JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. - As the saying goes, it is better to give than to receive. Officers from the 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade, did just that when they volunteered at Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Tacoma, Wash., Sept. 24.
Thirty battalion officers volunteered to serve the local community and fellow veterans through grounds maintenance. They dug a ditch to install an irrigation system, filled in holes around the facility and assembled a barbecue grill for the residents.
Equipped with shovels, gloves, eye protection and construction equipment, the officers worked together to finish the project.
“This was good, the way we were able to sort the teams out and the officers could pick a project and show their leaderships styles off outside of our normal day to day,” said 1st Lt. James Grande, plans officer, 14th Engineer Battalion. “We were able to see each other working in a different light.”
Throughout the day, officers interacted with veterans by putting together puzzles and giving them an opportunity to tell their stories of their time in service.
“When the veterans see service members in uniform, it uplifts their spirits,” said Peter Fiamalua, operations supervisor, Veterans Affairs Puget Health Care System. “Most of them don’t have anyone to visit them, so this is an opportunity to brighten their day.”
Not only did the veterans appreciate the hard work accomplished by the officers, the employees at the hospital also were happy to see the soldiers there.
“We were thankful to have the officers come out and help us with some of the projects that we needed to finish around the hospital,” Fiamalua said. “This was the first time this year that we have had volunteers in our section and hopefully more service members will get involved after this.”
Grande, a native of Bedford, Mass., hopes that soldiers in his unit can get out to the VA hospital more often to volunteer.
“This giant hospital is so close to JBLM but you don’t see much advertisement for it,” Grande said. “Hopefully this will make other units want to get involved.”