At just 19 years old, Richard Bergeron took on the responsibility of fighting for democracy and freedom.
Now, he’s 99 years young and decades later, the World War II veteran got to spend the day shaking people’s hands in Saint James City.
But thing’s haven’t been easy since Hurricane Ian.
Bergeron, a retired veteran of the Air Force, always wears his hat.
“I joined in Dec. 19,” Bergeron said.
He was there on D-Day, something that makes his daughter proud.
“I’ve always been proud of my dad, my dad’s an honorable, good man,” said Norma Mendelski, Beregon’s daughter. “He didn’t really share many stories with us until about 10 years ago about some of the things that he saw. He was in Normandy and about five years ago, he received the French Medal of Honor.”
Now, Bergeron talks about his service at the Saint James City American Legion. The post has become an escape for the community affected by the hurricane.
And It has been Bergeron’s safe space since Hurricane Ian hit the island hard.
“When our community was destroyed, it was heartfelt for all of us. It was most of my family’s here. I mean, the group here is phenomenal. They’ve done amazing things for the community,” Mendelski said.
Veterans Day proved to be a break from hurricane aftermath and Bergeron is pretty popular.
So on Veterans Day, people turned out to shake his hand.
“It felt a lot,” he said.
Aaron Barreda, commander of the post, is happy to provide a safe space for Bergeron and others whose homes have been destroyed.
“Life has drastically changed on this island and will not get back to what we used to know. But we have to move forward and bring our community back together to whatever that new future holds for this island.”