Story by Sgt. Balley Kramer, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
“I regret that I must confirm my recent telegram in which you were informed your son, Cpl. Anthony E. Costa, Infantry, has been reported missing in action in Korea since 2 November 1950.”
Unfortunately, Dominick and Nancy Costa, Anthony’s parents, were one of many parents who received this type of condolence letter from the adjutant General of the Army during the Korean War.
Sgt. Anthony Costa, posthumously promoted, was among thousands of Americans who enlisted to support their country during the Korean War.
At 19 years-old, Anthony served as an infantryman under the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division. Army records indicate he was captured by enemy forces, Nov. 2, 1950, south of Unsan, Korea, and classified as a prisoner of war. Documents also state he later died of exhaustion and disease.
Although, the Costa family was devastated by the loss of a brother, son and nephew, it did not stop Anthony’s nephew, Pfc. Lenny Costa, from following his footsteps 63 years later.
“Growing up, I had my uncle’s picture and hat next to my bed, and I knew I wanted to join the Army,” explained Lenny, a Long Island, N.Y., native and cavalry scout assigned to the 1st Squadron, 7th “Garryowen” Cavalry Regiment of the 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
Although Lenny knew one day he would enlist, he didn’t follow his dream right away. At 18 he was employed as a bouncer at local New York nightclubs, two years later he moved to Tampa, Fla. becoming a disc jockey and body guard for visiting celebrities.
After an incident at work, Lenny, 31, made a life-changing decision to follow his childhood dream of joining the Army.
Escorting a club owner back to his club one night, an unknown assailant attacked Lenny, breaking his eye socket. After recovering, he returned home and saw his uncle’s photo. He then went to a local recruiter and started his journey shadowing his uncle.
“I went to the recruiter and told her I wanted to join,” Lenny said proudly.
Although Lenny came from a line of infantryman, he chose the military occupational specialty of cavalry scout.
Growing up Lenny explained his father never really expressed emotion but told him he was proud of him.
“Both of my parents were supportive,” Lenny added. “My mom cried and got a dog. My dad told me for the first time he was proud of me.”
Lenny told the recruiter he wanted to serve under the 1st Cavalry Division, because his family’s history involvement with the unit.
“I told the recruiter the story about my uncle and how I wanted to be in the 1st Cavalry Division because of him,” Lenny described. “She told me she would do what she could.”
While attending One Station Unit Training at Fort Knox, Ky., Lenny told everyone he was expecting orders to the 1st Cavalry Division, but as he was nearing the end of his cycle, he was the only soldier left without orders and his hopes were falling.
“Everyone had their orders except me, then my drill sergeant came out,” Lenny chuckled. “He called me over and said, ‘welcome to the cav.’ I was excited.”
After graduating OSUT, he arrived to Garryowen February 2010, upon meeting his squadron command sergeant major; he was assigned to his commander’s Personal Security Detail (PSD).
Lenny’s unit deployed in support of Operation New Dawn to Joint Base Balad, Iraq in 2011. Later that year, their mission changed to Operation Spartan Shield at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
Upon returning from his deployment, Lenny was diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and told he would be medically retired.
About a year later, the annual 1st Cavalry Division Reunion was approaching and Lenny remembered his uncle. He attended the reunion where he met Korean War veterans who served with his uncle.
“It was just unbelievable,” Lenny explained. “They knew so much more than I would have guessed about my uncle.”
Not only was Lenny able to meet with veterans who served with his uncle, but he also received paperwork in regards to his uncle’s remains, historical information on his whereabouts, and even his uncle’s posthumous award.
Although Lenny’s time with the Army was cut short, he is proud he was able to serve with the same team as his uncle.
“I did it for my family,” Lenny concluded. “I feel like instead of bringing one Costa home, I’m going to bring home two.”