VINELAND, N.J. -- "If it weren't for our veterans, I wouldn't be where I am today," said Maj. Gen. Troy D. Kok, commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve's 99th Regional Support Command.

Kok emphasized this debt while visiting military veterans and spouses Jan. 28 at the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs' Veterans Memorial Home here.

"My purpose for coming and visiting these veterans is to thank them for their service," Kok explained. "It's everything they've done throughout the years that has allowed our military and our country to be as great as they are."

Kok met dozens of veterans and spouses during his visit, spending time with each man and woman in order share his gratitude and learn about their experiences.

"It's a way that I pay back," Kok said. "It's really about a military person getting with a military person.

"It's just such an honor to be able to shake the hands of these young men and women, and I do say 'young' men and women because they become that when we start interacting," he continued. "I watch the expressions on their faces as they remember the importance of their service and what they did."

"Our veterans love to connect with a military person," said Allyson Bailey, chief executive officer of the Veterans Memorial Home here. "As soon as Major General Kok talked to them -- actually, as soon as they saw the uniform -- they became a different person than I interact with every day, and that was amazing to see.

"When you have a high-ranking military leader willing to take their Saturday and come down and talk to our residents, that is really priceless," she added.

Bailey and her staff service 300 residents in the state's oldest operating veteran's home, having originally opened its doors in 1899. The facility has provided long-term care to New Jersey veterans of every war and armed conflict since the War of 1812.

"Our history is so very important to remember, and the veterans who are in these homes are a part of our history," said Kok, a native of Allentown, New Jersey. "We have so many people around the United States who say to me, 'Thank you for your service,' but when do I come back and thank veterans for their service?"

Thanking and spending time with veterans is a passion Kok would like to see imbued in all Soldiers.

"There's great value in our Soldiers connecting with our veterans," he said. "When I was younger, I never understood the value of meeting veterans. I didn't realize the value of that interconnection, and what happened to me was that by the time I recognized the value, I was older and they were gone.

"There are so many of these veterans, and they're absolute heroes," he continued. "I want to impress upon a younger Soldier to take advantage of what I did not."

Kok plans on continuing to visit veterans in homes and other venues where he can express his gratitude for their service.

"It's all about service, and it doesn't matter when we did that service -- it's a matter of being willing to do the service," he said.