SETAF-AF brings together rival towns in Dolomites for 60 years, counting

In 1962, Odilla Lissa Dal Pra, from the town Valli del Pasubio several miles north of massif, sculpted a statue of the Virgin Mary with ambition to place it from on top of the peak known by locals as “Sisilla” in the Little Dolomites.



By Maj. Cain Claxton U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa Italy Jul 14, 2022
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VICENZA, Italy – About an hour north of here, on top of a rocky peak 1,621 meters above the sea, a statue of the Virgin Mary has inspired countless hikers and residents of two rival valleys for 60 years, ever since a U.S. Army Southern European Task Force helicopter delivered the statue to its perch.

In 1962, Odilla Lissa Dal Pra, from the town Valli del Pasubio several miles north of massif, sculpted a statue of the Virgin Mary with ambition to place it from on top of the peak known by locals as “Sisilla” in the Little Dolomites.

“She faced a dilemma of how to get the statue onto the top of the mountain,” said Lt. Col. Fernando Franco, who has attended a ceremony July 3 at the base of Sisilla to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Madonna’s placement.

Franco, an engineer assigned to SETAF-AF headquarters here, was the guest speaker at the ceremony.

“An Angel in the form of a helicopter from the Southern European Task Force … completed the dream of Ms. Odilla to place the statue at the top of the mountain for the whole world to see,” Franco said to a group of about 200 people gathered for the ceremony.

In 1962, SETAF pilots used a H-34 Choctaw helicopter to set statue in its place high above Campogrossa park. Virtually every year since, residents of nearby towns have returned to there to celebrate Dal Pra’s craftsmanship and SETAF’s logistical generosity.

“The relationship with the community and Italy is very important,” Franco said. “This area is very popular with hikers from all around the globe, and so many of them come here and read about the story and see the photos of the U.S. Army helicopter.”

This was Franco’s fourth time representing SETAF-AF at the ceremony. Franco said this event was marked by the absence of Dal Pra and her husband, who died earlier in the year.

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