For a 96-year-old veteran, the parade has come to him
| Breaking News Updates | World News
Jack Le Vine did not participate in the grand Veterans Day parade on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Thursday, nor attended the small service at the Brooklyn War Memorial.
He spent the day in the Brooklyn neighborhood where he was born, in the two-story brick house with American flags in front and photos in the window of an aircraft carrier and cargo ship and d ‘a handsome young man in navy uniform.
Still, there was a celebration, a sort of surprise. It all started after a neighbor in the South Slope neighborhood where Mr. Le Vine lives posted on the Nextdoor.com community bulletin board.
“A World War II vet lives on 18th Street. He’s 97, lives alone and may not see another Veterans Day,” she wrote on Tuesday. “Please consider leaving a little nod of gratitude. “
The soldiers and sailors of Mr. Le Vine’s generation are rapidly disappearing now. Nearly 99% of the 16 million Americans who served in the war died, according to the National World War II Museum. There are fewer than 5,000 World War II veterans left in New York City.
Mr. Le Vine said that to his knowledge none of the men he served with are around yet. And so, he said, he usually spends Veterans Day doing exactly “nothing.”
But on Wednesday evening, the tributes had started. As Mr. Le Vine was taking out the trash, a woman he had never met handed him an envelope with “Jack the Hero” written on it. “I just want to thank you for your service,” she said.
Then a man who lives down the block walked up with his two children and handed Mr. Le Vine a thick stack of cards that the children and their classmates had made. “You’re going to read them for days,” said the man, Chris Polony.
When Mr Le Vine stuck his head out on Thursday morning, on the bench inside the portal where he and his wife were sitting, someone had left a potted amaryllis and a map attached with a drawing of a soldier in camouflage clothing. “Thank you for fighting for our country. D’Abigail, 7 years old.
On the porch near the screen door there were two more letters. Mr. Le Vine, a light but totally rebellious man who, for the record, will not be 97 years old until January, bent down and picked them up. “These people must love me on this block!” he said.
Mr Le Vine, one of seven children, joined the Navy a few weeks before his 18th birthday because his older brother had been drafted into the military and warned him against this: to teach you is to crawl to four legs in the mud. You get everything messy. ‘”
The Navy, he said, pledged “a cleaner life.” He served two years in the Pacific on the USS Lesuth, then served as Second First Class on the USS Gilbert Islands, an aircraft carrier that sent fighter pilots to strike Japanese positions in Okinawa and the Sakashima Islands while that Mr. Le Vine was working in the engine room.
“When they said, ‘Get your combat posts,’ my battle post was the throttle,” he said. “I was controlling the speed of the boat.
Above the china cabinet in the tidy dining room of his home, a photo of Mr. Le Vine as the New York fire captain – where he served for 20 years from 1957 – sits next to ‘a photo of a laughing-eyed woman, his wife, Joan.
“She died of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Le Vine. “It was his bedroom – the bed was against that wall. I took care of her for six or seven years.
Hanging from the button is a vest with medals, still on display since when he taught WWII history to a group of local children in the living room a few years ago. Mr. Le Vine pointed to the chairs still lined up against the wall.
Then he spotted movement through the window, behind the blinds. “Is anyone coming?” A woman left another card. Next to it was a miniature cypress, and another map, and a bakery box tied with string which Mr. Le Vine recognized as a neighbor’s hand. “It’s his famous banana bread.”
The woman who posted on Nextdoor, Elizabeth Dowling, 44, said Mr. Le Vine has been a friend since she moved into the OR about nine years ago. She said she contacted her neighbors because “when our vets come home they are often forgotten and ignored.”
A few minutes later there was another rustle. Mr. Le Vine walked to the door and stopped – “No, wait a minute” – to grab a cap on a hook. “WWII veteran,” he said. “Proudly served.”
Outside was a mother wearing inline skates and 8 year old twins on scooters. The girl had made a flag out of pink, white and turquoise tissue paper and attached it to a paper towel tube and hung it on the pole.
“We are so, so grateful,” mother Ariel Clark told Le Vine. “My grandfather was in Auschwitz. His voice stiffened and quickened.
“My father was born in a camp for internally displaced persons and therefore” – she gestured to her children – “without you none of this would be possible. ” She started crying.
A drop formed at the end of Mr. Le Vine’s nose. He narrowed his eyes. He shook hands with Ms Clark and her children, posed for a photo with them, and walked back inside. “My eyes do cry sometimes,” he said.
Local News Local news For a 96-year-old veteran, the parade has come to him