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Devils honor 96-year-old WWII vet John Beatrice at The Rock

A special moment as WWII vet attends first Devils game on Military Appreciation Night

by Amanda Stein @AmandaCStein / newjerseydevils.com

NJD honors WWII vet John Beatrice

Devils honor World War II veteran John Beatrice

John Beatrice a 96-year-old WWII veteran attended his first-ever hockey game on Devils Military Appreciation Night

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As a reporter, my job is to get the story - to ask the important questions and get the important answers. Obviously, that means I have to have the right words ready and be prepared for any answer that might come my way. 

But on Saturday, as part of Military Appreciation Night at The Rock, I shared a moment with a World War II veteran that nearly left me at a loss for those words. 

Tweet from @PruCenter: In honor of Military Appreciation Night and #VeteransDay @njdevils honored John, a 96-year old WWII veteran as tonight���s @Prudential Heroes Among Us. pic.twitter.com/LhsZE5kclc

I had the great honor of meeting John Beatrice, a 96-year-old WWII veteran who was attending his first-ever hockey game. I walked up to Beatrice and introduced myself and thanked him for his service. 

I am Canadian and wore a poppy - pinning the red flower to our lapels is what we do in Canada do commemorate our veterans - and Beatrice pointed it out before I could even show it to him.

He smiled. He knew. 

Tweet from @amandacstein: As part of Military Appreciation Night WWII vet John Beatrice meets Taylor Hall and will be an honored guest at tonight���s #NJDevils game. pic.twitter.com/iU8DKQ0kNm

I watched as members of the Devils presented Beatrice with a New Jersey Devils home jersey and a Military Appreciation Night warm-up jersey. Each player took a moment to shake his hand and thank him for his service. His family watched from a distance as their he was showered with love from the Devils. 

Tweet from @amandacstein: Captain Andy Greene and other members of the #NJDevils present Mr. Beatrice with his own N.J. Devils jersey and a Military Appreciation Night Jersey. pic.twitter.com/gbYosrT043

Once the players had gone back inside the locker room to get ready for the game against the Florida Panthers, Beatrice continued to be the star of the show. He conducted a radio interview with the Devils' own Matt Loughlin. 

Soon after Matt was done, I approached Beatrice for a casual chat. That's when I was nearly at a loss for words.

Beatrice looked me right in the eyes and began to tear up. 

Through tears, he explained to me that he lost his wife last Thanksgiving. They were married for 69 years and he misses her dearly. 

At first, I didn't know what to say. 

I held his hand and told him it would be okay. 

He explained to me how wonderful a day he was having, how special he felt and how he only wished that she could have been here with him for this moment. 

I told him what I knew he already knew. She was with us in that moment, and how happy she would be to see all the love he was receiving. 

The one thing I knew definitively in that moment was that I needed to bring back the joy, continue to make this a great moment for him. 

That was when several players returned from the locker room and their pregame routine to sign the Devils jersey that sat folded in Mr. Beatrice's lap. 

He had two. The regular home jersey and the Military Appreciation camouflage jersey. He handed the camo jersey to his son and said, "I want this one untouched," as players signed the "1" on the back of his game day jersey. 

The tears suddenly disappeared, replaced with a big smile that carried through the rest of the night for us both. 

Tweet from @NJDevils: Tonight���s @Prudential Heroes Among Us is John, a 96-year old WWII veteran. �� to hear his story and @PruCenter showing their appreciation for John tonight. ������ pic.twitter.com/aNejGtqjSH

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