By Spc. Christen BestFebruary 6, 2009
CAMP CASEY, Republic of Korea -- Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry of the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team along with representatives of the USO, surprised the residents of a local nursing home located just outside Camp Casey with a visit and gifts donated by the USO.
The event, which took place Jan. 9 at the Bethlehem Nursing Home, was specifically scheduled to occur shortly before the Lunar New Year because of the holiday's significance to Korean culture and the patients at the nursing home.
"We picked today because it was the last work day before the Lunar New Year," said Mr. James Allen, manager of the local USO. "A lot of Americans still don't understand how important Lunar New Year is to the Korean people; it's one of the major holidays."
The nursing home residents deeply appreciated the holiday visit and showed their gratitude by singing, shaking the Soldiers' hands, and thanking them over and over again.
"The residents here were very pleased to have Americans come and visit," said Allen. "I think this is a great way for the USO to spend time and money. It's not the type of gift; it's the effort to give. The patients were appreciative of it."
The positive and heartfelt reaction helped the Soldiers to realize the significance of their involvement.
"I believe the Soldiers enjoyed just being around the senior citizens of Korea and knowing that we brought a little joy into their lives," said Spc. Patrick Northway, a tanker for D Company, 2-9.
Events like this are part of the USO's mission to enhance the Soldiers' experience in Korea and to make a viable difference to the people living outside the gate as well.
"The primary mission of the USO is to support the Soldiers and families wherever they are assigned and also to create a partnership between the civilian and military communities," said Allen. "This is what we call a good neighbor program. It significantly enhances the relationship that 2nd Infantry Division has with the local citizens."
The Soldiers also felt the relevance volunteering in terms of their service in Korea.
"It's good to give back to the community and the country," Northway said. "Volunteering helps the Korean culture in understanding that we're here to do good, serve the community, and celebrate New Year and other holidays with them."
The residents, thrilled to have visitors so close to the holiday, related that it was like having grandsons come to see them. The experience was moving for everyone involved.
"I think the Soldier's had a great time," said Allen. "It's human nature to want to do good things for other people. Even though they don't speak the language, they spent time with the residents and spoke to them in what Korean they know. I think the Soldiers loved it as much as the patients did."