DUBLIN — Soldiers of 3rd Infantry Division made a short trip from Fort Stewart to Carl Vinson Veterans Affairs Medical Center to spread holiday cheer, Dec. 9.
Soldiers visited veterans in the hospital and extended invitations to a concert held on campus by the 3rd ID Band, also known as Rhythm of the Marne.
“Today was about reaching out to our veterans that are living in the veterans’ hospital, don’t have a lot of family, unable to get out and be a part of the community that we are in now, and just spreading that holiday spirit for them,” said Master Sgt. Jason Hunt, a senior signal intelligence analyst and noncommissioned officer in charge of brigade intelligence operations with 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID.
Soldiers who made the trip said the welcome was enthusiastic.
“I spoke with one veteran that actually broke down crying the moment we opened her door,” said Staff Sgt. Trevor Tapper, an electronic warfare specialist with 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd IBCT. “She was Air Force and she was really surprised we took time out of our own busy schedule to come spend time with her today. The invitation to see a concert and be our guest, I do believe, was overwhelming for her.”
Each soldier spent time with different veterans in the hospital, so each one heard unique stories. Hunt recounted a story from an infantryman who served in World War II, arriving on Normandy Beach the day after the initial invasion. Tapper said the connection of service allows veterans to share stories like these more easily.
“I don’t believe anyone understands the struggles of a veteran unless you are one,” Tapper said.
After visitations, the Soldiers and Veterans gathered in an auditorium for the concert, which featured holiday music in varied styles.
Soldiers noticed that the Veterans seemed just as pleased with the auditory entertainment.
“I love it, the smile on their faces and they were singing and rocking,” Tapper said with a wide smile. “It was worth everything. Priceless, really priceless.”
“The vets really appreciated it,” Hunt said. “The guys were dancing, boppin’ along and singing the songs.”
The band’s final number was a medley of each service’s song, so all Veterans could be recognized. Many of them stood and sang proudly.
“It was nice to see those Veterans, after so many years and years out of the service, that it’s still in their heart, it’s still in their blood,” Hunt said.
Both Hunt and Tapper said after the day’s events that they would encourage all Soldiers to participate in outreach to Veterans.
“We have to continue to show respect for our seniors, for the guys who really have paved the way and set the stones for us to walk on,” Hunt said. “Every time we have an opportunity to reach out and give back, I think we need to take it.”
“Just like we don’t forget our Fallen, we cannot forget those that are still living because they also paid a price,” Tapper said. “Doing that would not only continue to bring honor and credit to our organizations, but also to our values as Soldiers and what we continue to live every day.”