Client Highlight: Scott Musser

Client Highlight: Scott Musser

November 08, 2023

W. Scott Musser (Scott), has been a client of LPSC Financial Managing Partner, Drew Stratton since he retired from Merck in 2013. He and his wife Heidi have been enjoying the retired life for the past decade and have an active lifestyle. Like most new retirees the transition from decades of work to the freedom of retirement can be both liberating, but also challenging in many ways. After years of having your days regimented and largely dictated by one's work schedule, many times, the newly found freedom can have one wanting for a larger purpose and meaningful ways to serve others.

Scott spent 36 years at Merck, a large pharmaceutical company, in many roles. He began as a pharmaceutical rep for the company and moved up to become the Coordinator of Education Programs for doctors, then a National Sales Planner, a Hospital Business Manager, and finally the Associate Director of Sales in New England.

Scott’s father, William, served in the US Army, as a Captain in a M.A.S.H. (Mobil Army Surgical Hospital) unit in Missouri. His father-in-law William Shaffer, served as a Sergeant in the Army Air Corp during WWII as a tail gunner, flying in B17 Flying Fortresses on missions over Europe. Heidi’s Uncle Ralph, as an Army private was captured in Italy and spent the remainder of the war as a POW in Germany. When his guards abandoned their posts, he and other POWS at his camp were able to escape and through many hardships found their way back to allied lines.

According to Scott, these brave men never really wanted to speak much about their experiences during the war. What Scott could discern from them, however, started his lifelong love and interest in history. He gained appreciation for the many sacrifices people like his father and father-in-law made to serve our country in the most challenging environments imaginable.

So, when Scott retired and was looking for ways to fill up his hours and serve others, he remembered a conversation he had with one of the nurses he’d met in his days visiting a doctor’s office when he was Merck’s hospital business manager in 2012. This nurse who was now working in a private practice had previously been a Captain in the Navy and proudly served for 40 years. She had spoken about volunteering for an organization called Honor Flights of New England. Scott spent time with her to understand her experience and the mission of Honor Flights.

Honor Flight recognizes and honors America’s Veterans for all their sacrifices. It was founded to honor those who served during World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, or any Veteran with a terminal illness. They do so by transporting them to Washington DC at no cost to the Veteran, where they visit and reflect on the memorials that mark their achievements and service.

Over 16 million individuals served during WWII alone. Of that number only 120,000 remain today, an attrition rate of 130 per day. That is the imperative of the Honor Flight, it is a race against time to honor these heroes for their service and sacrifice.

Why? Simple, because they did it for us. They served on ships, planes, on foot, in tanks and trucks, behind big guns and small, cooking meals, doing laundry, and repairing vehicles, equipment, and people. They served in some of the most hostile environments on earth; in jungles and swamps, on beaches, in deserts, in flak-filled skies or typhoon-swept seas. They endured some of the worst conditions imaginable, the coldest winter recorded in Europe during the Battle of the Bulge, at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, or the smothering heat on Pacific islands.

Most gave up many years of their lives and most of their health in service to their country.

When they got home, what was waiting for them? Parades, speeches, recognition? For some yes, the first to return home received acclaim but most did not, and almost no recognition was given to Korean Veterans. The rest of the veterans quietly returned to their loved ones, went back to work, and helped successfully rebuild this nation. Most of the Veterans Scott talked to never mentioned their service and experiences again to their family or friends. They have shared stories with him during flights that they never talked about with their children or grandchildren.

These were proud, self-reliant, and humble heroes. According to Scott, “That is why it is so critical for us to make their trip to Washington as celebratory and memorable as possible.”

Since the inception of the New England chapter in 2009, 52, day-long trips to DC have served over 1800 Veterans. “On these flights, we have been honored to have with us; Pearl Harbor survivors, Tuskegee Airmen, POWs, submariners, paratroopers, members of all service branches including Coast Guard and Women’s Services. Veterans have been at some of the most important battles in our history; Tunisia, Normandy, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Italy, the Battle of the Bulge, and Chosin Reservoir.”

Scott told me that as one of many Honor Flight volunteers, “we take great pride in making their trip one of the best experiences of their lives. One that they will remember for the rest of their lives.” The following describes what one of these trips was all about.

On one flight we had 60 Veterans, 54 of whom served during WWII. Our oldest Veteran was 97 and the pediatric group was in their late 80’s. We met at the State Police Barracks at Logan Airport where we boarded transit buses with a police escort to the terminal. There we were met by Boston Firefighters, TSA, and State police officers who helped the Veterans into wheelchairs.

Every Veteran has a Guardian, whether it is a family member who goes on a once-in-a-lifetime ride to bond with their parent or grandparent or a volunteer such as me. Every Guardian, volunteer, or staff member attending the flight pays their way for the trip. That is how important this is to us. We then escorted the Veterans, one at a time, through the terminal with hundreds of people to greet the Veterans…cheering, waving signs, shaking their hands, thanking them for their service, “We appreciate you!”. There are Volunteers, Veterans, Boy Scout troops holding flags, ROTC cadets, active-duty service men and women, and people waiting for their flights. A band plays patriotic songs of the era in the background. The TSA has an honor guard at the gate to see the Veterans on their way. It is an amazing sight that the Veterans did not expect and are awed by. Their eyes were as big as saucers. The common refrain is, “I never knew so many people cared.”


 Arriving at Logan Airport

 Boarding the plane to Washington, DC.


After a quick breakfast at the gate, we boarded a chartered aircraft for our flight to BWI. Once we landed two firetrucks over sprayed the plane with a water cannon salute to our Veterans. Inside the terminal, we are again welcomed by hundreds of well-wishers from volunteers to Veteran service groups, to people waiting for their flights. There we boarded buses with a National Park Service motorcycle police escort to Washington DC.


 

Firetruck welcoming the plane on the tarmac in DC.

Arriving at the airport in Washington, DC.


We then visited the requisite memorials, but our most compelling visit was Arlington National Cemetery. The Veterans are seated in a place of honor for the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is a silent ceremony but as the sergeant of the guard passes the Veterans, he, or she, scuffs their heel on the granite walkway in silent tribute to the Veterans. It is chilling!

 

The Veterans at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Arriving at the memorials.


One of the most emotional portions of the trip is called “Mail Call.” Volunteers contact the Veteran’s family and ask them to coordinate with family and friends to write cards, letters, or artwork from children to the Veteran. We combine that with cards and artwork from elementary and middle school children. One year we received over 400 pieces from Franklin Elementary School children alone! We hand these packets to the veterans and their guardians on the bus ride to the airport just like mail calls during their service. This is a surprise to the Veteran. This is quite a compelling time as they read the heartfelt messages of appreciation from family, friends, and children. There are tears shed on the bus.

 

A Veteran reading one of the many well wishes received during “Mail Call.”


We end our day with dinner at a hotel, then travel to the airport. As we wait for the plane, the group is arranged in a big U in the middle of the terminal. And we PARTY! We play the songs of each service branch and then tunes from that period. Veterans dance with their guardians and staff members. People waiting for their flights come and thank the Veterans for their service. It is a great celebration. When we arrived back in Boston, we were met by well-wishers who came out at 11 p.m. to say thank you as well.

 

It's a Veteran Dance party at the airport!


The memories that are created during the day are enduring. “I talk with Veterans who went on the flight years ago and still call it one of the most meaningful and important days of their lives.” To say it is heartwarming to accompany these heroes on an Honor Flight does not capture the magnitude of the honor and satisfaction garnered from spending the day with a Veteran. Their appreciation for the experience is deep and sincere. “As I see it, It is our turn to say thank you to our Veterans.”

Scott has served as a “Guardian” 6 times since he retired. A Guardian serves as a one-on-one escort throughout this long day. From the beginning of the day at 5:30 AM At Logan Airport, often pushed the Veteran in a wheelchair through security and the terminal, on the flights, at the memorials, and then back home.

Spending so much time with these individuals and observing their reactions to the day, Scott explained that it is a profound and emotionally draining 18 hours together, but in the best way.

Scott’s first time serving as Guardian he was escorting a Veteran named Hank Maude. Hank was a WWII map topographer. Hank’s job was to use aerial flyover pictures of enemy territory and convert them to physical maps to be used by troops on the ground. Here is a picture of Hank (left) and Scott at the airport awaiting their flight. Hank passed away in 2020. Photos with permission from his widow.


Scott Musser (right) with his first Veteran, WWII topographer, Hank Maude

Veteran Hank Maude at the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC


As Veterans Day 2023 approaches on November 11, it is only appropriate that we take a step back from our busy lives to appreciate and honor the sacrifices made by so many on our behalf. These individuals deserve our utmost respect. My client, Scott Musser, has found a way to do this in his way through this fantastic organization, Honor Flight New England. I would like to thank Scott for sharing his experience with me, and as a result, with you as well.

If you would like to learn more about Honor Flight New England, their website link is here:

https://honorflightnewengland.org

Have a wonderful Veterans Day and a joyous Thanksgiving from all of us here at Larson, Potter, Stratton & Cote Financial