MADISON, Wis. (NNS) -- University of Wisconsin-Madison Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) midshipmen participated in Earth Day landscaping and visiting with inpatient and outpatient veterans at the William S. Middleton Veterans Hospital, April 22.
"As our primary community service to veterans this academic year, the battalion is honored to have been given this opportunity to spend some time with those who have served this great nation before us," said Navy Capt. Christopher Murdoch, professor of Naval Science and the commanding officer of the NROTC unit. "To see the midshipmen of the battalion, who have pledged to serve in the coming years, interact with those who served in the past, has been very rewarding. This honoring of - and interaction with - our legacy is truly an example of some of the great, deep reasons why military service continues to resonate among the best of our young men and women."
The director of the hospital, John Rohrer, called the event a community engagement opportunity.
"We are actively working on community engagement opportunities and when Captain Murdoch approached us about the Naval ROTC interest in working with veterans, we were immediately interested," Rohrer said.
The more than 60 midshipmen and three staff members started the day visiting with more than 30 veterans in their hospital rooms. They also spent time in the community living center eating lunch and listening to the veteran's stories of their time in the military, many who served during the Vietnam War.
"I think it's a link of bringing together the past, present and future of why visits like these are important," said Navy veteran Denny Marx, who serves as a volunteer at the hospital.
"Every vet has a story. Some of their stories are just incredible and hopefully, the midshipmen will be able to learn and remember these stories and the sacrifices the vets made to their country and take the stories with them as they enter the fleet to make their own stories."
Army veteran Joe Hodgson, a Specialist 4 (Spec 4) and radio operator in Germany from 1962-1964, and another volunteer at the hospital said many of the veterans really open up to visitors like the midshipmen.
It's amazing how much they end up telling visitors like the midshipmen about what they did or where they were stationed," said Hodgson. "Sometimes it's the first time they ever spoke about that part of their lives and sometimes their own families don't know."
Marx, who served in the Navy from 1967-1971 as a Personnelman 2nd Class, said the visit by the UW-Madison NROTC unit was a wonderful opportunity for both the midshipmen and the vets.
"The vets see what the future is and the midshipmen are able to see the traditions and pride of service of those who came before them," Marx said.
Following their visits with the veterans, the midshipmen went outside to do some landscaping on the grounds around the hospital. They spent a few hours spreading out mulch around plants and trees outside the main entrance of the hospital and other areas.
"Obviously we are spreading some mulch to celebrate Earth Day, but our main reason for being here is to spend time with the veterans and just listen to their stories," said Midshipman 1st Class Justin Silvis, 22, from McFarland, Wisconsin, the unit battalion commander and Marine-option midshipman.
"It's important for the unit to participate in something like this because it gives us a chance to give back and thank the veterans that have come before us. It also gives all of us insight in what we could expect when we get out in the fleet."
Other midshipmen agreed with their unit leader and thought it was amazing to be able to sit and talk to the vets.
"Just being able to share in their legacy and see what we are going to be part of is important," said Midshipman 1st Class Dominique Bowers, 21, from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, who hopes to be a submariner. "Being here gives us a chance to see what we may be doing in the future and continue on their legacy."
Midshipman 4th Class Nicholas Iacovo, 19, from Scottsdale, Arizona, and someone just beginning his NROTC and college experience said he was excited being involved in the event.
"Hearing their stories I learned so much about history. Some of the vets had a much different sense of preparedness during the Vietnam War or the Cold War. It's so important that we remember what they did as we go forward in our military careers," Iacovo said.
Rohrer added by providing an opportunity for the midshipmen to have lunch with "our veteran-patients and work with us on a spring clean-up of our grounds, we have successfully mixed the personal with the practical and developed a great sharing and service opportunity for the midshipmen that will also greatly benefit our patients," Rohrer said.
"Moving forward, we would like to build on this and identify more opportunities with community partners that support our Veterans and our hospital. We are so thankful to Captain Murdoch and the Naval ROTC midshipmen for their interest and efforts on behalf of Veterans."
The NROTC program develops midshipmen mentally, morally and physically, to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, loyalty and Navy core values. The program provides college graduates an opportunity to commission as naval officers who possess a basic professional background, are motivated toward careers in the naval service, and have potential for future development in mind and character, so as to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.
Rear Adm. Stephen C. Evans, commander, Naval Service Training Command (NROTC) and his NSTC staff, headquartered at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, oversee 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy, as well as the Navy's Citizenship Development Program. NSTC includes Recruit Training Command (RTC) at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, NROTC units at more than 160 colleges and universities, Officer Training Command Newport (OTCN) at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, and Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) and Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) citizenship development programs at more than 600 high schools worldwide.
For more information about NROTC, visit https://www.nrotc.navy.mil/.
For more information about NSTC, visit http://www.netc.navy.mil/nstc/ or visit the NSTC Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/NavalServiceTraining/.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from Naval Service Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/greatlakes/.