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The bond between the old and the new

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(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Amber Corcoran) Retired Maj. Oddis “Whit” Whittington, talks about his tenure in the Air Force during an interview at the North West Louisiana Veterans Home in Bossier City.

Current Airmen learn lessons from local veterans

Story by Staff Sgt. Amber Corcoran, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE — As I knelt in my uniform next to his wheelchair, listening carefully as he talked, he reached for my hand. I gingerly took his hand in mine and attempted to hold back the waterworks forming at the corners of my eyes. This man, Dennis Towns, who stated matter of factly that he was 96 years, 4 months and 18 days old, slowly recounted the few years he served overseas during World War II. When I told him it was a pleasure to meet him, he said he was more thankful to see me.

“If I knew then what I know now, I’d still go. I don’t regret one day I put in for this country,” he said.

Veterans have given a lot to serve their country, and many will deal with emotional and physical wounds for the rest of their lives. Knowing we appreciate their service and their sacrifice can help.

According to the Veterans Administration, there are 23 million living U.S. Veterans. A veteran could be your neighbor, your co-worker or the person sitting next to you on the bus; they are silent heroes we may run into every day.

This particular day though, another Public Affairs Airman and I thought we were just documenting the interactions between several Veterans from the North West Louisiana Veterans Home and the Airmen from the First Four Airmen Association who were preparing a pizza party as part of their routine visits to the home. I ended up taking away more than just an interview.

“It’s important to serve those who have served us – it takes sitting down and talking with the Veterans who have fought in the wars before us to really understand the impact we as service members have on each other’s lives,” said Airman 1st Class Brittanie Langford, 26th Operational Weather Squadron and F4AA vice president. “We have a bond as service members, from the Airman straight out of Basic Military Training to the 80-something year old vet. I’m elated when I see their smiles and hear their thanks – it’s nice to know our presence and company touches them the way it does, but it’s also humbling to let them know that our generation appreciates everything [these Veteran’s] have sacrificed too.”

I believe it’s a powerful gesture; the veterans of tomorrow helping the veterans of today, since they helped preserve America’s freedom as we continue to do.

The VA stated that more than 140,000 volunteers, including current military members, gave more than 11 million hours in service to America’s Veterans who were in homes. It is impossible to calculate the amount of caring and sharing volunteers provide to Veteran patients.

Many of those hospitalized may not have family or anyone to visit them. Barksdale’s F4AA take a couple hours every month to volunteer at the home – making a huge impact on both their lives and the lives of these veterans.

“I get to reminisce about my career and this new generation’s willingness to listen makes me realize that what I did wasn’t for nothing,” said Oddis “Whit” Whittington, a 30-year Air Force Veteran who was also stationed at Barksdale several years ago. “Something as simple as sharing the same language with other maintainers or comparing my years overseas in China, Germany or England with these young Airmen makes me feel good. I enjoy their visits and the camaraderie we share.”

Airman 1st Class Andrew Holt, 26th OWS and F4AA event coordinator, also stated that the Veterans do more for him than he thinks he could for them.

“Listening to their experiences is amazing,” he said. “I truly believe the best thing we can do as [service members] is give something back to the Veterans who helped shaped what our force is today. Just coming in and doing a job isn’t enough – we have to put just as much in, showing ‘excellence in all we do’, following in their footsteps.”

There are simple ways to help a veteran, but there are hundreds more ways to make an impact on both your life and theirs. Remember: one team, one fight.