News>Taking Time to Honor Those Who Have Gone Before Us
Mr. Paul Smith, WWII & Korean War veteran, shares stories with Senior Master Sgt. Bryan Lee, Tech. Sgt. Scott Russell, and family members at the Baldomero Lopez State Veteran's Nursing Home (U.S. Air Force Photo/Capt. Shane Huff)
by Capt. Shane Huff
927 Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Office
9/15/2009 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Colonel Kenneth D. Lewis, Jr., 927th Air Refueling Wing Commander, and Colonel Theodore S. Mathews Jr., Vice Wing Commander, led a group of thirteen Air Force reservists to visit the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans' Nursing Home Tuesday. The group was comprised of members representing the operations, maintenance, medical, and mission support groups of the 927th. The intention of the visit was to meet local veterans and thank them in person for their years of service in defending our country.
Located in Land O' Lakes, the nursing home is a 120 bed facility providing skilled care for it's residents, including those who suffer from dementia.
The home opened in 1999 and has received the prestigious Gold Seal for excellence in nursing home care in 2005. According to Ms. Susan Poynter, Activities Director, there are seven state veterans' nursing homes and in her opinion the Baldomero Lopez home is the best. "Our veterans receive the best care and are happy here," says Poynter. This was evidenced as many of the veterans appeared to be comfortable and were in good spirits. Mr. Herman Theroux joked about getting sick, and then receiving a "draft" referring to his time of service in the Army. Theroux served as an airborne ranger in both the 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne divisions during WWII. He is now confined to a wheelchair but continues to enjoy life as he makes others around him smile with his lively personality and sense of humor.
It was a great day of sharing stories between the armed forces troops of "yesterday" and "today". Mrs. Marie Smith, whose husband Paul lives full time in the home, shared about how much of a blessing the home had been to her and her family. "Everyone here from the nurses, kitchen staff, receptionists, and cleaning personnel are absolutely wonderful," said Smith, "This place has been a true Godsend." Marie was visiting her husband Paul, who suffers from memory loss, along with friends from her church. "My husband and I met at Dover Air Force Base at a USO dance on St. Patrick's Day in 1945, we married three months later on 30 June." Paul shook the hands of the visiting airmen and told of his adventures flying on a C-141 aircraft. He served in the Air Force during WWII and the Korean war. When thanked for his service, Paul's eyes swelled with tears and his wife Marie said, "That was such a long time ago." Both Paul and Marie retired from civil service working for the Air Force.
Mr. Aaron Kraselsky of Albany, Ga. said, "I will be 97 years old soon, and I still have all of my marbles." Born in 1913 in rural Alabama, Kraselsky told of how his father left the Russian Army in 1884 to flee to America. The youngest and sole survivor of five children, he had a very keen memory and shared about his experiences during WWII. "I joined the Navy two months before Pearl Harbor. I was involved in mine warfare with the 13th Naval District," said Kraselsky. "We were stationed in the Aleutian Islands in the North Pacific for three years and saw the most severe weather conditions." Kraselsky told of how they experienced 120mph winds and unbelievable snow storms. "I saw a hut full of men actually lift up in the air and land many feet away." Kraselsky left the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer after his service during WWII.
The visiting airmen were invited to stay and have lunch with the veterans and family members. During lunch Mr. John Mitchell, who had spent four years in the Navy as a signals analyst and who now works for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, introduced and thanked the 927th for visiting. Mitchell was instrumental in lobbying for the home to be built in Pasco county. Colonel Lewis shared words of thanks on behalf of the men and women of the 927th for allowing the visit and gave special thanks to those present who had spent their time in service to their nation. A standing ovation was given by those in uniform in recognition of the veterans.
Ms. Sharon Richmond is a volunteer for "Operation Patriot, Inc.", a non-profit organization whose focus is to provide a better quality of life for retired veterans in local nursing homes. "There are no words to express how grateful we are that your group came to visit Lopez today. I have never seen some of the residents so talkative and responsive," said Richmond. "They wanted to know when "the soldiers" were coming back, you all were truly a blessing to so many today." According to Richmond the veterans only receive $35 a month for personal care products. "Operation Patriot not raises money, 100% of which goes towards supporting the veterans, to provide personal care needs. They also provide televisions, computers, Nintendo Wii systems, and sponsor barbecues, luncheons, and holiday parties for the veterans. To find out more information visit their website at www.operationpatriot.net