COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) -- The newest recipient of the Rhode Island Star might've never served as an officer in World War II if not for his love for his West Warwick sweetheart.
Eddie Jacques survived 30 bombing missions over Germany, more than half in the battle scared B-24 10 Gun Dottie.
"You see a burst over there, another one over there," he says, thinking back to his time in the service. "We came back with plenty of holes in that plane."
By the time he was suiting up as a bombardier, he already had impressed Marie enough to convince her to marry him. But when he proposed, he was just a grunt and didn't stand a chance.
"I was making $33 a month," Jacques says with a smiling. "She let me know that just wasn't enough to raise a family."
But young Eddie Jacques didn't give up on Marie.
"I was his first girlfriend," his wife of 69 years says. "He'd never had a girlfriend."
For his first and last girlfriend he decided he had to do everything he could to make more money. So, he applied for officer school.
"Plus, I'd get flight pay," he remembered.
Marie admits now that she didn't think that kid from West Warwick who kept proposing to her no matter how many times she said no, could become an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corp.
"No," she says. "I thought it was funny. He's going go to officer school?"
He surprised her and maybe himself a bit, earning his wings and the right to fly in the glass nose of 10 Gun Dottie. But the young gun kept his heart on Marie while his eyes were on the Germans who were shooting at him.
"Every month he would send me a bouquet," she says. "On the date of our anniversary."
Back over Germany, there were constant close calls. Jacques tells the story of one near death experience as though it happened last week. He was sitting about six inches from the tail gunner.
"The flack came through the plane," he says, slicing his hand through the air of his Coventry living room. "And stuck in the ceiling of the plane. It missed us by less than 5 inches each."
Marie waited back in Rhode Island, probably not knowing how many times her love dodged flack.
"Every night there was someone in the papers who had died," she says.
Eddie Jacques survived and rose to the rank of Captain, earning several honors along the way. The Rhode Island star is awarded for ‘exceptionally meritorious service to the state or federal government'.
As Jacques accepted the honor, he told a room full of state leaders that he owed much his success to the woman who inspired him to become an officer and to make it through all those flying missions. The honored veteran also credits a power even higher than love and Marie.
"The blessed virgin Mary," he says, pulling his rosary beads out of his pocket. "I had these in my pocket everywhere I went, on every one of those missions."
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