Veterans honored by service members at Fleet Week

11 Oct 2011 | Lance Cpl. Joshua Young

Ten Marines, 10 sailors and two Coast Guardsmen brought Fleet Week to their fellow military members hospitalized at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center Oct. 8.

The service members visited the medical center as part of a community relations outing for San Francisco Fleet Week.

Fleet Week is an occasion filled with opportunities, like visiting the medical center, as a way for service members to give back to the community.

Service members disembarked USS Bonhomme Richard, which is ported in San Francisco’s Pier 32. They visited the VA medical center to chat and interact with veterans from each branch of military service and every U.S. war since World War II.

The entrance and hallway were lined with veterans in wheelchairs waiting for active duty military men and women. Service members were greeted with salutes, handshakes and veterans who couldn’t wait to tell where and when they had served.

“Today we were reaching out to some of the veterans at the hospital that might not have the opportunity to get out and partake [in] Fleet Week,” said Sgt. Jordan M. Keefover, a 26-year-old helicopter mechanic with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, from Beatrice, Neb.

Keefover spent almost an hour with one veteran who was so grateful for his time that he struggled to hold back his tears.

“We essentially brought Fleet Week to them,” he said. “The fact that we can come to them is very important to them.”

Some of these veterans are bound to a wheelchair and don’t get to go out much due to medical conditions. Some of the veterans brought cameras with them to have their photos taken with the service members.

“I met some new friends, some amazing people, enjoyed the company of veterans and heard some great stories,” Keefover said.

The medical center was filled with friendly staff who were also eager to greet the service members and seemed very happy that they had come.

“It’s great to have you guys here,” said Jim McDermott, an assistant chief with voluntary service at the medical center. “The veterans love to be recognized by the active duty, and I think the active duty like to be recognized by the veterans. It’s a win-win situation.”

The veterans at the medical center spoke highly of the staff and the living conditions.

“This is their home. They are welcoming people into their home,” said McDermott, who has worked with the veterans for 15 years. “They like visitors. They look forward to it.”

This trip was the last of three hospital visits scheduled for Fleet Week. Several service members who attended said they hoped to come back again before the week is over, or next time they come to San Francisco.

“The fact that we took time out of our day to go and brighten theirs really lifts up their spirits and brightens their lives,” Keefover said. “They have been there, they have done that and they have given their time. It shouldn’t be beyond anyone to give them some time back.”