Marines visit Palo Alto Veterans Hospital

12 Oct 2011 | Lance Cpl. Joshua Young

Second Lt. Joshua J. Abraham, a platoon commander with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, led his Marines in a unique mission Oct. 7 in the city of Palo Alto, Calif.

Six of his Marines, along with some sailors and Coast Guardsmen, visited the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Hospital as part of a community relations outing for San Francisco Fleet Week.

Fleet Week is an occasion filled with opportunities for service members to give back to the community. Service members accomplished their mission when they disembarked the USS Bonhomme Richard, which is ported in San Francisco’s Pier 32, and visited the VA hospital to chat and interact with the veterans from the nation’s most recent conflict in Afghanistan to the Korean War.

“My platoon sergeant and I had talked about this specific [Fleet Week] event and how we wanted to get on it,” said Abraham, a 29-year-old from Medina, Ohio. “It just so happened that they picked our unit to represent the Marine Corps here.”

The service members were greeted with salutes, handshakes and veterans who couldn’t wait to tell where they had served and with which service.

“They seemed pretty thrilled to meet us,” said Pfc. Dustin Griffith, a 24-year-old light armored vehicle crewman with 1st LAR, from Petersburg, Ky. “If someone gets the chance to come here, I don’t think they should pass up the opportunity to talk to the veterans.”
Some of the veterans connected with the young service members, either through the job they had or the military branch they served.

“I talked to a corporal who was from 3rd LAR. He worked with the same vehicles we do,” Griffith said. “I spoke to him about his experiences and it was nice to meet someone who works in the same field as we do. He seemed excited, willing and eager to talk to us. He was very open and he felt comfortable about it.”

The Marines sat with several of the veterans during lunch and traded stories and laughter. The lifted spirits were a mutual feeling among the service members and veterans, and many had great things to say about it.

“It was humbling for everybody who was here,” Abraham said. “What amazed me the most was how good their attitudes were. You would think that after such a traumatic event in your life you would feel sorry for yourself. These guys didn’t at all. They are awesome.”

The service members weren’t the only ones who benefited from this visit. The veterans, as well as the hospital staff, said they enjoy having military members who are currently serving to talk to.

“We got the opportunity to meet a soldier who just got here a few days ago,” Abraham said. “He really appreciated the fact that we stopped by because he is familiar with the military family. It’s a culture shock to come from a military unit then go to a hospital where civilians surround you. That young man was comfortable around us.”

This trip was the second of three hospital visits scheduled for Fleet Week. Community outreach programs are an opportunity for the Navy-Marine Corps team to showcase their ability to respond to crises and interact with people in the Bay Area.