The senior community at Belmont Village in Cardiff-by-the-Sea honored two of its residents who served throughout World War II.
Belmont Village said it worked to preserve the stories of veterans who reside in its community through the American Heroes: Portraits of Service project, in collaboration with nationally-recognized photographer, Thomas Sanders.
Sanders photographed and collected the stories of more than 900 veterans, which are now featured in permanent galleries throughout the 29 Belmont Village communities nationwide.
Among those honored was Alfred Cocumelli, retired Major, U.S. Army – World War II 1941-1945 & Korea War.
Major Cocumelli entered WWII in 1941 as a private and left as a captain. Now 96 years old, Major Cocumelli shared his story about when he island-hopped from Guadalcanal to the Philippines and went into the hills of Luzon to organize Filipino scouts.
“I entered WWII as a private and left as a captain. I island-hopped from Guadalcanal to the Philippines and went into the hills of Luzon to organize Filipino scouts so that they could resist after the U.S. left. That’s when I met General Douglas MacArthur. He sent me a rare autographed photo from our meeting signed, “To Capt. Coke, Many thanks for a superior job – well done.”
Belmont Village is also home to home to retired WWII veteran, U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Amy Fike (1943-1946).
Lieutenant Fike says her experience shaped who she is today.
“They took good care of the women in the service. We always had good places to stay, good food and chaperonage. It was an interesting experience because we learned to shoot, we learned to march and we learned it all. It gave me a different perspective for the rest of my life.”
Lieutenant Fike and Major Cocumelli did not land in Normandy on On June 6, 1944, but were part of other battles in WWII.
Major Cocumelli met General McArthur and Lieutenant Fike became a trailblazer for women