News: Honorable gifts from the past
Story by Sgt. Edwin Rodriguez
HAMPTON, Va. - What do you say?
Do you ask them what it was like or how they feel? Do we ask if they have seen death? Do they even want to be asked questions about war?
Veterans from the military generations before the fighting in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan have seen their fair share of wartime. Thousands of stories can be heard starting from soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen of wars previous to our current generation. Warfighters today have many avenues to pay tribute those men and women who fought before us.
Numerous service members, including soldiers from the 7th Sustainment Brigade, volunteered their time to 'buddy up' with veterans, patients and volunteers alike, during a county fair hosted by the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center, May 9. Some volunteers came out giving a helping hand for their first time.
“This is the first time I volunteered for something like this. It was a good experience. I wanted to see everyone smile,” said Spc. Ashley Belfield, a human resource specialist with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 7th Sustainment Brigade, originally from Hampton.
Belfield added, “I found out today that these veterans are still helpful. They were willing to talk and help us and explain what they been through motivating us to stay in and pursue our goals.”
Staff Sgt. Krish Lalu, a platoon sergeant with the 271st Movement Control Team, 53rd Movement Control Battalion, 7th Sus. Bde., was amazed with his visit even though it was not his first time interacting with veterans.
“I am amazed with the veterans at this hospital in how much respect they have for us. They are constantly thanking us for our service,” said Lalu. “Considering what they been through, World War II, Korean war they thank you for your service and it really means a lot.”
Lalu was very happy to support the local medical center at Hampton.
“The last three years I have been recruiting. and any chance I have to interact with the community especially if they are veterans, which we are all going to be one day, I jump to every opportunity,” said Lalu.
Many former military members are no longer under the radar wearing the uniform or taking orders from senior leaders. They now are your average citizen dealing with the daily ups and downs of life. Unfortunately many get hurt, physically or mentally, and must receive the care they need to continue living there lives. Some need more then others.
The event was held for many reason said Joseph Lewis, HVAMC events director. It gave the opportunity for patients of the hospital to get out side and mingle with the staff and enjoy food, music, and games for a few hours. It also gives a chance for active service members from around the Hampton Roads area to share their time with veterans who served in previous generations said Lewis.
"We wanted service members from all over the area to come and join the festivities and share there moments and experiences with our vets,” said Lewis. “It makes our veterans feel good to see the new generation of men and women fighting for out freedom.”
Some new generation soldiers may have not had family in the military to learn from and share moments with. Staff Sgt. Clyde McClendon, assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 53rd MCB, was deeply impacted by his first chance to interact with veterans.
“I am the first in my family to leave Louisiana and join the military. I wanted to get a chance to do something like this,” said McClendon. “I would have loved if my father and grandfather joined the military leaving a legacy for me to follow. I didn't have that so I have to create a legacy myself.”
McClendon added, “Coming out here today talking to a veteran who joined the Navy joining in 1946, that history you cant read in a book. That's a story I can tell my kids one day.”
“I have had a chance to tell him about my family and the legacy I want to leave with my son. The vets out here have years of experience and when it goes away you miss out on that,” said McClendon. “You cant figure out where you going in the future without understanding your past.”
This was Belfield’s first time dealing with veterans outside her family.
“My mom is a command sergeant major stepfather, and father in the army all retired. I love my family and that they are veterans. They help me choose the military,” said Belfield. “I understood the military environment before I joined so I felt comfortable.”
Sgt. Victoria Lampton, a human resources non-commissioned officer with the HHC, STB, was very appreciative of her visit to the medical center.
“I came out today to interact with some veterans to talk about their history with the military, their experiences and help me with my career progression."
Lampton has been proactive in the veteran community while stationed at Fort Hood, Fort Drum and back home in California. Today was just another chance for her.
“I heard about the event this morning, and thought it would be a good experience for Belfield and I. We have enjoyed our selves listening to their stories,” said Lampton. “We learned some history one each of the branches. In some ways they have been through a lot more then we have. I hope to take something away from it.”
It could be difficult to ask, for example, an Army veteran from World War II or a former Marine from the Vietnam War what is was like during their time. At the county fair at the HVAMC, service members simply just said ‘thank you’ to the veterans for their service to the United States of America. It was a memorable day for many in attendance.
“I wanted to give my time to veterans who have served. I had a great time today,” said Lalu. “They were here today ready to give open knowledge to you so why not take advantage of that.”