Soldiers visit veterans
Fort Leavenworth Lamp
Published: Thursday, February 19, 2009 10:27 AM CST
Although service members from Fort Leavenworth celebrated "Salute to Hospitalized Veterans Week" by visiting with local hospitalized veterans, most agreed it was a tradition that should continue beyond one week.
Command Sgt. Maj. Bill Hutchings, of the 705th Military Police Internment and Resettlement Battalion, said it is a service member's duty to honor veterans.
"These gentlemen lost their friends, they put their lives on the line for us and our families," Hutchings said. "And a lot of them did not get a hero's welcome home."
The hospital, about three miles south of post at 4101 S. 4th St. in Leavenworth, is officially called the Dwight D. Eisenhower Veterans Affairs Medical Center and is part of the Veterans Affairs Eastern Kansas Health Care System. Hutchings and other service members assigned to Fort Leavenworth toured the hospital, which includes the Community Living Center, a modernized nursing home, Feb. 11.
Adrian Bankowski, recreation therapist, said the nursing home had gone through a recent cultural transformation to provide a more homelike atmosphere for the veterans. There's a bird aviary, special meals and patients may sleep in when they like. In the summer, there is also a garden area in front for flowers and vegetables. Bankowski said students from Eisenhower Elementary School on post also regularly visit the center.
The Community Living Center's newest employee, Suzie, is an example of the change. She is an shepherd mix, owned by nurse Teri Chandler. Suzie was previously a therapy dog in the Basehor-Linwood School District and now serves the same capacity at the center. Suzie was certified through the Fort Leavenworth Veterinary Treatment Facility and is a member of the Human Animal Bond program.
"She's here for the guys," Chandler said.
Hutchings said he regularly visits the hospital with the Sergeants Major Association and the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. He enjoys hearing stories from veterans.
"He's from the Korean War, he's from the Vietnam War, there's a guy down the hall way back from the World War II era. We could either open up a history book and bore ourselves or we could sit down and actually get the 'no bull' story."
Don Adkins, a Kansas City, Kan., resident, is temporarily in the center while he recovers from knee surgery. Adkins served in the 1st Infantry Division from 1963 to 1968.
"I'm really proud of them, and I'm glad they are home safe," Adkins said.
His wife, Kathy, said she enjoyed the opportunity to thank service members in person.
Mack Colvin, Wichita native, was also in the center after surgery. He served in the Army from 1973 to 1983. He talked to Sgt. Maria Toscano, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 705th MP Battalion, about mission readiness and appreciation for Army support teams.
"I already made up my mind when I went in (to the Army)," he said. "I'm doing it for a reason."
Colvin called himself a veteran of the "old Army," when things were much different than today's Army. However, he said he didn't regret a thing. He appreciated the visit from service members.
"It's still doing the same thing, doing your job," he said. "You guys' job is just as important as ours - protecting the United States."
Capt. Jason Dye, Battle Command Training Program, said it is beneficial for combat warriors to talk to their predecessors.
"When you go outside of your own unit or your own experience, the only other people out there who understand what it's like to be in combat are people who have been in combat, and these guys are like that," he said. "They understand the deep-rooted feelings you have. They know exactly how you feel when you're out there fighting. You don't have to explain to them, because they know."
For more information about volunteering, visiting or donating at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Veterans Affairs Medical Center, contact the Voluntary Service Program Office at (913) 682-2000 ext. 52017 or (800) 952-8387 ext. 52017.