On Aug. 27, the normal bustling activity at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center came to a temporary standstill as the sound of military cadence approached the main entrance. A group of U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer selectees and their Chief Petty Officer mentors marched in formation while singing the Navy’s march song “Anchors Aweigh.”
A U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer selectee assigned to Strategic Communications Wing One at Tinker Air Force Base visits with World War II Veteran Vance Brinsfield who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
The Sailors, who are assigned to Strategic Communications Wing One at Tinker Air Force Base, visited the medical center to pay tribute to Veterans who went before them. They visited 4 East and West and Inpatient Rehabilitation, and sang several songs on both floors and inside the hospital atrium.
For several Veterans, the naval visit took them back to their own days of service.
“I was moved by it,” said Navy Veteran Gary Gardner, who served from 1957-1961 and is currently undergoing treatment in Inpatient Rehab. “It brought me to tears, because it brought back so many memories.”
While talking with the Veterans, several mentioned the immense pride they had for the Sailors who took the time to visit them.
“I remember when I was their age back in the 60s,” said Navy Veteran Don Fowler, who served from 1969 to 1971 and is also undergoing treatment in Inpatient Rehab. “They represented the Navy proudly today.”
The Sailors are spending several days at Camp Gruber while repairing the USS Batfish, which is located at Muskogee War Memorial Park. The famous submarine sank three Imperial Japanese Navy submarines in February 1945 and was damaged by historic flooding in May 2019.
History and heritage training
Marine Veteran John McMahan tears up after receiving a Navy coin from Chief Petty Officer selectees.
The Navy is also conducting a Chief Petty Officer Legacy Academy at the Muskogee War Memorial Park, which gives the Chief selectees an opportunity to spend time aboard a historical naval vessel and help prepare them to become Chief Petty Officers.
“We’re doing professional development training, history and heritage training, which is why we use the Batfish,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Brock Corcoran, one of several mentors to Chief selectees in Strategic Communications Wing One.
During their visit to the medical center, it’s uncertain who got more out of the day – the Veterans recovering during a hospital stay or the group of Sailors who listened to stories from the past and received leadership advice from the Veterans.
“They have paved the way for us to be here today, to serve our country and to be able to maintain the strongest Navy in the world,” said Corcoran. “It was just a pleasure to come and visit the Veterans here at the hospital.”
Story by Nate Schaeffer, Public Affairs Specialist and photos by Tiffani Matthews, Public Affairs Intern