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Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori—It is good and right to die for one’s country. With these words Horace exhorted the Romans to fight against the Parthians. Centuries later, after the Great War, Wilfred Owen denounced Horace’s declaration as “the old Lie.” 

The protagonist of Pro Patria, Bernardino Bernardini, became a naturalized US citizen in 1908, and in 1914 he joined the Italian Army to fight against Austria. More than four years later, he returned to the United States a changed man.

Bernardino kept a journal during his time in Italy and left behind a 250-page memoir created from those writings. He referred to the work as My Military Life and completed it after his return to America.

In Pro Patria, author and actor Marcella Bernard fulfills her father’s wish to tell his brother Bernardino’s story. She incorporates family lore, historical facts, and imaginative reconstruction into the content of My Military Life, portraying her uncle as a man whose national identity vacillated between American and Italian as he risked his life for loyalty and love against the backdrop of World War I.