Making their third annual trip to the Syracuse Veterans Medical Center, Syracuse, N.Y., were seven Soldiers assigned to 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment "Polar Bears," who visited the veterans residing there.Together the current and former service members formed a living time line of military history that dated back to WWII.
Despite the generation gap, the conversations held over coffee and board games seemed to be that of old friends.Suzanna Hawes, lead recreational therapist, SVMC, noted the importance of their Veterans Day celebration and the affect it has on her patient's wellbeing."In our long term care unit it's a significant moment for the generations from WWII, Korean War and the Vietnam War to see current Soldiers visiting with them," she explained. "The event makes our veterans feel they are not forgotten, that what they endured was significant, and will be talked about in the days and weeks to come."
When thinking of Veterans Day our initial thoughts shift to the older generation of service members and transition to the young veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of whom are seeking medical treatment at the VA in Syracuse.
Hawes, who witnessed the Polar Bears interaction with them described the scene as unique.
"I had the opportunity to observe the Soldiers coming into our inpatient mental health unit and it was fascinating, because a lot of our veterans here are fairly young," she said. "To see the interaction, the connection, and the dialog going on between the two that never occurs otherwise was powerful."
Spc. Wade Marshall, mortar man, D Company, 4-31st, described his experience as a remaindered to honor what these men and women had fought to preserve.
"It's important for the people in the Army now to continue their legacy," he said. "The Army has many customs and curtsies, well, those who fought before us were the ones who started them and made them what they are today. So it's important for us to remember that we are serving our country, but we are also defending what others before us fought for."
Resident of SVMC, former U.S. Army Private Loyd Pitman an infantrymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, served during the Korean War from 1951-1953.
Pitman, misty eyed, shared his proudest moment of military service with those who visited.
"One thing I've always been proud of is that our rag-tag-Army kicked the props from under the Iron Curtain," he said. "It wasn't the politicians, it was those men in the field that kicked the props from under Russia. When Russia saw how we retaliated in Korea they decided to back off and that was a good thing."
While we as a nation have set aside a single day to remember and honor our nation's heroes, it's Hawes intent that their actions will cross the minds of the American people more often.
"I hope our youth and everyone in our community continues to recognize the importance of today and every day for our veterans and what they've done, what our Soldiers are currently enduring and that we never forget," said Hawes.