SALINA, Kan. – Four soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, visited residents of the Sterling House of Salina, an assisted-living facility, Nov. 11.
During the Veterans Day visit, soldiers and residents enjoyed hot drinks and snacks as they joked, laughed and talked about their families, past experiences with military service, and hobbies and interests.
"This was a nice idea," said Fern Rudick, a resident of the facility. "It's nice to visit with these soldiers and show our gratitude on Veterans Day."
Although only two of the residents were veterans themselves, many of them had been closely involved with the military at one point in their lives because of family members and spouses who had served in the wars of the past.
"My husband was in the military, so it's nice to speak to the soldiers of today and compare our experiences," Rudick said.
As the visit kicked off, soldiers introduced themselves and then spread out, so each soldier could sit at a different table with a small group of residents. Once in their smaller groups, soldiers and residents shared stories with one another.
As the afternoon went on, soldiers rotated from table to table, making sure they had the opportunity to speak with each resident who was available for the visit.
"This connection is an intergenerational activity that broadens people's horizons and gives them experiences in which they can relate," said Kath Koop, resident programs representative and daughter of Sgt. Maj. of the Army William G. Bainbridge, the fifth sergeant major of the Army and a former "Black Lion." "Many of these residents have memories from family members that served, and this visit will bring back those memories, keeping their minds sharp."'
"With my father being a veteran and being raised by my parents in the Army, I was taught anywhere can be home, and that no one is a stranger," she said. "I've stayed in contact with people. Using my affiliation to the Black Lions and Fort Riley, I reached out and asked for a group of soldiers to visit with our residents."
Because of her own experiences growing up in the Army, Koop said she thought the visit would be a great way to not only honor soldiers on Veterans Day, but also to give the residents a fun afternoon making new friends and talking about the good old days.
As the Veterans Day visit came to an end, the soldiers said farewell to their new friends, and each soldier was given a token of appreciation, a small box of cookies and brownies prepared by the residents.
"Overall, the visit was great. We had a lot fun," said Sgt. 1st Class Mark White, platoon sergeant, Company D, 1st Bn., 28th Inf. Regt. "It was a great opportunity getting to know them and hearing their stories of the past. It was interesting sharing our similar experiences from different eras."