News: Polar Bears warm up to veterans
Story by Capt. Shane Sandretto
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Several soldiers assigned to 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division spent the day visiting local veterans at the Syracuse Regional Veterans Administration Hospital May 21.
The purpose of the visit was to recognize and honor local veterans for their years of dedicated service to our nation. This was the second time since November 2011 that Soldiers from 4-31IN have visited the veterans in the Syracuse hospital.
The day started with an introduction of all the veterans in attendance. The group included members from all four branches of the Armed Forces who have served in all major U.S. military campaigns from World War II to Vietnam. For the Soldiers, it truly was an honor being in the presence of some of our nation’s finest warriors.
“Visiting with the veterans today helped me gain a profound level of respect and admiration for the amazing sacrifice these great men made for our country,” said Spc. Joshua Mathia assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company. “I can only hope to someday be viewed in the same light when my time in service is complete.”
While it was clear that the soldiers were flattered to spend time with the veterans, the veterans reciprocated the sense of gratitude to the soldiers in attendance for their willingness to serve in the U.S. Army during a time of war.
After the introductions were complete, the veterans challenged the Polar Bears to a game of “Chuck-O”. Points are gained in “Chuck-O” by throwing bean bags at an elevated target with designated point markers; it is a game that rewards accuracy and patience. Unfortunately for the Soldiers, the veterans easily leveraged their home field advantage and led the way to a dominating 249-168 victory. Even though the Polar Bears came out on the losing end, they had a great time competing with the veterans.
Following the game, the soldiers ate lunch with the veterans and swapped stories. For many, spending time talking with the veterans over lunch was the most rewarding part of the visit. Even though their military service was separated by many years, both the Polar Bears and the veterans were able to draw many commonalities between their experiences.
“It was amazing to see that even though some of the veterans fought many years ago, our experiences were quite similar,” said Pfc. William Lamey assigned to Charlie Company. “Serving in the U.S. Army truly is a bond that spans multiple generations.”
Additionally, it was clear that the veterans thoroughly enjoyed hearing the experiences of those currently serving in the U.S. Army and seeing them in uniform.
“The visit by aoldiers (from 4-31 IN) brought more veterans out to the recreation room than any other visit in the past year,” said Lydia, the recreational therapist working with the veterans. “They had a great time with the Polar Bears.”
After lunch the two groups said their goodbyes and parted ways. Even though it was a short visit, it will surely have a lasting effect on all those in attendance. The visit was a resounding success for both the veterans and the Polar Bears.
The leadership of 4-31IN recognizes the importance of supporting our nation’s veterans and plans to continue working hand-in-hand with the administration of the Syracuse Regional VA Hospital to serve the local veterans in the future. The battalion plans to visit the veterans again this coming November to recognize them for their service on Veterans Day.