Fort Riley Soldiers lend helping hand to veterans home
April 22, 2009
WINFIELD, Kan. -- When eight officers from the 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, visited the Kansas Veterans Home in Winfield more than one month ago, it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
In honor of this new relationship, the 541st CSSB returned to the veterans home April 2 with more Soldiers to help lend a hand with some much-needed spring cleaning around the facility.
"It helps our veterans know that they are not forgotten and that there are people who continue to care about them and want them to have a nice place to live," said Linda Poyner, the clinical director of the veterans home.
Before sunrise, the group of about 30 junior enlisted personnel, noncommissioned officers and officers left Fort Riley for the three-hour bus ride to Winfield.
Once they arrived, they broke down into six groups and began working on the tasks they were given. The chores included yard work, repairing broken patio furniture, clearing debris from raised flower beds and scraping old paint off of outdoor furniture, curbs and handicap parking spaces to prepare them for a fresh coat of paint.
"It's something that needed to be done. They needed help and we're here to help them and also let the veterans know they are not forgotten by the veterans of today," said Spc. Robert Howard, a transportation management supervisor for the 266th Movement Control Team, 541st CSSB.
Although the Soldiers maintain a humble attitude about the work they did, their efforts were truly appreciated by the residents and staff at the home.
"For this facility, we're talking 266,000 square feet on about 138 acres," explained Jim Hays, the superintendent of the veterans home. "I only have five maintenance personnel to take care of everything and their primary focus is to keep the mechanical systems going like the heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical.
"Getting this extra help around the grounds with the flower beds, those are the things we can't always get to. This just helps us so, so much," added Hays.
As Soldiers continued their efforts to beautify the outside of the facility, they hardly noticed the smiles that appeared on the faces of residents inside who were watching them from the windows.
One man could even be seen watching them from his wheelchair while sitting in front of a glass door. His smile and approving nod hinted at how impressed he was by their work.
By the end of the visit, the groups finished more work than the staff actually expected them to complete. When a group finished their assigned sections, they would look for other areas to work on.
"They're really working together as a team and making great efforts to go above and beyond what they have given us for projects to do," said 1st Lt. Rachel Elphinstone, a transportation officer with the 24th Transportation Company, 541st CSSB, who was charged with coordinating the visits to the veterans home.
After finishing their chores, the 541st CSSB Soldiers sat down and talked with a few of the veterans at the home. It was an enjoyable time for both generations of veterans.
Many of the Fort Riley Soldiers sat in awe as they listened to the experiences of veterans who served during World War II, Vietnam and the Gulf War.
"To me, meeting these veterans and the sacrifices they've made is just truly amazing," Elphinstone said. "I'm very passionate about it. I love to sit down and talk with the older generation. I think they have a lot of wisdom to offer us, and to hear their stories and what they've done is amazing."
Like the 541st CSSB Soldiers, the residents at the home shared the same respect for the younger generation of warriors; many of whom have been on multiple deployments to Iraq.
"I like talking to all the Soldiers because I know they fight for our country and should be respected," said Harold Raney, a resident of the home. "Plus, I like to hear all their stories."
At end of the visit, the Soldiers returned to Fort Riley. Many of them were glad they were able to take a day away from their regular work schedules and help others in need.
By completing a few chores around the home, the 541st CSSB leaders and Soldiers not only did a good deed, they also showed the residents the military still cares.
"I think it's a real positive influence for our residents. I had one of them come up to me today and tell me what a good job (the Soldiers) were doing, and how much they appreciated them being here," Poyner said.