(Photo by Greg Ehr) WWII veterans are honored by museum volunteers, Brevard's police chief and mayor, and USMC veteran and author Andrew Biggio with his team that escorts veterans to battlefields in Europe where they served 77 years ago. Seated from left: James Brush, Ed Cottrell, Myrl Jean Hughes, George Koch, Dorothy Managan, L.C. Poor, Harold Wellington, and George Sarros. Not pictured, Joe Cooper. Standing, from left: museum volunteer Janis Allen, museum founder/curator Emmett Casciato, Brevard Police Chief Tom Jordan, Brevard Mayor Maureen Copelof, USMC veteran Andrew Biggio, U.S. Army veteran Saro Thompson, U.S. Navy Special Forces veteran Michael Lopez, Belgian tour driver Vincent de Reyes, Belgian tour guide Dominique Van de Straete, and museum board president David Morrow. Not pictured, party organizer Mike McCarthy.


Honoring our greatest generation

Brevard, NC

At an "all birthdays" party for World War II veterans at Brevard's Monroe Wilson American Legion Post 88 nine heroes were honored:
- James Brush – U.S. Army, Manhattan Project, Navy Sea Systems Command, 97
- Joe Cooper - U.S. Navy (WWII), U.S. Army Recon (Korean War), 99
- Ed Cottrell – U.S. Army Air Force P-47 fighter pilot, European Theatre: Belgium, Germany, France, 100
- Myrl Jean Hughes – U.S. Army physical therapist, Philippines and New Guinea, 99
- George Koch - U.S. Navy, commissary storekeeper, Corpus Christi, Texas, 94
- Dorothy Managan – U.S. Army nurse, American POW care, nursing instructor, 99
- L.C. Poor - U.S. Marine Corps aircraft technician (F4F Corsair/Attack), Squadron VMF 115 (“Joe’s Jokers”), Philippines
and China, 95
- George Sarros – U.S. Navy LST motor machinist, D-Day landing, 65 trips across the English Channel, 96
- Harold Wellington – Merchant Marine, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy; Atlantic convoy duty to Europe and Iran, 97

Two local WWII veterans who had passed away just weeks before the party were honored and remembered:
- Verl Luzena, U.S. Army Air Force combat camera unit, D-Day to Berlin
- Charles Dickson, U.S. Army Air Force paratrooper, 82nd Airborne, D-Day, Sainte-Mere-Eglise

The program host, museum volunteer Michael McCarthy, introduced each veteran with a brief description of his or her service in Europe or the Pacific. Some guests presented handmade gifts and cards. Seated at the head table, the WWII veterans signed copies of a book and handouts published in their honor, met their admirers individually, briefly shared stories of their service, and then enjoyed birthday cake and coffee or tea. The birthday cake, donated by local Ingles Markets manager Phillip Jarrett, was festooned with an American flag surrounded by the first names of all the veterans, signed in patriotic red icing. Dozens of red, white and blue balloons decorated the room.

[The complete first-person stories and pictures of many of the veterans are published in the book “WE SHALL COME HOME VICTORIOUS:” STORIES OF WWII VETERANS, collected by museum volunteer Janis Allen, available on Amazon.com. Proceeds from book sales benefit the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas. Link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088BCJ282Z/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_i_KN8MFZJQA32...

Also on hand to honor these veterans was USMC veteran (Iraq and Afghanistan) and author Andrew Biggio of American Legion Post 146, Winthrop, Mass. Biggio had interviewed 200 WWII veterans from all over the United States, and in 2021 published a book of their first-person stories. THE RIFLE: COMBAT STORIES FROM AMERICA'S LAST WWI VETERANS, TOLD THROUGH AN M1 GARAND. When visiting each of these 200 veterans, Biggio took his 1943 M1 Garand rifle and asked them to sign the rifle using a white Sharpie.

In August 2021, on a visit to Brevard, he asked seven local WWII veterans to add their signatures to THE RIFLE. Now that the rifle is covered with signatures, Biggio plans to make it available to travel to various museums in the United States. To enable the signed rifle to travel and to provide a fitting display case for museums, Veterans History Museum founder and curator Emmett Casciato designed a wooden case for the gun with assistance from museum board president and Vietnam veteran David Morrow. Vietnam veteran and expert woodcrafter John Hallimore of Brevard built the case. The case has glass sides and ends and a mirror on the bottom inside. It sits on a weighted pedestal and swivels.

In September 2021, WWII fighter pilot Ed Cottrell traveled to the European battlefields where he had fought during the Battle of the Bulge. The trip was sponsored by Biggio. The tour guides who met Cottrell on that trip traveled to Brevard to honor him on his 100th birthday. Vincent de Reyes managed to cut out a piece of a concrete runway on which, 77 years ago, Cottrell landed his P-47. He brought the hunk of concrete, to which a plaque was attached, as a gift to Cottrell.

[THE RIFLE is available on Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1684510791/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_i_156MX1PMZSGY...

Post 88 and the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas have forged a close partnership to honor veterans, preserve history, and educate citizens young and old. Past Post Commander is Larry Hammontree.
The museum opens its 2002 season on March 2, with a new exhibit featuring a WWII Willys Jeep. The museum is located at 21 E. Main St. in Brevard (next to the courthouse), and admission is free. For updates on events and veterans’ stories through the museum’s e-newsletter, please contact janisallen@janisallen.com. For more information, please visit www.theveteransmuseum.org.

(Photo courtesy of Janis Allen0) Vincent de Reyes (right) presents the concrete piece of the runway in Belgium to P-47 pilot Ed Cottrell (at left).

(Photo courtesy of Janis Allen) Author Andrew Biggio (far left) accepts the case for the M1 Garand described in his book THE RIFLE. Center, museum founder and curator Emmett Casciato. At right, Monroe Wilson Post 88 American Legion trustee and museum board president David Morrow. Casciato and Morrow designed the "travel" case, which was handcrafted by Vietnam veteran John Hallimore.

(Photo courtesy of Didi Salvatierra) D-Day U.S. Navy veteran George Sarros (at left) and museum volunteer Maggie Di Rocco prepare to cut the birthday cake that honored nine WWII veterans.

(Photo courtesy of Michael McCarthy) 1st Vice Commander Frank Duckworth (left) and Commander Lance Dickinson at the eternal flame honoring all POWs and MIAs in front of Monroe Wilson American Legion Post 88.

(Photo courtesy of Michael McCarthy) 1st Vice Commander Frank Duckworth (left) and Commander Lance Dickinson at the eternal flame honoring all POWs and MIAs in front of Monroe Wilson American Legion Post 88

The "birthdays" cake honoring nine WWII heroes.

Containing 36 first-person stories from WWII veterans, proceeds from "WE SHALL COME HOME VICTORIOUS" benefit the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.

THE RIFLE: COMBAT STORIES FROM AMERICA'S LAST WWII VETERANS, TOLD THROUGH AN M1 GARAND is an inspirational story and hero’s journey of a 28-year-old Marine, Andrew Biggio, who returned home from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, full of questions about the price of war. He found answers from those who survived the costliest war of all - WWII veterans.
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