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

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Nextdoor.com 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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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Location
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking




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