SEC team visits veterans at Perry Point VA Medical Center

(From left) Members of the CECOM SEC ARAT-PO team Joe Skarbowski, Jennifer Brooke, VA volunteer guide “Colleen,” and Rick Hines were instrumental in helping with the distribution of donated personal items for U.S. military veterans at the VA Medical Center in Perry Point, Maryland. | U.S. Army photo

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – On any given day, members of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command Software Engineering Center (SEC) Army Reprogramming Analysis Team-Program Office (ARAT-PO) at APG can be found engaged in their mission of developing and distributing software used by globally-deployed Soldiers to defeat threats in their operational environment. Not just a software engineering organization, the SEC ARAT-PO provides a threat analysis, software development and testing, and product distribution capability relatively unique in the Army.

On one recent day, however, a team of SEC ARAT-PO personnel went above and beyond its mission-directed activities. Lending a helping hand to those in need, the team launched a toiletries and activities donation drive to benefit Perry Point VA Medical Center in Perry Point, Maryland.

According to Jennifer Brooke, SEC ARAT-PO program assistant, the donations represented nearly a month-long collection effort aimed toward giving a little something back to veterans who have given so much in service of their nation.

“We collected five boxes of hygiene products, stationary, and art and activity sets,” Brooke said. “Even after our initial cutoff date, donations continued to flow in — giving us close to 400 items for personal use by veterans under long term care at Perry Point.”

An array of items collected by the CECOM SEC ARAT-PO, and delivered to U.S. veterans at the VA Medical Center in Perry Point, Maryland. | U.S. Army photo
An array of items collected by the CECOM SEC ARAT-PO, and delivered to U.S. veterans at the VA Medical Center in Perry Point, Maryland. | U.S. Army photo

Joining Brooke on the visit were colleagues Joe Skarbowski and Rick Hines. Escorts and hosts for the visiting CECOM crew were “Colleen,” and Joyce Kuwae, a voluntary service specialist, at the medical center.

Housed on an estimated 400 acres of land on the banks of the Susquehanna River, the Perry Point facility once functioned as a general hospital that provided care for patients with various disabilities.

According to a Maryland VA website, Perry Point was turned over to the U.S. Public Health Service on March 3, 1919 for the hospitalization of War Risk beneficiaries and as a storage depot for surplus hospital supplies for the Army. The first hospital building, a two-story structure located in the village, was converted to accommodate 75 patients.

The website further points out that today, the medical center offers an extensive range of inpatient, outpatient and primary care services. Said to be the largest inpatient facility in the VA Maryland Health Care System, it also provides inpatient medical, intermediate and long-term care programs, including nursing home care, rehabilitation services, geriatric evaluation and management, respite care, chronic ventilator care and hospice care.

With care at the center of its existence, the unbridled act of kindness by the CECOM SEC ARAT-PO team, only adds to the facility’s longstanding practice of proudly serving others. “While at the center, we visited each room at the facility,” Brooke said. “Were able to talk with many veterans as we handed out the items we had collected.”

According to Brooke, the visit to the Perry Point facility allowed the SEC ARAT-PO team to meet veterans of every branch of service, and of all ranks.

“We even met a man who has three Purple Hearts for his service in Italy during World War II. Every person that we met was truly thankful and appreciative of what we were doing. It was a humbling experience for me that these brave men were thanking us—while all we wanted to do was thank them,” she said.

“Near the end of the visit, we met another gentleman in the dining area. After shaking his hand and thanking him for his service, he told us that he would do it all over again because he loves his country. For me, this man truly embraced and lived the Army Values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless-Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.”

The visit winding down, donated items that were not distributed were stored for later use by nurses, or taken to their occupational therapy room. By all accounts, the drive was indeed a great success.

While the visit to the Perry Point Medical Center was a first for the SEC ARAT-PO team, drive organizers say that it is not likely to be their last.

“We’re hoping to make this an annual event,” Brooke said.

Story by Mary B. Grimes, CECOM