National Guard work with veterans at the Michigan Veteran Homes

National Guard work with veterans at the Michigan Veteran Homes
U.S. Army Sgt. Kegan Crooks, of the Michigan Army National Guard, escorts a veteran member with the Michigan Veterans Home in Grand Rapids. Photo credit U.S. Air National Guard/Master Sgt. David Eichaker)

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the Michigan National Guard (MING) has served as a critical partner at the Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids (MVHGR). What started as helping with screening and testing has transformed to MING service members serving a critical role in providing support for resident members daily activities and life enrichment.

“The MING has been a huge help to our activity department,” said Rebecca Smit, activity manager for Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids. “COVID changed how we planned activities and the MING service members are helping get our residents back to the activities they enjoyed prior to COVID-19. They have been vital to getting everyone involved.”

Regardless of the task, MING service members have stepped up and provided professional and compassionate assistance to the veterans and their eligible dependents who reside at the Home.

“I have assisted with transporting members to and from activities and occasionally helped with activities as well,” said Sgt. Kegan Crooks, 1460th Transportation Company, Michigan Army National Guard. “It’s a rewarding experience to be able to be at the Home and support our veterans.”

Outside of spending time with the members in common areas, MING service members also assist with daily routines like joining members as they go out for walks or to tour the grounds. An essential component of MVH’s success rests in its ability to provide its members and families with exceptional quality of care and customer service. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the partnership with MING has helped ensure that.

“It is very clear that these service members are making sure to make a positive impact on our members and their quality of life. This critical considering all the changes to our “normal” routines we have experienced over the last 18 months,” said Smit.

Building trust and relationships has been beneficial to both the members and MING personnel.

“The MING service members who have served with us have been able to develop relationships and rapport with our members which has been so beneficial,” said Smit. “It’s taken a lot to get the members back out to do activities and for the members to have that relationship with these service members really helps to get them involved. There is a strong connection between our members and the MING because our members once served and that creates a unique bond to the service members who are currently serving.”

The members aren’t the only ones who feel that connection.

“I get to hear amazing stories of valor all the time from former military pilots,” said Crooks. “Being able to provide support for the members is the best part. It makes me feel great to know that I am able to serve our community of veterans that have sacrificed so much.”