Thanking the elderly

Members of the 791st Missile Security Forces Squadron at Minot Air Force Base spent some time serving ice cream and visiting with residents at Trinity Homes Saturday afternoon during an ice cream social.

Two volunteer organizations at Minot AFB, the Dark Horse Association and Friends of Veterans, teamed up to put on the event.

Staff Sgt. Derek Jones is president of the Dark Horse Association, which is made up of members of the 791st. Jones humorously likened the Dark Horse Association to a homeowners association, stating that once someone moves to the 791st, they are automatically members.

“Basically what we try to do is go out and do things in the community, things like this (ice cream social). We also help with the (Norsk) Hostfest, the State Fair, we normally do the ushering and the security for the State Fair,” Jones said. “What we want to do is basically try to keep up the morale of the airmen while helping the community at the same time.”

Jones said Friends of Veterans comes to Trinity Homes quite often to visit with the veterans and spouses of veterans who reside there. He said the Dark Horse Association was asked to fund the event, which they were more than happy to do. The idea to make the event food-related was a no-brainer, according to Jones.

“Food brings everyone together, right? So why not do some kind of food?” Jones said.

Ice cream was chosen because it’s inexpensive and most of the residents would be able to enjoy it without having to worry about any health-related issues.

“We wanted to do something that most people can enjoy,” Jones said.

Senior Airman Andrew Magathan, president of Friends of Veterans, said the group was formed about two years ago because there was a real need for companionship by the veteran population in Minot.

“A lot of these people don’t have families or people to come visit them, and military can understand military, what they went through and what they dealt with,” Magathan said. “If they want to talk about their war experiences or what they did in the military, we’re here for that. But we’re mostly here just if they want somebody to talk to. Some of them don’t have families, so we just come visit them and give them somebody to talk to.”

Saturday was Armed Forces Day, and it also happened to fall during Nursing Home Week. Magathan said this gave them the perfect opportunity to throw a party for the veterans and residents at Trinity Homes. Although they have visited Trinity Homes numerous times in the past, Magathan said this is the first ice cream social they have ever put on.

In a unique twist on the classic bowl of ice cream, they cut ice cream sandwiches in half and put them in the bowl before adding the toppings to make a sort of super ice cream sandwich. It seemed to be a hit with the residents, who enjoyed the unique treat quite a bit.

Forty airmen from Minot AFB came for the event, and 35 veterans from all service branches were among the Trinity Homes residents.

Magathan said talking to the veterans is as much a thrill for the young airmen as it is for the residents, who seem to have an endless supply of stories from the past to share.

“It warms your heart every time. Some of these guys have amazing stories. When I first started the program there was a veteran, he had actually been shot down twice as a fighter pilot,” Magathan said. “The first time he wasn’t captured, and the second time he was. So it was an amazing (story).”

For the residents who couldn’t make it down for the event, Magathan said, they would be bringing the ice cream to them in their rooms. No one would be left out.

The ice cream social is only one of many things Friends of Veterans has done since forming. Magathan said they do the Veterans Day program at Trinity Homes with the Ladies Auxiliary and have also passed out blankets to veterans.

“We try and come here in force, and we like the people of Minot to actually see what we’re doing,” Magathan said. “Because what we’re doing is something great.”

Master Sgt. James Morgan, who is the First Sergeant of the 791st, said while most of the airmen at the event were quite young, Magathan wanted a few old-timers around to help.

“He wanted us here to kind of bridge the gap between the Air Force of today and the folks who served previously,” Morgan said, noting it’s just phenomenal for the young airmen to be able to speak with the veterans about all the history they have witnessed.

Donna Gunderson, a resident of Trinity Homes, isn’t a veteran, but said her husband served many years ago. She said she’s appreciative that airmen would take the time to visit with residents of Trinity Homes. In fact, being able to speak with the airmen was Gunderson’s favorite part of the day.

“It’s nice,” Gunderson said.

Betty Graham doesn’t have any family in the area and enjoyed the ice cream social tremendously.

“This is kind of nice,” Graham said.

Although she didn’t serve in the military, Graham couldn’t say enough positive things about the members of Minot AFB who volunteered their time for the event.

“I like when these young people do something with themselves. That’s what I like,” Graham said. “I like when these young people work. This is wonderful.”

She also noted how friendly everyone who came was, which made the day even better for her.

“It’s just like a family,” Graham said.

Airman First Class Zach Walker said being able to interact with the people who served before him is a big deal to all the airmen there. In addition, he said helping to take care of veterans is a source of pride for everyone currently in the military.

“I like getting out and volunteering, as does the rest of the security forces,” Walker said. “The whole Air Force is big on volunteer time.”

Walker said hearing the veterans’ stories and getting the opportunity to brighten their day are his favorite parts of events like the ice cream social.

“It’s good to be able to give back to the community and show that we actually care,” Walker said.

Lois Zahn, volunteer coordinator for Trinity Homes, said she was thankful to the Friends of Veterans for helping to put on the ice cream social, as well as the other special events they hold throughout the year at Trinity Homes.

She said it means a lot to all the residents to have so many young people come out and spend time with them.

“Especially our 35 veterans that we have here, and the one-to-one visits are very appreciated,” Zahn said. “We like to honor our veterans. They’re very important to us.