TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE Fla --
In time-transcending tradition, the unyielding bond of past and present military service remained unbroken as residents of the Clifford Chester Sims State Veterans Nursing Home gathered with members of Air Forces Northern’s Communications & Information Directorate (A6) for a blend of food and fellowship during a luncheon at American Legion Post 392 in Panama City Thursday afternoon.
Event coordinator and Legion member David Shaw, A6 operations, said Thursday’s informal luncheon was the second time he’s worked with Post 392 to host the veterans and credited the post’s staff and volunteers for helping make it happen.
“It was a huge success,” Shaw said. “The camaraderie and fellowship shared between the members of A6 and the Chester Simms Veterans home members was amazing. Good food, and stories were plentiful, and the smiles on everyone's face told the story.”
Sarah Ward, Sims activities coordinator and therapy aid, said the residents really enjoy the opportunity to participate in these outings, especially when other veterans are involved.
“They really appreciate the expressions of gratitude they receive from the community and also the camaraderie they experience with the other veterans. It’s an instant connection of understanding.”
Col. Robert Burris, A6 Director, agreed.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with veterans from years past and thank them for their service,” he said. “I think we get more out of it than they do. Freedom isn’t free and you can see that in their eyes as we talk and recognize their service and sacrifice. That’s what this is really all about.”
Several of the Sims residents commented on the camaraderie as well, especially the chance to get out and socialize with present-day veterans. One was Sims resident Maxine Mann, who served in Pensacola, Florida during World War II in the “Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service” corps, also known as WAVES.
“I love it,” she said. “Everyone is so friendly and it’s nice getting out and talking with them, finding out all about everything women can do in the military today,” she said.
For Capt. Courtney Swaney, A6 Chief, Cyber Operations, it was a chance to reflect on some personal family experiences.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my experience,” Swaney said. “My grandfather was a World War II veteran, my grandmother worked for 20 years in the civil service, and we had always been very close. It was good to revive that kind of relationship, even if it was just for a few stories over lunch. I think it's very important for service members of the present to reach out to the ones that paved the way for us, and this was just one small way we could give back.”