FORT POLK, La. -- FORT POLK, La. - Infantry Soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division gave back to Fort Polk area communities when they helped perform handy-man work at local retirement homes March 18.

The "Patriot Brigade" Soldiers were from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. Although they already volunteered to serve their country in time of war, they put military training aside for a day to help some of the citizens they serve.
Tasks included cleaning storage sheds, folding linens, picking weeds, clearing leaves and laying down mulch.

"It was good to help out the community," said Pvt. John Barton. "It gives the community a better impression of what the Army does."

Barton and the rest of the Soldiers from 2nd Platoon helped the Rosepine Retirement and Rehabilitation Center. The center's director, Jeff Johnson, appreciated the Soldiers' hard work.

"They helped us get things done in the facility," said Johnson. "They cleaned in the linen closets (and) sheds (and even mowed) ... the grass. We really appreciate them coming out."
Other Soldiers from Co B provided assistance to DeRidder Retirement Home and Westwood Manor in DeRidder, La. Helping and giving back to local communities is something the Blackhawk Soldiers strive to do. Building relationships with leaders and citizens in surrounding towns and cities is something Patriot Brigade leaders want their Soldiers to experience, both at home and when they deploy.

"It is rewarding to reach out and help the local communities; to roll up our sleeves and get down and dirty to help out," said Capt. Brian Burns, commander, Co B, 2nd Bn, 4th Inf Reg.
Burns said the assistance his Soldiers give through performing community service at Fort Polk teaches them valuable lessons. What the Soldiers learn through serving surrounding communities will help Burns instill the mindset of how he wants Soldiers to work while the unit is deployed to Afghanistan.

"We're setting the tone for Afghanistan," said Burns. "We want to make it better for the locals there as well (as the local residents here)."

Soldiers also took time to talk with local veterans who live in the retirement homes they visited. Veterans accompanied Soldiers to Westwood Park in DeRidder where they shared stories, and the Blackhawk Soldiers presented the veterans medallions honoring their past accomplishments.

"I had an amazing time," said Delmier Burks, veteran and Rosepine Retirement and Rehabilitation Center resident. "I enjoyed it. It brought back memories."

Burks, who was drafted into the Army and fought during World War II, said he respects the Soldiers of today for volunteering knowing they will be going to war.

"I think it's amazing to think that much about their country," said Burks. "We all appreciate their service."

Burns said giving Soldiers a chance to appreciate and respect the lives of those who fought before them gives them a better knowledge of the past and how things have changed.

"We wanted to give back to those who paved the way (for us today)," Burns said. "It gives us a sense of what it was like (then) and puts things into perspective.
"We plan to go into the local communities more. We want to help young people and give them someone to look up to."