Veterans share stories

Published 10:26 pm Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veteran Ray Cicirelli and wife, Peg Cicirelli, were among the Lake Prince Woods residents at Wednesday’s Veterans Day festivities.

Veteran Ray Cicirelli and wife, Peg Cicirelli, were among the Lake Prince Woods residents at Wednesday’s Veterans Day festivities.

Veterans at Lake Prince Woods Retirement Community are preserving their past for future generations.

Approximately 100 people turned out at Wednesday’s Veterans Day ceremony, where residents picked up copies of a new book detailing their memories of serving in World War II, Vietnam and Korea.

During the tribute, Navy Lt. Commander Brian Burdick, guest speaker and a clinical nurse specialist at Navy Medical Center Portsmouth, thanked veterans at Lake Prince Woods for their service.

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“Without your dedication, the freedoms we enjoy every day in the United States would not exist,” Burdick said. “And to all the family members who have moved countless times, who have been left at home to deal with everyday stressors while their loved ones were deployed, I thank you.”

Burdick credited the military with turning him from a floundering high school student and construction worker into a sailor who now has two master’s degrees.

“The U.S. Navy saw qualities in me that I did not know existed and afforded this poor country boy limitless opportunities,” Burdick said. “There is not a single time that I put my uniform on that I am not grateful and thankful to the U.S. Navy and United States of America for allowing me to wear it.”

After Burdick’s presentation, Susan Stone, development and public relations director for Lake Prince Woods, handed out books. The project was the brainchild of Louise Perkins, a veteran and Lake Prince Woods resident who wanted to preserve their stories, Stone said.

Perkins has invested hundreds of hours in interviewing veterans, typing and editing their stories, researching battles and tracking down pictures for the book.

“It was a labor of love,” Stone said.

The soldiers talk about their fears, meeting their wives and memorable combat situations in the book.

One story of bravery in the book involves resident Fred Appleton during World War II.  While flying off the coast of Yap in the Pacific under enemy fire, he landed his plane to rescue a pilot and his gunner from the USS Cabot. They missed contact on the first attempt and he had to circle around again.

On the second attempt, he was successful in grabbing the hand of the first man and then the other. Fred then had to fly downwind away from the Japanese island, which was only two miles, away making “S” turns to avoid the splashes from enemy fire. He gently rocked the main float off the water and finally got the plane airborne. They remained in the area to assist in locating another crewman on a different raft.

Bill Nix, who was in the Navy during World War II and Vietnam, said he kept a daily journal while overseas. He used those logs for reference on the book.

“The interviewing process was interesting,” Nix said. “In some ways, it was sad when you started to think about it. But it was also gratifying to see what we accomplished and experienced.”

The book is for sale and cost $15. Anyone interested in a copy should call Stone at 923-5511.