SCOTTS VALLEY -- At 88, David Faunce can recall hauling a howitzer to Tulagi, a small island in the Solomon Islands during World War II when the 3rd Marine Division attacked areas commandeered by the Japanese Navy.
"We cleared it and moved on," said Faunce, who enlisted after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941 and spent 26 months overseas, acquiring malaria before being sent home.
After undergoing treatment, he completed his service in Philadelphia, where he bought a newly built row house for his family for $9,500.
He's proud of serving his country, sharing the marine grunt "Ooh-rah" and motto "semper fi," which means "always faithful," yet is modest about it, saying, "I just served my duty."
His voice broke, and he paused to cough.
He has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition for which there is no cure, and needs oxygen to breathe.
"Too many cigarettes and not quitting soon enough," he said. "They just gave them away (in World War II). You just enjoyed it."
Faunce is one of 18 veterans recognized this week by Hospice of Santa Cruz County, which is presenting each one with a special pin and a certificate of appreciation.
It is the first time for the local nonprofit to participate in We Honor Veterans, a program developed in 2010 by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Those who served in World War II and kept the horrors of war to themselves are now dying by the thousands, according to J. Donald Schumacher, who heads the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
"I have personally found it profoundly moving to look into the eyes of a veteran whose buddies didn't come back or who has seen what the weapons of modern technology can do to a human body, and see the light begin to shine again," he said.
One out of every four deaths nationally involves a veteran, said Cathy Conway, director of community programs for Hospice of Santa Cruz County.
"The pinning ceremony is a simple act of gratitude to honor these incredible individuals," said Ronnie Riveira, We Honor Veterans program liaison for Hospice.
Riveira served in the United States Navy from 1990-1996, as a Fleet Marine Force Corpsman with tours in Iraq and Somalia. He also served in the National Guard Reserve in the 184th Air-Assault Company as a senior medic.
"Vets have unique experiences that may affect their end of life care," Riveira said.
He called Faunce "an original plank owner of the Tun Tavern," the Philadelphia brewhouse known as the birthplace of the Marines.
Robin Spring, a social worker with Hospice, and Paulette Forrest, chaplain with Hospice, work closely with Riveira.
Listening to Faunce's story, Spring said, "You've got a lot of memories to share."
Faunce came to Scotts Valley in 1958 and worked for Ford in Milpitas until the plant closed. He and his wife bought a motorhome and got a lakefront place in Oklahoma for $6,000.
He was active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8798, serving as chaplain, returning to California four years ago to be closer to his daughter Linda.
When visitors from Hospice came for the pinning ceremony, he wanted them to see two things of which he is very proud, a dress sword from the VFW post engraved with his name acknowledging his service and an official commendation from President Harry Truman.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz on Twitter at Twitter.com/jondigumz
AT A GLANCE
We Honor Veterans is a new program offered by Hospice of Santa Cruz County. For information go to www.hospicesantacruz.org or call Cathy Conway at 430-3073