Soldiers from Winn Army Medical Center cheer after singing Feliz Navidad to veteran and VA patient Morris Flanders while visiting the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, Ga., Dec. 1.

<B> DUBLIN, Ga.</B>"Go out and put a smile on some veterans' faces," charged Mark Anderson, the acting Carl Vinson Veterans Administration Medical Center Director and Deputy Director of the Network Office Vision 7. "Hooah!"

Soldiers representing Fort Stewart's 3rd Sustainment Brigade, the 3rd Infantry Division Band and Winn Army Medical Center took that charge and ran with it, Dec. 1, when they paid a visit to the center, located in Dublin, Ga., armed with hand-made fruit baskets donated by the Liberty County Veterans Council. Joining them on the visit was 3rd ID duputy commanding general-rear, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, and Command Sgt. Maj Jeffrey Ashmen. During their visit, the Soldiers delivered the baskets, then sat and talked with many of the patients. Some even walked through the halls singing Christmas carols while dressed as Santa's helpers.

"This is an example of how we are one big family," said Brig. Gen Phillips. "These guys are the alumni club of the military. They're giving back to us with support, and we're giving back to them with our appreciation."

The visit, an annual event for the past 20 years, according to Anderson, didn't go unappreciated on either side. For many of the patients, who had little or no family, it would be one of the few visits they would receive all year. For the Soldiers, the visit gave them a chance to get a glimpse of the past.

"It's a great history lesson," said Pfc. Demetrius Hopkins, a 3rd Sustainment Bde. Soldier, after his visit with Army veteran Jack Hicks, who served with the famed 5th Infantry Division. "A lot of people forget about these people. This is a way to let them know that we haven't forgotten about them and the sacrifices they made for us."

For Spc. Daniel Leslie, 92nd Chemical Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Bde., it was a chance to learn from a former Army military policeman who served his country for 25 years.

"It was a big morale booster for me," he said. "Talking with people was my favorite part of the visit."

The former MP, Nollie Dykes Jr., took advantage of his time with the younger Soldiers to advise as many as he could, encouraging some to pursue dual master's degrees.

"I try to help in any way that I can," he said. "I want to see them be successful."

Cynthia Percy, a former Airman and breast cancer survivor who has been in the VA since March, said she also enjoyed the visit.

"It gives them an idea of what to expect when they are no longer military," she said. "It helps me to give something back to the military. I can tell them what they can expect and it gives them an edge."

By the end of the visit, it looked like Anderson's charge had been fulfilled.

"I saw a lot of smiles on the veterans' faces," said Cecilia James, the recreational therapy supervisor. "I think they really liked the fact that (the Soldiers) were in uniform. The uniforms brought back a lot of memories."

"It was very positive," said Sgt. 1st Class Rose Artis, the Patient Administration Department NCOIC. They were truly appreciative of us coming here, and we appreciate them so much."

James added that anyone is welcome to visit the VA Hospital at any time.

"They don't have to bring gifts; the visits are gift enough," she said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16