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Toski brothers honored for World War II service in Washington, D.C. 

  • Haydenville native and World War II U.S. Navy veteran Tom Toski, 92, talks on Monday, May 21, 2018, at his Easthampton home about his service in the Pacific theater as a sonarman aboard the destroyer escort USS Willmarth. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Haydenville native and World War II U.S. Navy veteran Tom Toski, 92, talks on Monday, May 21, 2018, at his Easthampton home about his service in the Pacific theater as a sonarman aboard the destroyer escort USS Willmarth. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Haydenville native and World War II U.S. Navy veteran Tom Toski, 92, talks on Monday, May 21, 2018, at his Easthampton home about his service in the Pacific theater as a sonarman aboard the destroyer escort USS Willmarth. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Haydenville native and World War II U.S. Navy veteran Tom Toski, 92, talks on Monday, May 21, 2018, at his Easthampton home about his service in the Pacific theater as a sonarman aboard the destroyer escort USS Willmarth. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Haydenville native and World War II U.S. Navy veteran Tom Toski, 92, is pictured third from left in this snapshot in a collection of memorabilia from his military service. This photograph was taken at his Easthampton home on Monday, May 21, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Haydenville native and World War II U.S. Navy veteran Tom Toski, 92, now of Easthampton, holds a snapshot of his brother, Bob Toski, left, and himself on the putting green of the Northampton Country Club. This photograph was taken on Monday, May 21, 2018, in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Haydenville native and World War II U.S. Navy veteran Tom Toski, 92, talks May 21 at his Easthampton home about his military service in the Pacific theater as a sonarman aboard the destroyer escort USS Willmarth. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Haydenville native and World War II U.S. Navy veteran Tom Toski, 92, now of Easthampton, holds a snapshot of his brother Bob Toski, left, and himself on the putting green of the Northampton Country Club. This photograph was taken May 21 in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Haydenville native and World War II U.S. Navy veteran Tom Toski, 92, is pictured third from left in this snapshot in a collection of memorabilia from his military service. This photograph was taken at his Easthampton home on Monday, May 21, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Haydenville native and World War II U.S. Navy veteran Tom Toski, 92, talks on Monday, May 21, 2018, at his Easthampton home about his military service in the Pacific theater as a sonarman aboard the destroyer escort USS Willmarth. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



@ecutts_HG
Monday, May 28, 2018

WASHINGTON — As accomplished golfers, Haydenville natives Tom and Bob Toski are no strangers to the spotlight, but on Monday the men were honored for their military service, not their golf swings.

The Toskis were recognized Monday in the nation’s capital for their service to their country during World War II and the Korean War. They joined about 20 other WWII veterans at the commemoration hosted by the Friends of the National World War II Memorial and the National Park Service. Before the ceremony, the Toskis and other veterans participated in a “Parade of Heroes” and laid wreaths at the Freedom Wall in remembrance of their fallen brothers and sisters.

The brothers’ nephew, James R. Fisher, is the director of ceremonies for the National World War II Memorial.

“This is one way we are saying thank you for serving in WWII and thank you for what you contributed to the nation afterwards,” Fisher said in advance of the ceremony.

Five battle stars

In separate interviews last week, the Toskis reflected on their military service and what the honor meant to them.

Tom Toski, now 92, served in the U.S. Navy as a sonarman from 1943 to 1946. He spent most of those years in the South Pacific where he earned five battle stars.

“I was proud of that,” he said. He still keeps the yellowed and worn card in his wallet which lists the battles that earned him his stars, including the invasion of Okinawa.

Drafted at 18, Toski said he was the second of his brothers to be sent to war. His older brother Jack enlisted in the U.S. Army and Bob was drafted after him. Receiving the news of the ceremony in Washington, Toski said he cried. He said it will be the first time he is being honored for his service.

“It was a great experience for an 18-year-old kid,” he said. “I learned a lot, met some nice guys.”

Toski also served during the Korean War in the European theater. He is also well known as a golf instructor in western Massachusetts.

Reached by phone last week, Bob Toski, 91, called the honor “a very unexpected pleasure,” saying he never thought he would be honored for his service.

“I hope you can appreciate that when you get that honor and you are given that honor because you represented your country, you always think about the guys that didn’t come home,” he said. “I had a lot of friends that I knew that were killed in the war.”

“You take the honor with mixed emotions because you think of the guys that never did come home,” Toski continued. “Tom and I and Jack were fortunate to survive.”

Serving in the U.S. Army Infantry, Bob Toski was stationed in what was then Burma, now often called Myanmar. He was drafted after he finished school. While serving, Toski said, he won the China-Burma-India All Service golf tournament. He later went on to become a professional golfer on the PGA Tour.

“We had to play with bald clubs, bald shoes, bald balls. Everything was bald,” he said of that wartime tournament in Southeast Asia. “That was kind of the start of my golfing career.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.