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Photo Caption: Spc. Natalie Walker talks with retired Sgt. Donald Hannah at the Lawton-Fort Sill Veterans Center. Twenty-six Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 168th Brigade Support Battalion took a break from training to spend their day visiting, talking with and playing games with retired veterans.

August 7, 2014
Sgt. Joe Dees

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 168th Brigade Support Battalion Soldiers took time from a busy training schedule to visit retired veterans Aug. 1 at the Lawton-Fort Sill Veterans Center.

The Soldiers and veterans spent the day together telling stories, playing games and comparing the Army of today with that of yesteryear.

"This is good for everyone involved," said Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Finnell. "Young Soldiers get to broaden their perspectives and understand what it means to be a Soldier, and the veterans have a chance to share their wisdom and experiences. It is a morale builder for everyone."

The "Outlaws" of HHC, 168th BSB arrived at the center in the morning wearing the Army Service Uniform as a way of showing their respect to their hosts and recognizing the honor of meeting the veterans who make their homes there. Uniforms were checked for accuracy and neatness by the noncommissioned officers prior to entering the home of heroes to ensure their first impressions were right on the money. The hosts asked many questions about the visitors' skill badges, campaign ribbons and other intricacies of the new uniform, interspersing their own uniform stories with the questions.

"It was an honor to talk to these gentlemen the way we have," said Sgt. Garrick Buckland. "Hearing about their lives and experiences gives you a new perspective that is great personal and professional development."

While the visit was HHC's first organized company visit, Capt. David Zerzycki, HHC commander, had a similar program with his previous unit and intends to make the visit a monthly event. By creating and building a relationship with the veterans, he hopes his Soldiers' work can serve a dual purpose.

"Just by spending these few hours a month here," Zerzycki said, "Soldiers can feel and understand why we wear this uniform and learn that we have a responsibility to the community while brightening the day for truly deserving heroes. We can wear this uniform only because these veterans did what they did before us; we must recognize and honor that."

Smiles beamed in the sunlight pouring through windows and laughter echoed above the clack of dominoes and billiard balls in the center's recreation room as newly introduced Soldiers and veterans mingled like old friends.

Seemingly hidden in the shadows was retired Sgt. Donald Hannah, a man with an endless and friendly smile and "Vietnam Veteran" cap. He steered his electric scooter around to observe the joyous spectacle.

"Every minute you get to spend with friends, especially young Soldiers, is precious," said Hannah. "You can see yourself in them and know that your hard work has paid off. We here love every minute we get to spend with Soldiers and feel honored that they would spend their time here with us."

The Soldiers of HHC 168th BSB, would argue that the honor was all theirs however.

"This is an honor to be here and just have fun with these men," said Spc. Dave Sanders, "it is our duty as Soldiers to support the veteran community and do what we can to help them.