Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Remembering Our Veterans: Jim Hasson

Poster that inspired Jim
to enlist in WWII
For the last five years, Jim Hasson, a WWII veteran, has been speaking about his experiences with the Cavendish Town Elementary School 6th graders. Jim was a Seabee, which built roadways, airstrips and other projects in the South Pacific. Enlisting at 17, he was inspired by a poster of a soldier carrying a rifle jumping off a road grater. Before he was even 20, Jim had been at War for two years. 

Ultimately moving to Cavendish from New Jersey and started his own business, Jim remained in the military. He was involved in other wars and conflicts through Vietnam. It was this latter war that the students were most interested in.

A base operator in Vietnam, a position similar to the head of public works, Jim was responsible for 179 buildings. He told stories of how doctors and nurses treated cleft palate, and noted that the United States actually did a lot of good, much more than many realize. He talked of the Buddhists beliefs that were so different but much appreciated by him. By now he was in his 40s with a business, four children and a wife, so the youthful enthusiasm he had in WWII was considerably dampened. However, he described how much he liked and respected the Vietnamese noting how similar they were to the old Vermont Yankees-“they loved their farms, family and fishing boats.”

When asked what he wanted the children to know about Veterans, Jim said “when you joined the military you sign a blank check to the American people. You swear an oath and you don’t have an ego anymore.” Ultimately though, he said that at his age-not quite 90- he realized that the most important thing in life is “not what you got, but what you gave.”

Some of the children talked about their family members that have served or are currently in the military. Jim told them, “Feel proud of them, they did their duty.”

“Were you shot at?” “Did you ever fire your gun?” Jim responded to those questions by saying that he never fired his gun at a human being and yes, he was shot at a number of times. During the Tet Offensive (Jan. 31, 1968) he said they were under siege for 52 hours. He described jumping out of bed and crawling into a fox hole. Rockets would pass so low overhead they would suck the wind out of him.

Jim explained that there is a lot of confusion with war and particularly after WWII there was a lot of questions about whether the United States should be involved in the various wars and conflicts. Jim’s definition of war was quite poignant, “War is a mother with her face down on the kitchen table crying.”

Watch Jim on Seabee TV

To Jim and all of our veterans, thank you for your service today and every day. 

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