By Brian Livingston / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
As Nevella Massey stood with three other WWII vets in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C., she was struck by the impact of the silence.
Not the silence of death one might associate with a military memorial amid the white crosses of a cemetery. But rather the overwhelming sense of peace.
"The feeling was indescribable," says the 94-year-old Massey, who served in the Army Medical Corps in North Africa and during the Italian Campaign. "I was honored to be chosen to be one of the four to place the wreath at the tomb. It was a humbling experience and one I won't ever forget."
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight which Massey attended in April showed her there are many in America who don't want to forget. It was something she had to see and experience for herself.
"The one-day trip was planned out very well," Massey said from her home in Meridian. "We were well taken care of and I enjoyed every minute of it."
Massey had been to the monuments like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier many times. She had gone with friends while she was stationed in the D.C. area prior to her deployment to North Africa in 1943. She had visited with family members much later after the war. But to go with other veterans, men and women who were there, who saw the horror of war and who lost close, dear friends, was something entirely different for Massey.
"Until you have served during a war and done the things we did, you can't really understand the bonds that develop," Massey says. "It doesn't matter if I was in the African and Italian theater and the next guy was in the Pacific or Western Europe. We were 'there' together."
From her almost 10 years spent in the Army Medical Corps from Oran through Italy, Massey accumulated memories she never has forgotten. The trip to the memorials and viewing the monuments seemed to make all that worthwhile. It made the hardships and the losses a little more bearable — even if she wished the war hadn't happened to begin with.
When the war was over, Massey says there were no ticker tape parades for a small Mississippi girl. But when they arrived back in Gulfport from a full day of marching all over Washington, D.C., she finally got the welcome home all vets deserve.
"There were military personnel, all dressed in their blue or white uniforms, pressed and sparkling, lined up along the ramp leading inside the terminal," Massey said. "There were children waving American Flags wanting to shake our hands, hug our necks, and thanking us for what we've done. After all these years I never dared to dream I'd get my ticker tape parade."