By Mr. Brandon A Beach (USACE)September 26, 2012
A group of military veterans and their families were invited on board the command vessel "John A. B. Dillard, Jr.," Sept. 20 to meet crew members and take a tour of the San Francisco Bay.
"We are certainly proud and humbled to have you here today," said Kixon Meyer, captain of the "Dillard," part of a fleet of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District response boats. "It's the least we can do for the service you have given."
Of the 15 veterans who came on board, 10 were patients from the Department of Veterans Affairs Community Living Center in Martinez, Calif. The 120-bed facility offers extended inpatient care to veterans who suffer from a multitude of ailments.
"Anything from post traumatic stress to traumatic brain injury we treat," said Darlyn Pearl, a recreation therapist at the center. "Some of the guys here have had recent amputations."
Outings such as these, said Pearl, provide veterans with an environment to heal.
"I think the water can be very therapeutic in this case," she said.
Passing by iconic Bay Area landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, the hour-long tour culminated at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, where the group enjoyed an afternoon of professional baseball.
For veteran John Gilbert, an ambulance driver with the Army in the 1970s and a patient at the living center since February of this year, getting out was a chance to cheer on his favorite Bay Area team.
"This is really a treat," said Gilbert. "It's just wonderful to be thought of this way."
Assisting veterans has been at the center of Mike Steinbaugh's work since he retired from the Marine Corps in 1980 and joined the VA. Today, he is the commander of the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 7 in Oakland, which represents more than 1,200 veterans and is one of the largest chapters in California.
Since last year, his chapter has been working closely with SPN to organize tours on board the "Dillard" for Bay Area veterans.
This is the second outreach event this year, as "Dillard" crew members hosted a group of veterans in May for a similar type of tour.
"I can tell you that going into McCovey Cove and walking into that stadium is something these guys will never forget," said Steinbaugh.