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VA hospital visit
BEDFORD, Mass. -- Airman 1st Class John Fay cheers on a resident during a bowling activity at the Bedford Veteran's Hospital April 23 as Airman 1st Class Matthew Goforth looks on. Seven volunteers from Hanscom traveled to the hospital to assist with the bowling activity and visit with residents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Wyatt)
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Vets share stories, spend time with Airmen

Posted 4/25/2012   Updated 4/25/2012 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Foster
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

4/25/2012 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass.  -- Age wasn't a factor when it came to sports, stories and wit at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford April 23.

Volunteers from the base came together during one of two monthly visits they make to spend time with veterans at the hospital and enjoy ice cream, games and socializing.

This particular day, the Hanscom Airmen teamed with the Marine, Army, Navy and special forces veterans to battle it out for the title of bowling champions, and it was obvious that everyone enjoyed the festivities.

Although the reasons may be different for each person volunteering, it's safe to say that giving back is at the top of the list for most.

"It's the least we can do," said Airman 1st Class John Fay, who has volunteered to visit several times. "They fought for us and they're the reason we have the freedoms we do today. The residents look forward to when we come and it brightens their day. Knowing I can help them forget their pain for a while definitely brings a smile to my face as well."

Many of the residents are in their late 80s and early 90s and although they may not be as physically active as they used to be, it doesn't affect their playful banter.

As a member of the opposing team took a shot and missed every pin, a 94-year-old resident playfully heckled and laughed at the miss. It was then his turn to bowl and every eye was on him as he hoped to get a strike. There was a lot of laughter and joking from onlookers as he knocked over only six of the ten pins.

"At least I hit something," he said.

The camaraderie and laughter continued as the two teams fought for the win. Occasionally there was a break in the play as a resident would start singing a song from the past. One resident even belted out a song he wrote himself 60 years ago.

Once the game was over, individuals broke off for conversations and storytelling.

One resident spoke of the surprise Bronze Star Medal he received in the mail, almost 70 years after he had served in World War II.

His response when asked about the medal was, "I didn't do much."

The Bronze Star Medal is awarded for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service. It's the fourth-highest combat award of the United States Armed Forces and if the resident was awarded one, his acts during the war were probably considered quite important.

The resident explained how he was part of the Army Officer Candidate School but was removed from training to become an automatic weapons handler, which they were short of due to the war. He said soldiers with that job title had a life expectancy of about nine minutes once they arrived in combat, so he wasn't too thrilled with the occupational change.

Although he spent a total of five years in the Army, only 10 actual days were spent in combat. During those 10 days, he fought hard with the 9th Infantry Regiment and although he survived combat, he spent two years in a hospital recovering from injuries sustained during the fight. One of those injuries included an open shrapnel wound in his leg that many surgeries were unable to close completely, even to this day.

This resident, who will turn 91 next month, is one of many who have an interesting and quite often heroic story to tell.

Tech. Sgt. Damion Daniels organizes the monthly trips for the 66th Air Base Group and explains why he wants to ensure the program keeps running.

"I think it's a great program, not only for the air base group, but for the Air Force as well," Daniels said. "We always think the guys in the comic books are heroes but these are the real life heroes. These are the guys that paved the way for us today."

Daniels went on to say how much it means to the veterans when the Airmen go out to visit and spend time with them.

"It brings back a lot of memories for these guys and brings back the close knit family feeling for them," he said. "It helps them to remember when they were young, active and enjoying life. For some of them, we're the closest family they have."

Monthly visits are organized by both the air base group, as well as the Air Force Sergeants Association.

"All we have in life can be contributed to these guys," said Daniels. "What better way to give back than to give a few hours out of our day to dedicate time toward their morale?"

For more information on the monthly visits to the hospital, contact Daniels at 781-225-1307 or damion.daniels@hanscom.af.mil.

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