By Scott Koker, Associate Editor
A highly decorated World War II veteran was on hand for the Sacramento MEPS enlistment ceremony March 26.
Dennis Thompson, a retired Army first lieutenant, enlisted Army applicant Victor Bassett into the Delayed Entry Program after mentoring him for the past five years.
“For (Thompson) to actually swear him in on his oath was huge,” said Jill Main-Paterson, Bassett’s mother. “He’s an amazing mentor for Vic as he comes from a long line of family who served as combat veterans.
“Both Vic and I are so honored to have had Denny swear him in on oath.”
Prior to the ceremony, Thompson met with Army Maj. Pak Y. Lee, Sacramento MEPS commander; Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Michael I. Murphy, Sacramento MEPS senior enlisted advisor; and Army Maj. Alfredo Carino-Rivera, Sacramento MEPS operations officer.
Thompson said the applicants and workers enjoyed his visit.
“They were really excited about it and certainly honored to have me there,” Thompson said. “Everything went well during the ceremony and Victor was tickled to death to have me there representing him.”
Thompson described his Sacramento MEPS experience as surprising.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into when I went down there, but it was great,” he said.
Following the ceremony, Thompson gave about 20 copies of his signed biography, “The Legend of Lieutenant Thompson: World War II,” to applicants and Sacramento MEPS staff.
Thompson, who turned 99 in July, served as a B-17 and B-24 bomber pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps. His career included 30 invasions over Germany and France, with three occurring during the D-Day invasion.
Thompson, a three-time Distinguished Flying Cross recipient, was wounded in action twice and earned two Purple Hearts, four Air Medals, four Bronze Stars and a French Freedom Medal. He was also recommended for the Silver Star.
Bassett and Thompson struck up a friendship and mentorship through Main-Paterson, a retired Army staff sergeant who works as a veterans advocate in Twain Harte, California.
“He’s an amazing man and a very good friend of mine,” Main-Paterson said of Thompson. “We talk every day and I help him with a lot of things.”
Bassett, 23, who traveled to Georgia for boot camp at Fort Benning, had no shortage of inspirations prior to enlisting in the Army. In addition to his mother retiring from the Army with four Iraq campaign medals, Bassett’s stepfather Richard Paterson, great grandfathers David Carlton Main and John Yatroussis, aunts Joy Queen and Janis Main-Slezak, uncles Andrew Newman, David Slezak and Brian Apgalo, great aunt Connie Main, and great uncles Bud Mehler and David Main Jr. served in the U.S. military.
“Vic kind of wanted to follow in mom’s footsteps,” Main-Paterson said. “He’s not going to let anybody down.”