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599th Transportation Surface Brigade
HONOLULU — In order to pay tribute to the veterans who paved the way for them, Soldiers from the 599th Transportation Surface Brigade at Wheeler Army Airfield paid a visit to the Veterans Community Living Center, VA Pacific Island Health Care System, at Tripler Army Medical Center, Nov. 8.
Vincent Johnson, nursing assistant, has worked at the center for 13 years. He said the center provides short-term, long-term, rehabilitation and hospice care.
“We don’t care if you were a private or a general; we’ve had both, as well as a state legislator and a Pulitzer Prize winner. Whether they were in the military for two days or 40 years, we give them all our best,” Johnson said.
Gerald “Gerry” Patten, an Air Force staff sergeant in Vietnam, was a flight engineer on a C-124 at Da Nang. He has been in the center for more than two years.
“I’m treated very well here, and the people are wonderful. The only complaint I have is about the food,” Patton said. “It’s too good and there’s too much of it,” he laughed.
Sgt. 1st Class LoNika Harris, plans NCO, set up the visit.
“We all had a great time. I especially enjoyed seeing the folks’ faces light up when we were dancing with them,” Harris added.
“The best part of the visit was the smiles that we brought to the veterans’ faces by coming to interact with them and just being in the rooms talking to them,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin McKeller, 599th senior enlisted leader.
“We only spoke with one World War II vet; he remembered everything. We also got to hear stories from the Korean War and Vietnam,” McKeller said. “We liked hearing their stories, and they liked telling them. They put us right on the battlefield with them.”
Retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Lewis Hammond had high praise for today’s Soldiers. The 28-year veteran is in the center following a complete knee replacement. He was a hatch team captain for a cargo-handling battalion in Vietnam.
“Right now you guys are the heroes,” said Hammond. “A lot of people won’t stand up, but you have. How did Winston Churchill put it? ‘Never was so much owed by so many to so few.’”
VA Community Living Centers
Formerly known as nursing homes, VA Community Living centers provide short- and long-stay nursing home care to veterans.
The mission of the centers is to restore the veteran to maximum function and independence, prevent declines in health and provide comfort at the end of life.