Community members, family and friends of First Lt. Robert Mason — a Vietnam War veteran and Valley Stream native — gathered on Nov. 11 to commemorate his life, which was lost serving as a helicopter pilot in 1969.
On the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day, the commemoration took place at the bandshell on the Village Green, and at a closing ceremony in which village officials revealed Mason’s name affixed to the Valley Stream’s Memorial Monument.
Mason, who was 22 when he was killed in a crash, had not been recognized on the monument — dedicated to Valley Streamers killed in the line of duty — until that day. Village officials said they believed the oversight was due to Mason and his family moving to Babylon when he was 16, and sought to rectify it.
Mayor Ed Fare said he found it fitting that a child of the neighborhood would be recognized on the monument, because Mason had spent most of his life in Valley Stream.
“In times of turmoil, the eyes of a nation look to our heroes ... not as we would honor a celebrity, an athlete, or a famous person but as a symbol of our very essence: strong, true, bold,” Fare said in his speech.
“Adding Bobby’s name to this monument is our way of ensuring that he will be remembered forever,” he later added. “... Upon the 50th anniversary of his death, in the bamboo fields of Vietnam, it is a fitting and proper act to enshrine his name in the loving embrace of his hometown.”
As the ceremony came to a close, Mason’s younger brother Todd shared his fondest childhood memories to the gathered crowd of veterans and loved ones. When his brother wasn’t playfully teasing him, Todd recalled, he was supporting him.
He also recounted times spent with his brother as young boys, acting out plays while only wearing their underwear in front of family, playing in vacant lots, catching lightning bugs in jars and watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, the “Wonderful World of Disney” and “The Mickey Mouse Club.”
“Many of us lived [through] the turmoil of an unpopular Vietnam war and the division it created in this country ... My family and so many others suffered the loss of loved ones,” he said. “My brother was a funny, compassionate and loving guy to his two brothers even while administering an atomic wedgie [and] he would listen intently to your problems while giving purple nurples.”