What makes someone a hero? The term "hero" is used for a variety of things that range from little importance to life saving. It could be laying down one's life for another, or laying down the donuts on the table for the last staff meeting. "Hero" can be used inappropriately at times. However, a true hero received his welcome home party at the Porter County Municipal Airport in Valpo on Friday, January 21st.
Military officer John Masson came off the plane in Valparaiso to members from the Patriot Guard Riders, and a crowd of screaming family and friends including Joe Massina, his family, and his Mother Becky Massina. Joe has been lifelong friends with John since they can remember. I had a chance to sit down and talk with Becky about what she knew of John growing up and in general. She remembers times from John and Joe growing up and playing around the neighborhood. She says they still refer to him as "Johnny" like they did in his childhood, and that John still refers to Joe as "Joey". She described John as always being outgoing. It was an emotional moment for everyone involved.
The moment was so special because they hadn't seen John in quite some time, a few years even. They held up signs that were homemade and custom made. The signs had phrases on them ranging from "Welcome Home Johnny" to "Our Hometown Hero". This brave hero has been fighting for our great country's freedom since they last had seen each other. Flags were lined up in a long row on both sides from the exit of the plane directly into the lobby of the airport as is the custom when a U.S. soldier returns home from battle.
John Masson was born in Gary, Indiana. As a child John grew up in Lake Station. He attended Agape Christian School growing up, and graduated from Edison High School with his wife Dustina. In college, John wanted to study nursing. Becky Massina remembers him wanting to go into nursing during high school. She recalls him wanting to teach nursing, but instead became a medic for our armed forces. She said how John would still like to teach now. John has 3 children as well that welcomed him home at the airport.
SGT 1st Class John Masson has served on the armed forces for eleven years. The first four years with the Army, and the last seven with the National Guard. During those years John has earned several accomplishments. He was an 18D Special Forces Medic, Airborne Qualified, Ranger Tab, veteran of Desert Storm, Veteran of operation Iraqi Freedom, and Veteran of operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). On Saturday, October 16th, 2010, John's life changed forever. He sacrificed 3 extremities in Afghanistan for our great country. This really shows John's dedication and the bravery to go beyond the call of duty. Becky Massina informed me that there are many stories they know of him saving lives of soldiers, and civilians of the foreign countries. The tragic loss did not however bring John down. John said, "I will walk again" when interviewed by cbs news. An uproar of cheers followed this statement. His friends and family truely believe he will based on the type of man he is. They believe his determination and love for this country have brought him this far and will continue to do so. When asked, "how does coming home like this effect you" (referring to the cheering crowds), John replied, "It makes me willing to do it all over again."
John's family and Friends will be holding a benefit to help the Masson family in future financially on January 22, 2011, at the American Legion in Lake Station, IN. Admissions for this benefit is a $10.00 donation per person. Dinner, a DJ, live bands, and auctions will be the activities available for it. Please help support the John Masson Benefit by donating gift certificates/cards or a gift basket. All donations big and small are greatly appreciated. Any monetary gifts to JOHN MASSON BENEFIT fund can be deposited at First Midwest Bank, 7900 Broadway Merrilliville, IN, or online. To donate and read more about John Masson's life and legacy, visit JohnMasson.com.
When it comes to the term "hero" we often tend to use it for the little things, or maybe even in a comical manner. But when a man like John Masson returns home with this kind of attitude, willing to give everything and fighting to walk again, it inspires the inner being in all of us to be thankful. It sets an example for us, and shows what great people there are in this country. Whatever the situation, we need to take on the attitude of John Masson, a true American hero. His triumphant welcome was very appropriate for the kind man he is. Hearing the cheering and chanting of "Welcome home John" hopefully gave him a sense of how his service impacted our lives here. Welcome home John!