September 25, 2019
Long Island State Veterans Home
During a nice weekend drive from Indiana to New York, Francis gives me the perspective that I wish was more prevalent in this marvelous country – gratitude. He is so impressed with our country – the infrastructure, the people we meet, the beauty that we see. He comes from a country that has so little from an economic standpoint, but they have so much joy to share. My relationship and journey with Francis could fill its own book. Click here if you’d like to learn about our walk together – it’s one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I love Francis and the perspective he brings and I am delighted he’s joining me for the balance of the trip. I’m hoping to emulate the generosity of Front Porch with other communities partnering with him. And, most importantly, he laughs at virtually all of my jokes.
We have a weekend cruise and croon planned, and it’s pure Americana. What could be better spending a lazy afternoon in Long Island, taking two veterans from the Long Island State Veterans Home to a minor league baseball game? I love the Long Island home, they were the first veterans home outside of Colorado to embrace iN2L. Jonathan Speier and Fred Sganga have adopted me as their craziest vendor, like so many other folks along the 60/20 journey our relationship has morphed into a friendship.
I pull up around noon to great weather and a lot of vets interested in cruising and crooning, but no way to get them all in the van. So, we do an impromptu Star-Spangled Banner in front of the van with six vets all lined up, one of them playing the harmonica. These men are the salt of the earth; they fought our wars and many are struggling with a myriad of physical and cognitive issues. And they love keeping their spirit of camaraderie alive; it carries over from their days in the service and now it happens to manifest itself in a nursing home.
We take two vets out to cruise and croon along with the big man Fred Sganga (the ED) for a fascinating ride. Albert Anderson is a Vietnam vet and James Carbone from WWII. We have very candid conversations and the perspective of the two heroes could not have been more different. James is appreciative of the littlest sign of gratitude and feels a sense of honor about his days in the Pacific Theatre in WWII. Al is a great guy with a heart of gold you can see from a mile away, but he doesn’t shy away from his bitterness about how Vietnam vets were treated when they came back. It was sad, very sad. I asked him what someone like me could do to help him now and his response was ‘too little, too late.” Our conversation still lingers with me days later. I would hate to carry a burden like that for a lifetime.
On a lighter note, the minor league game was awesome. James talked about seeing Babe Ruth play. Trying to explain to someone from Cameroon how baseball works is a tough one, but the vets took it on!
It was a great, reflective day. For anyone reading this, if you want a sense of perspective, go hang out at the closest veterans nursing home in your own neck of the woods. Hopefully, after that visit, you’ll have as much pride in our country as my soul mate from Cameroon does.