Sgt. James Masotto always carries an American flag in his police cruiser as he patrols the streets of Sharon.
A technical sergeant with the 76th Aerial Port Squadron at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Vienna, Masotto found the flag on State Street and it’s been to Iraq and Afghanistan with him.
It’s this sort of quiet reverence two local groups want to honor with an all-expenses paid trip in the fall to Washington, D.C., to visit the monuments to those who’ve fought for freedom.
American Legion Post 299 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1338, both Sharon, are looking for a veteran from Sharon to send to the nation’s capital with a companion, Masotto said.
“It doesn’t matter what war or branch” they served in, Masotto said. “They don’t have to be a hero. They don’t have to have done anything special, just served their country.”
The veterans’ clubs are pooling their resources to find candidates and organize the trip.
“A lot of people think they’re just bars, but they give so much to the community,” said Masotto, who’s a member of both. “They’d do anything for a veteran.”
Masotto said they’ll pay for travel, whether the veteran wants to fly, drive or take a bus, and food and lodging.
“It will cost them nothing,” he said. “We want to make it as convenient as possible. We don’t want them to worry about a thing.”
The length and time of the trip will depend on the individual selected, Masotto said.
They’re also looking for tips on places to stay and things to see and anyone with connections who can help would be appreciated, he said.
“Anyone who wants to take part in it, they’re welcome to participate,” he said.
The military is an exclusive club, as Masotto noted less than 1 percent of the U.S. population is enlisted.
Masotto has done three tours in the Middle East and is still on active duty. Part of his job is to make sure the fallen return home.
“It’s a lot to take in. It’s hard to understand unless you’ve actually been there and seen it,” he said. “You ask any vet ‘Do you get it?’ They say ‘yeah.’ What ‘it’ is you can’t explain.”
Masotto talked of how moving the Vietnam War memorial is, especially to those who know what it’s like on the front lines.
“Walking into that area something comes over you. It just gets you. It would mean that much more to one of those veterans,” he said.
Because of the advancing age of World War II veterans, Masotto said club officers thought it might be nice to honor one of them with the experience of visiting Washington.
Mercer County lost 140 World War II veterans in the last year and the number continues to climb.
Masotto’s father-in-law John “Buck” Bradian passed away in 2005 and never got to see the memorial for the war he fought in.
“That group went to World War II, came back and they became teachers. They raised a generation,” Masotto said.
If the effort’s successful, Masotto said they hope to continue and maybe even grow it to a bus trip or a trip overseas to see the beaches of Normandy.
Masotto said they want to have a nominee selected by August and noted there are no forms to fill out or essays to write.
To nominate a Sharon resident for the trip, call Masotto at 724-685-1250 or Dawnle Scheetz at 724-699-2485 or contact the VFW or American Legions involved.