Local WWII veteran honored, celebrates 97th birthday

Published 08/16 2014 05:17PM

Updated 08/16 2014 06:14PM

BAKERSFIELD, CA -- Liberty High School students put the finishing touches on a celebration honoring the life of a local veteran.

Dawned in a patriotic hat, James Rice held his granddaughter's hand as he waited for what's in store.

Dreamcatchers of Liberty High School is a group of students who help fulfill dreams and last wishes for Optimal Hospice patients.

"In the end you get to see how happy they were after you finish everything you've done. It's really worth it," said Dreamcatchers of Liberty President Leanne Park.

Rice was first surprised by Bakersfield City Fire Officials.

Rice, 97, helped extend the ladder on a fire truck, a task not too far fetched for Rice. He worked for County fire for more than 20 years, stationed in Taft and Old River.

"It's a good job. It's interesting," said Rice.

Afterwards, Rice rode in the truck one last time.

"I know he really loved his time as a firefighter so I thought just visiting them across the street would be great. But this was much more than I'd expected," said Shelley Davis, his granddaughter.

He was then honored for his service as a Marine during World War II. Rice was a sharp shooter stationed in places like Iwojima, Guadal Canal and Guam," said Rice.

He was also a cook in the military.

"I fed the 22 officers, about two and a half years. I had a good life," said Rice.

"Everyday with him is special. It's a celebration everyday really to have him here," said Davis.

The Dreamcatchers are able to grant wishes through fundraising and donations. If you would like to donate to the non-profit, visit dreamcatchersatliberty.blogspot.com.

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