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Riverview retirement community honors resident veterans with calendar

RIVERVIEW — Roy Nyquist didn't get to celebrate the day World War II ended.

As the news of a treaty broke, he was holed up in a tent on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

The enemy was still firing on him and his fellow Army Rangers. But he listened over a shortwave radio as crowds cheered in New York City and Chicago.

More than four years after he made a one-year commitment to the Army, he was free to go.

"I was happy to get out of there," the 95-year-old said recently from his apartment at the Bridges Retirement Community in Riverview.

His story, along with 15 others, are featured in a 2013 calendar produced by the assisted living facility to celebrate Veterans Day.

"We just thought it would be a wonderful way to honor our veterans," said Kandi Ochampaugh, the Bridges' activities director. Ochampaugh came up with the idea a few years ago and pitched it to the executive director of the Bridges a few months ago.

Staff helped gather photos and stories while veterans dressed up for a photo shoot, Ochampaugh said. The final version of the calendar is being kept a secret for residents, she said, and will be unveiled soon. Staff will hand them out for free to residents then.

Thomas Coggins, 94, is looking forward to seeing the final product, he said.

Coggins served in the U.S. Marines for 22 years in both WWII and the Korean War. The night he spent in the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War is one of his most memorable, he said.

"The Chinese attacked us at night," he said. "There were thousands and thousands of them. It seemed like ants climbing over a collection of candy. It was a big surprise."

But it didn't stop the United States, he said. They regrouped with new supplies and cut the enemy off to the south.

While Coggins' story focuses on war, Lyndon and Joyce Creager's is a love story.

Joyce Creager, 88, was a part of the U.S. Navy Reserves, nicknamed the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Work). Lyndon Creager was in the Marines.

"It was wartime and you had to do something," Joyce Creager said. "Either roll bandages or build ships. I went to Hawaii."

In Honolulu, she worked as a clerk typist; he trained pilots.

They met at the commissary when Lyndon Creager, 87, held the door open for his future wife.

"One word led to anther," Lyndon Creager said.

They married in Honolulu. There were no wedding dresses, Joyce Creager said, so her sister sent one from home in Illinois.

The couple stayed in Hawaii until Lyndon Creager finished his service in 1948.

They went back for their 50th anniversary. They enjoyed it, but it was different, they said.

"Everything was changed," Joyce Creager said. "It was all commercialized."

The couple went on to have three boys and a girl and numerous grandchildren. They'll celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary next spring.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2442.

Riverview retirement community honors resident veterans with calendar 11/08/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 8, 2012 3:30am]
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