By Denise Nichols
Right Before Christmas, if you want to help deserving Veterans, VT will post stories that have been published elsewhere or input we get of Veterans that need Special Santas! This article is a repost from another paper in our country that the writer found and felt that it was appropriate to publish on a Veterans News Website. WE have so many troops and veterans and small veteran organizations that need fund raising help Now and Throughout the year.
Case Number 1 is John Masson, US ARMY RANGER MEDIC,Sgt First Class, Gulf War Veteran, OIF, OEF, triple amputee recovering at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
Case Number 2 is Mr. Kay enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he served honorably for the next six years. He was a reconnaissance Marine and veteran of the Gulf War. Wolf Creek Ski Area Ski Patrol Director Michael Kay died Monday, Nov. 22, 2010, at the area while working avalanche control. He was 41. Donations for his survivors (See articles)
Injured vet: ‘I still feel I have a lot to offer’
November 21, 2010
BY JERRY DAVICH, METRO COLUMNIST [email protected] (219) 648-3107
John Masson felt the blast as soon as he stepped on the hidden improvised explosive device.
While serving at a classified location in Afghanistan as a U.S. Army Ranger medic, the 39-year-old Lake Station native had just finished clearing a compound with his Special Forces unit on Oct. 16.
Dusty Masson with her husband, John, in his room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. Masson, of Lake Station, was severely injured by an improvised explosive device while serving with the Army National Guard in Afghanistan.
How To help
People can contribute to the John Masson Benefit Fund at First Midwest Bank, 7900 Broadway, Merrillville, or by visiting www.johnmasson.com .
Gift cards, gift baskets or other gifts can be donated, too.
For more information, call Jerry Koonce at 963-6016.
Friday — A “Black Friday” benefit will take place from 4 to 10 p.m. at Pete’s Bar, 2770 Clay St., Lake Station, with a percentage of sales going to the fund.
Dec. 15 — At the Applebee’s restaurants in Portage and Merrillville, 15 percent of the day’s proceeds will go toward the fund.
Dec. 19 — Edison Junior-Senior High School in Lake Station will host a bake sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Jan. 22 — American Legion Post 100, 1899 Central Ave., Lake Station, will host a benefit from 1 to 11 p.m. Admission and food for $10. The event also includes cocktails, raffles, live music and auctions.
One wrong step is all it took. Click. Boom. Darkness. Shock. Blood. Hell.
Masson, who previously served Uncle Sam in the Gulf War and Iraq, felt himself launched into the air.
He landed hard, still in darkness. He felt around the ground with his right hand, not the one he would normally use. All he felt was blood and body parts. His left hand was gone. So were both of his legs — one up to his hip, the other up to his knee.
A junior medic began working furiously to stop the bleeding. Within a half hour, a medevac chopper arrived and flew Masson to a hospital in Afghanistan. From there, he was flown to a hospital in Germany. From there, he was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“There are some things I can’t tell you because my unit is still in theater in Afghanistan,” Masson told me last week from his hospital bed. “I wouldn’t want to put any of the guys in danger.”
This phone exchange aptly illustrates the character and attitude of Masson, a father of three who was always the life of any party, the friend who was always there, the soldier who always had your back.
Here he is missing three limbs, amid other serious injuries and health complications, and he’s concerned about his fellow soldiers a world away.
Masson has been in the military for 15 years, first in the Army and then in the National Guard as a sergeant first class medic with specialized training and expertise. Before serving, he worked at Precoat Metals in Portage.
Masson and his wife of 18 years, Dusty, both graduated from Edison High School in Lake Station. The couple have three children: Jonathan, their 15-year-old mannish boy; Morgan, their 8-year-old princess; and Ethan, who’s “all boy” at 6 years old.
John’s mother, Mary Haskell, lives in Lake Station. Dusty’s mother, Raean Human, lives in Merrillville, and her sister, Mary Szczerba, lives in Wheatfield. One of Dusty’s brothers, Ian Paris, lives in Lake Station, and another, Cletus Paris, is serving in Afghanistan.
John’s aunt and uncle, Denise and Tim Nelson, live in Crown Point. His other aunt and uncle, Shirley and David Beller, live in Skokie, Ill. Cousins Amy and Laurie Wielgus live in Hobart, among other family members across Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area.
In other words, despite being stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina the past several years, the Massons are very much a region family. They are one of us.
“John loves everyone, and everyone loves him,” said Kerry Paris, John’s sister-in-law from Lake Station. “He is fun, outgoing, and he loves life.”
But these days, Masson is in “unbearable pain,” his family told me, including the phantom pain many amputees deal with after the trauma of losing a limb — not to mention three limbs.
“He won’t let this hold him back or slow him down in any way,” Paris said. “He is a man of great faith, and he truly knows he will walk again. We have no doubt.”
‘You’re still our Daddy’
Masson was kind enough to talk to me on the phone in between multiple surgeries to close his wounds, less than a month after he stepped on that IED.
He spoke about Oct. 16. He spoke about his country, which he loves greatly. He spoke about his family, which he loves more.
Masson’s parents were flown to Washington, D.C., to be near him during his early rehabilitation, and were given complimentary hotel rooms at the Crowne Plaza, paid for by the U.S. Army.
His wife and children are now living with John’s brother, Mike, who lives about 40 minutes away in Maryland, when they are not staying with Masson.
“Mike had actually just got home from Afghanistan on Oct. 16, the same day John stepped on the IED,” Paris said.
Masson’s wife and high school sweetheart, Dusty, told me her husband’s faith, prayers and belief in himself will carry him through this ordeal.
“John is John,” said Dusty, who stays with her husband almost around the clock. “If he’s good, I’m good.”
When Masson arrived at Walter Reed, he was leery of having his children see him without his limbs, as well as in a hospital bed hooked up to so many wires, tubes and medical equipment. He thought they may look at him differently.
They did, but in a good way.
“We’re just glad you’re alive,” his older son told him.
“It doesn’t matter if you lost your legs. You’re still our daddy,” his daughter told him.
“We love you,” his younger son told him.
‘I’d do it all again’
Masson said he has no regrets from joining the military, serving his country or being stationed in Afghanistan.
“I’d do it all again, no question,” he said.
He understands he isn’t allowed to return to combat again, considering his condition, but he would if he could. And although he’s been offered a retirement package by the Army, he would like to remain on duty as a possible trainer or instructor.
“I still feel I have a lot to offer,” he said.
Masson will be at Walter Reed for up to a year while going through rehab, more surgeries, skin grafts, physical therapy and eventually being fitted with prosthetics.
After a recent surgery to close his right hip, his biggest complaint was hunger.
“He wanted a sausage and mushroom pizza,” Paris said.
Last Saturday, actor Gary Sinise (who played Lt. Dan in the movie “Forrest Gump”) visited Masson, but Masson missed his visit while undergoing yet another surgery. Sinise instead posed for photos with Dusty and John’s father, Ed.
Masson’s friends and family have created a website in his honor — www.johnmasson.com — to help people rally around his rehab efforts and to donate to a fund for mounting bills.
“John Masson, our hero, our friend, sacrificed 3 extremities for our freedom, as well as for The United States of America — Land of the Free — Home of the Brave,” the site states.
“Along with our appreciation of all of the Armed Forces, sometimes our freedom comes at the price of death … so we are thankful that John is still here alive today.”
Masson reads the site’s messages and updates regularly from his hospital bed.
“I’m amazed, appreciative and so grateful,” Masson said. “Please tell everyone I said so, even though I have no words to say this strongly enough.”
Maybe the U.S. Army Ranger’s famous creed can help us understand his new mission: “Surrender is not a Ranger word.”
Visit Jerry’s blog at http://blogs. post-trib.com/davich/, his Facebook, and Twitter at @jdavich
Second Veteran Family to consider:
Mr. Kay enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he served honorably for the next six years. He was a reconnaissance Marine and veteran of the Gulf War.
Wolf Creek Ski Area Ski Patrol Director Michael Kay died Monday, Nov. 22, 2010, at the area while working avalanche control. He was 41.
Known as “Scott,” he was born to Skip and Jo Kay on Jan. 5, 1969, in Grand Junction. He spent his early years in Lakewood, then moved to Walsenburg, where he graduated from John Mall High School in 1987.
Upon graduation, Mr. Kay enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he served honorably for the next six years. He was a reconnaissance Marine and veteran of the Gulf War.
Mr. Kay had worked at Wolf Creek for 16 years. In the offseason, he owned his own business and did stucco and plaster work.
On May 10, 1996, he married Chantelle Zweygardt in Pagosa Springs.
“There was nothing more important to Scott than his family,” his family wrote. “He was an amazing dad and devoted husband.”
Mr. Kay enjoyed anything and everything in the “great outdoors.” He was an avid hunter, snow skier, water skier, kayaker and dirt bike enthusiast.
“Scott leaves behind a piece of himself in all those who knew him,” his family wrote. “He was an amazing man, full of life, exuberant, fun-loving, hard-working, and dedicated.”
Mr. Kay is survived by his wife of 14 years, Chantelle Kay, of Pagosa Springs; sons, Nolan, 8, and Rhead, 6, both of Pagosa Springs; father, Skip Kay, of Bloomfield, N.M.; mother, Jo Kay, of Pagosa Springs; sister, Danielle Vigil, of Lakewood; and grandmothers, Pauline Young and Marie Kay.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today, Dec. 4, 2010, at Pope John Paul II Catholic Church, 330 S. Pagosa Blvd., in Pagosa Springs.
Memorial contributions may be made to Chantelle Kay, Memorial for Scott Kay, at Bank of the San Juans branches in La Plata and Archuleta counties.
Online condolences and memories may be sent at www.whitesfamilyfuneralhome.net.