together.”
Dominick Pilla and his father had a long talk in June 1993, during Dominick's last leave before deploying to Somalia. “He said, `I realize what we do, I could get killed or wounded. I just hope it's not Somalia or Bosnia.' He knew the futility of it,” says Benjamin Pilla.
Dominick Pilla was with a convoy taking an injured soldier from the October 3 firefight to be treated. He was killed when the U.S. Humvees were ambushed. Dominick Pilla was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor.
“He was always a good, decent kid,” says Benjamin Pilla. “Never in trouble, had good respect for law and for authority. Never gave me any trouble at all. “That's the kind that die, unfortunately.”