CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Adam DiCiccio was 19 years old when he first joined the U.S. Army.
The 37-year-old Cranston native, who enlisted only a few days prior to the 9/11 attacks, served seven years in total as a platoon sniper. He was deployed overseas twice, spending one year in Afghanistan and another in Iraq.
“He loved serving his country,” Adam’s brother Mark DiCiccio said. “He was a really good role model, and later on, a really good father. He’s someone I try to emulate.”
His mother, Dawn DiCiccio, said Adam thrived during his time in the U.S. Army.
But it was one incident, she said, that changed his life forever.
“His unit, they call it an airstrike, it bombed a school wall that fell on a group of children and his unit had to go and try to put them together as best they could and deliver them to the parents,” she said. “That’s what changed my son.”
Dawn said her son refused to talk about it for quite some time.
“It was on the news,” she said. “He called and I could hear it in his voice that he was a changed person. He said, ‘did you watch the news?’ I said ‘yes’ and he said ‘that was us.’ That was all he said about it. He never told me the details.”
After that, Adam returned home a broken man. But even as he struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Dawn said he always put others before himself.
“It was Thanksgiving, we were at Mark’s house and he noticed a comment online that a veteran posted that sounded like he was suicidal,” Dawn recalled. “He stopped eating, got on the phone and had a chain of veterans from Rhode Island to Indiana trying to help this guy. He would not get off the phone until the police and EMTs were banging on the man’s door to get him out and get him help.”
“Another time he knew someone contemplating suicide in New Jersey,” she continued. “It was the middle of the night. He got into his car, drove to New Jersey, broke the man’s door down and saved him and got him to the hospital.”
Adam went on to receive his bachelor’s degree from Johnson & Wales University, followed by his master’s degree in clinical mental health and vocational rehabilitation counseling from Salve Regina University.
He went on to work at the Providence VA Medical Center as a health science specialist.
“Adam was a man of action,” Mark said. “You saw it in the military, you saw it in his studies … his true legacy is deeds, not words.”
An example of Adam’s legacy could be seen every Thanksgiving, when he would raise money to purchase turkeys for veterans in need.
But alongside his motivation to help others, Adam still battled his own demons.
“It was a struggle for my brother,” Mark said. “For a long time he had been in and out of rehab. He always tried extremely hard and no matter what he was going through, he was always helping somebody.”
Adam died suddenly last December, leaving behind not only his mother and brother, but also his fiancée Tayla Inderlin and his 10-year-old son Gunner.
Inderlin tells 12 News Adam was an energetic, sensitive and dedicated human being.
“He always put others before himself,” she said. “Everyone came before him.”
On Saturday, the Rhode Island Veterans of Foreign Wars will rededicate Post 272 to Adam, who gave so much in a short amount of time, according to VFW of Rhode Island Service Officer Raymond Denisewich.
“We want to continue helping veterans and their families. That is the bottom line,” Denisewich said. “As an organization, that’s our first priority and that was always Adam’s priority.”
Denisewich said while Adam didn’t like being the center of attention, rededicating the post will help keep his legacy alive.
“I focus on all the positive things and good things he did for everybody. He went out of his way,” Denisewich said. “I’m not focusing on his death. I’m keeping his legacy going with deeds not words, that was his motto, and we’ll continue to do it.”
Resources for Veterans and their Families
If anyone is in immediate danger or experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
RIServes gives service members, veterans and their loved ones access to a variety of programs, “from superior housing and emergency service providers to employment, recreation and fitness, financial capabilities and more.” They can be reached at (401) 921-2119 or by filling out this online form.
If you are in crisis, please call the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.
This nonprofit’s mission is to “strengthen the veteran community by providing crucial wrap-around services” to homeless and at-risk veterans. These include employment and training programs, housing, legal services, and basic needs like food.
The Red Cross and its local chapters also connect veterans and their families with vital resources ranging from emergency needs like food, clothing and shelter, as well as counseling services and available benefits.
If you need to talk with someone, call the Red Cross at 833-492-0094 or request a call online.
The United Way’s 24/7 hotline is a free, confidential service where trained professionals connects you with the resources you need in your community.
Call 211 to get help, or chat with a representative on their website.
This agency aims to “ensure every Veteran has an opportunity to make it in Rhode Island” by ensuring they and active service members receive proper medical care and working to reduce unemployment, poverty and homelessness among those who’ve served our country.
The office is located at 560 Jefferson Blvd. in Warwick and can be reached at (401) 921-2119.