Lifestyle & Human Interest

96-Year-Old NYC Veteran Gets Stunning Surprise from Neighbors

Share is often used to troll neighbors, hurl thinly veiled threats and otherwise poke merciless fun at people — but it is still a useful tool, and it can be used for good.

Elizabeth Dowling of Brooklyn, New York, used it to show her community’s appreciation for a World War II veteran.

Dowling moved to the area about nine years ago and soon met Jack Le Vine, a 96-year-old man who has spent his life in service to others.

Le Vine joined the Navy a few weeks before he turned 18, according to The New York Times.

He spent two years in the Pacific on the USS Lesuth before becoming a machinist’s mate first class on the aircraft carrier USS Gilbert Islands.

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“When they said, ‘Man your battle stations,’ my battle station was the throttle,” he explained. “I controlled the speed of the boat.”

After leaving the military, Le Vine wasn’t done being a hero. He joined the New York City Fire Department in 1957, serving for 20 years and eventually becoming a captain.

More recently, he showed his colors by dutifully caring for his ailing wife.

“She died of Alzheimer’s,” he said. “I took care of her six or seven years.”

When Veterans Day rolled around this year, Le Vine had no plans. He thought he’d simply spend the day at home by himself — which is what he said he usually does for the holiday now that all his fellow veteran friends have passed away.

But Dowling wasn’t about to let that happen.

“A WW2 Vet lives on 18th St. He’s 96, and may not see another Veteran’s Day,” she posted on Nextdoor. “In the windows you’ll see an old photo of him in uniform. He’s also retired from the FDNY.

“Please consider leaving a little token of gratitude this Thursday. A flag, flowers, card, patriotic or Veteran related stuff, FDNY, something your kid makes… use your imagination. He’s lived on this block for his entire life.”

And instead of arguing or ridiculing, locals responded with a wave of support for their neighbor.

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Letters of appreciation started arriving the evening before Veterans Day and didn’t stop. One of the first was addressed to “Jack the Hero.”

A potted plant showed up with a card featuring a hand-drawn soldier. It read, “Thank you for fighting for our country. From Abigail, age 7.”

One man brought a whole stack of letters written by his children and their classmates, telling Le Vine, “You’ll be reading these for days.”

As the cards and thoughtful gifts poured in, Le Vine was moved.

“These people must love me on this block!” he said.

One show of gratitude hit him especially hard. Ariel Clark and her 8-year-old twin daughters thanked him personally.

“We are so, so grateful,” Clark told him. “My grandfather was in Auschwitz. … My father was born in a displaced persons camp and so without you, none of this would be possible.”

There were tears on both sides.

The comments on the original Nextdoor post highlight the best of humanity: people asking what Le Vine would like most as a gift, others saying they went with groups to thank him, and still others vowing to make this a tradition so he never has to spend another Veterans Day alone.

“Thank you, neighbors!” Dowling wrote in an update. “You made an old sailor’s day.”

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