WEST BROOKFIELD, Mass. (WCVB/CNN) – A 99-year-old World War II veteran got a big surprise from his community on Memorial Day.
There was no parade this year because of the coronavirus, so Sgt. Everett Allen planned to dress in full uniform and wave to passers-by from his driveway to recognize his fellow service members lost at war.
Word spread quickly, leading to a rolling rally in front of Allen’s home that looked like rush-hour traffic.
Friends, family and neighbors lined the streets, wearing masks and social distancing as much as possible.
Allen was taken prisoner by the German army in 1945. He survived a death march in which American troops were forced to walk through harsh winter weather toward their freedom.
"Eighty-six days and 380 miles,” Allen said. “I have the records to prove that: 380 miles of walking."
The uniform he wore on Memorial Day was the one given to him after being freed from captivity, a symbol of his survival and the sacrifices he made.
After the salutes and thank yous, Allen visited the veterans memorial at nearby Pine Grove Cemetery, where those gathered held a moment of silence and said a prayer for the soldiers who lost their lives protecting their country.
Allen insisted that Memorial Day shouldn’t be about him, but he appreciates how his community stood by him on such an important day.