World War II veteran Frank Puccilli has long dreamed of being able to deliver a perfect rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
In fact, Puccilli, 90, spent the last five years taking voice lessons so he could learn to sing the national anthem, a song that is hard for even trained professionals to get through because of its wide vocal range.
The Huntington Beach resident said that at first he could barely hit the notes, but the more he practiced, the more he developed his voice.
He said he was taking lessons for his own satisfaction, but then a few months ago, when he realized an anniversary was coming up -- President Herbert Hoover authorized "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the national anthem on March 3, 1931 -- he decided to write a letter to Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize to see if she would allow him to sing it in front of the council.
She "graciously accepted," he said.
And so at Monday's City Council meeting, he stood before the packed chambers and sang, inspiring many of the dozens there to stand and place a hand over their heart.
Puccilli said in an earlier phone interview that he's wanted to sing the famed song for years to celebrate the country he served.
Puccilli said he was drafted into the U.S. Army when he was 18 and served in World War II. While battling in the Philippines, Puccilli earned a Bronze Star, which is awarded to military members for heroic achievement.
"I felt like the anthem needed to be celebrated for our great country," he said. "I thought it would be a great act of patriotism on the part of the city to welcome a veteran singing it."
Americans may have their differences, he added, but they should always take the chance to fortify "the principles that make the country great."
Puccilli said he wanted to do justice to the anthem but likes to remind people that he's 90 years old and expectations should be tempered.
The resounding applause from the packed chamber spoke for itself.
Twitter: @benbrazilpilot ___
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