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May 27, 2014

Aging veterans honored by NJROTC

Last year at the Veteran’s Day service in Washington the speaker challenged those in attendance to visit veterans who were unable to attend the service because they are in nursing homes. Members of the Washington Junior Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program took that challenge to heart and added a little more in the days leading up to this Memorial Day. “We started a visit a vet project,” said NJROTC instructor Captain (USN Retired) Neil May. “Our cadets visited veterans in every nursing home in the community. “We would hold a ceremony, shake their hands, present them with a medal of appreciation and just say thank you.”

The trips into the nursing homes and the veterans touched the cadets. “It was neat the way the nursing homes took part,” said May. “They were always ready for us and made a big deal of the ceremony. There are a lot of World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam veterans in the nursing homes.”

The veterans who were the subject of the visits also were affected. “Some openly weeped in appreciation,” said May. “Some of them kicked back into their military bearing. They straightened up and threw their shoulders back like they would have 40 or 50 years ago.”

Once the ceremonies were over the cadets also took some time to talk with the old soldiers. “They would sit and tell their stories,” said May. “It just transcended onto the kids. All the memories they had and they shared them. The cadets are teenagers and they warmed to them. They found out they really care and gained a compassion I think a lot of them didn’t know they had. They struck up friendships and really got to know the veterans. A lot of these kids come from families with a military tradition in their own families and they just connected well with the veterans.”

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