BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - An elderly Bay St. Louis man received an unforgettable gift on this Veterans Day. His family surprised him with some pieces of his military past that he thought had been lost forever. It was emotional celebration.
"You're a grand ole flag, you're a high flying flag."
Patriotic tunes filled the lobby of Dunbar Village Nursing Home Tuesday. Andrew Mazerat soon learned it was no ordinary Veterans Day tribute.
"I'm very proud to award this to you today. That's memorabilia that most of us look forward to," Lt. Col. Randolph Bourgeois announced as he surprised the 94-year-old resident with a shadow box.
Inside was an old photo of a young Mazerat and his late wife Odessa, and five service medals he thought he'd never see again.
"I felt excited," said Mazerat.
That feeling is nine years overdue. When Hurricane Katrina flooded his Bay St. Louis home, Mr. Mazerat lost all of his belongings, including the medals he received during World War II. He served on six naval vessels from 1940-1946.
"The USS Jet, do you remember the Jet?" Bourgeois asked.
"Yeah!" Mazerat replied with a big smile.
His family wanted to replace that priceless part of his past.
"It's important because it's a history, a legacy of his experience," said his son, Thomas Mazerat.
"He talked about it a lot, and that's why we decided to go ahead and get this done," said his niece, Andrea Dedeaux.
When they ran into roadblocks, a Notre Dame Hospice chaplain stepped in to help.
"Being a veteran myself, wonderful. It was good," said Chaplain Jim Kirkendall.
When asked how it felt to get the medals back, Mr. Mazerat said, "Oh, it feels good. I really missed them. That was most of my life. I offered myself for six years."
"I was just proud, very proud. He was overwhelmed. He didn't expect that," said his son.
"It's very emotional. It means a lot to us. It means a lot to Uncle Andrew," said Dedeaux. "Military means a lot to our family and I know how proud Uncle Andrew was of his service, and we are very proud of him. I'm glad he could finally get his medals back."
The staff at Dunbar Village also presented Mr. Mazerat with a custom-made gift.
"One of our nurses created this beautiful blanket for you," said the chaplain.
And to top it all off, as the home's oldest veteran, he shared the honor of cutting the cake. Such sweet memories on a day of strong military significance.
"It's very special. It's one that will live on," said his son.
Mr. Mazerat is a temporary resident of Dunbar Village. His medals will be displayed in his home in the Bay.