Remember our WWII veterans

Published 4:43pm Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tuesday, I had the pleasure of covering a special World War II veteran’s reception at the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum. With the classic sounds of Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong playing in the background, I felt as if I stepped back into a different era — an era where chivalry and modesty were the norm. And as I looked around the room at the many men and women who bravely risked their lives, I realized I was standing among some of Selma’s greatest heroes.

Too often we forget about those over seas who are serving our country. Getting caught up in local and personal issues all too frequently takes the place of truly acknowledging our freedoms, and the brave souls who paid the price for them.

Speaking with some of these veterans, it became evident that a great generation is slowly fading out. Our World War II veterans are reaching their late 80s and 90s and some are approaching triple digits. And although these courageous men and women may be few, it’s still important that we recognize what they fought for so many years ago.

While spending time with these heroic individuals, I couldn’t help but think of my grandfathers, who both served in World War II. Although they passed away years ago when I was just a little girl, I felt as if I was paying tribute to them by listening to the stories of these veterans.

My grandfather on my mother’s side, the Rev. Dr. John Massimilla, served as a merchant at arms in Long Island, N.Y. at King’s Port. Traveling up and down the coast from New York to Florida, he bravely served during the war’s entirety. He was the first person on my mother’s side to serve the United States, as his parents emigrated from Italy in the early 1900s. My mother muses that it was while serving his country that my grandfather developed his deep love for the ocean. Decades after the war, he would frequently visit the shore; if just to watch the waves tumble in.

On my father’s side, my grandfather William Cook (who I knew as Papa Cook) served four years in the Merchant Marines. Working as a junior engineer, he left his home in Tennessee and traveled overseas several times. While in Holland, he brought my grandmother back a pair of wooden clogs — the same clogs that decades later I would wear while dancing around their house, pretending I was a Dutch princess. My grandmother, Alice Cook, also faithfully served as a cadet nurse.

Although my memories of my grandfathers are a little fuzzy now, and I can no longer clearly see their smiling, weathered faces, I feel a sense of pride knowing that they fought for my freedoms so long ago. They, just like the many veterans in Selma, deserve to be recognized for their bravery.


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