“She was standing on the porch, crying,” recalled the 91-year-old Word War II veteran. “My poor mother, she went through more hell than we did.”
Mr. Masse’s soft, blue eyes welled up. He spoke softly of his days as a seabee, serving in the Battle of Iwo Jima, supporting the Marines.
The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles fought during the Pacific War in 1945. The onslaught lasted five weeks: The United States had captured the island from the Japanese, securing its three airfields for use as a staging area to attack Japan. It was here that Mr. Masse became familiar with kamikaze fighting, or Japanese suicide bombers. They would fly overhead and, using their planes as bombs, crash into Ali-controlled areas, causing mass destruction.
“We’d here ’em coming,” he motioned to the air, mimicking the sounds of an automatic rifle. “But we’d knock ’em down before they’d get us. We hit a lot of them.”
His wartime memories were brought back to the image of his mother, standing on the front porch.
“They said, lady put up a gold star, he’ll be dead before he’s 19.”
At that moment, tears fell down Mr. Masse’s aged cheeks. In World War I, flags with blue stars were flown in a family’s home, indicating how many in the home were serving in the war. If a gold star was on the flag, that meant someone in the family had died in the war.
The concept was then adopted for future wars.
“But I didn’t,” he said. “I lived through it.”
His story was just one of 18 told Monday at Silver Creek Manor, in honor of Veterans Day. The nursing facility, located just off Hope Street in Bristol, is home to 18 veterans.
While it provides adequate care for its residents, one thing was missing, said Richard Stone. The 83-year-old Navy veteran and resident noticed there wasn’t anything that paid tribute to service members. He worked alongside Events Director Marcy Robinson to create a tribute wall, honoring all those residents who had served in the military.
“It’s very fitting, and it’s a nice thing,” said Mr. Stone, who was turned down by the Air Force for a bad tooth.
“I walked out of the Air Force recruiter’s office, and there was a guy from the Navy,” he laughed, ” saying we don’t care about bad teeth. We’ll fix that. Join the Navy.”
And so he did, serving a total of 28 years in active service and civil service.
A bad car accident in 1988 left him confined to a wheel chair following two years of hospitalization. He was medically discharged after that.
“The Navy was my life,” he said. “I enjoyed it. I really did.”
The Wall of Honor features 18 framed military photos of current residents, each engraved with their name on a bronze plaque. Above the photos hangs an American flag and five seals, representing the five branches of the military – Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Army.
The project cost was taken on by Silver Creek administration, and partly funded by unsolicited donations.
“We are proud to support our heroes,” Ms. Robinson said. “This is just one small spark, of a greater cause.”