NEW YORK CITY --
There are the young and there are the old. Children are full of curiosity and energy while older generations tend to move a bit slower and have learned most of their life lessons. There are vast differences between them.
Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 26 and sailors from USS New York got a chance to interact with both groups when they visited the child development center on Fort Hamilton and the Brooklyn Veteran Affairs Medical Facility here Nov. 4, 2009.
At the child development center, the service members and children got a chance to color in a coloring book, play with Mr. Potato Head and draw pictures of every kind of dinosaur imaginable.
The kids swarmed the Marines, making sure they knew what their favorite toys were and what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“The kids love having visitors, especially when they’re men and women in uniform,” said Irene Metzler, the Child Development Director. “This kind of thing doesn’t happen enough and with the way they reacted, I’m sure they’d love to have them back,” she added.
After the visit with the exuberant children, the Marines and sailors left to visit those on the other end of the age spectrum.
Veterans smiled as the men and women made their way around the VA medical center, greeting veterans and stopping to listen to their stories. Veterans recounted tales of when they were in the service in places like Korea, Vietnam, and Germany.
Carlos Medina, a former Corporal with the US Army, served two years in Germany and was glad to take time during his hemodyalisis treatment to share his stories and visit with a few Marines. He said his treatment was boring and that having the devil dogs there really cheered him up.
“We like getting visits, especially from people who can relate with us, plus it really boosts our morale,” he said.
Although the veterans were happy to have visitors, the Marines and sailors were just as affected.
Petty Officer 1st Class Lisa C. Ceron, a hospital corpsman with SPMAGTF-26, said she can’t help but get emotional hearing all the stories and knowing what a rough life some of the veterans have lead.
“Even though they’re in good spirits and happy to see us, you can tell what some of them have gone through,” she said. “It’s definitely a bittersweet experience.”
Cpl. Tony Fortunato, an Osprey Crew Chief with the SPMAGTF-26, said coming to see the veterans was incredibly rewarding.
“Coming here makes doing what we do a whole lot easier,” he said. “They served their country and protected us, now we have the chance to do the same thing for them.”
At the end of the day, the Marines and sailors thanked their tour guide, Suzanne M. Conning, a Department of Defense Coordinator for the center. She said this is the happiest she has seen some of the veterans in quite a while, and wished the service member’s could have seen the entire facility.
“It was really a privilege to be able to escort them around,” she said. “It’s very clear they were happy to be here and the way everyone’s faces lit up whenever they entered a room was amazing.”