Fort Eustis soldiers spend day with World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans at Williamsburg's Patriots Colony
Williamsburg, VA – Nearly 30 World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans got a glimpse into their past and a look at the present day military men and women this week when 12 soldiers from Fort Eustis spent the day visiting them at Patriots Colony in Williamsburg.
And they liked what they saw.
The soldiers, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter mechanic instructors from B Company of the 2nd Battalion, 210th Aviation Regiment, showed their dedication to community and country, the residents said, by volunteering to visit the retirement community on their own time after working a late night shift the night before.
The soldiers are part of a volunteer group started by Army Staff Sgt. Derek Wilkinson called Veterans Supporting Veterans.
It’s a grassroots support group that raises money among fellow military members to deliver games, items and friendly visits to veterans in nursing homes and hospitals.
“My grandfather was in a nursing home and he was a veteran,” Wilkinson said. “He passed away right before I went on a deployment to Afghanistan. When I came back, I started visiting the other veterans I met there (and) realized that there are a lot of people who do not have people to come see them.”
That’s when Veterans Supporting Veterans was born.
This is the fourth year Wilkinson has helped organize the program, which began in Kentucky, and the first time in Virginia.
We “decided to go to Patriots Colony because we wanted to reach out to the most amount of veterans as possible,” said Wilkinson.
Patriots Colony was founded by a group of retired military officers, led by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Archie Cannon, who saw the need for a community dedicated to those who shared the common bond of service to country. In 1994, the founders approached Riverside Health System, known for its medical expertise and being a leader in senior services, with their plans. With Riverside's medical and financial backing, Patriots Colony opened in 1996.
Today, Patriots Colony is a continuing care retirement community that offers all levels of care on one campus – from nursing home care to assisted and independent living. The independent living community on the campus is open to former military officers, civil servants and their spouses.
During their visit to Patriots Colony, the soldiers sang and danced with residents living with dementia, played military trivia with the convalescent residents, delivered games, activity books snacks movies and blankets to the nursing home residents, gifted red carnations to military widows and ate lunch with the independent residents.
“I met a veteran there that was in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam,” Wilkinson said. “That’s history.”
“They engaged our residents at all levels about their military service and thanked them profusely for laying the foundation,” said Brian Tenney, Patriots Colony’s Administrator and Executive Director. “The soldiers were blown away by the history makers that live now or did live at Patriots Colony.”
Patriots Colony has already invited the soldiers to come back.
As one resident said, “I wish they would come back every day.”
Published: November 9, 2013