SHGM Honors Veterans At Healing Garden Ceremony
Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial thanked the nation’s service members during a Veterans Day celebration at the Healing Garden.
Around three dozen attendees heard from Gerber Memorial employees who served on the frontlines about the values they learned – and how important it is for veterans facing challenges to reach out and seek help. More than 20 veterans currently work at Gerber Memorial; many of them...
...are also married to veterans or have family members who have served in the military.
“Veterans Day is a day of great pride for me and one that I will always hold close to my heart,” said Dave Mitchell, Gerber Memorial’s information services manager who was deployed to East Paktika province in Afghanistan as a combat engineer with the Michigan Army National Guard, clearing routes by removing improvised explosive devices. “I want to thank all my fellow veterans for their service to this great country and thank those soldiers that came before me and faced trials and tribulations that most of us will never know. Without the brave men and women that have fought before me, we would not be living in the greatest country in the world.”
Mary Johnson, Gerber Memorial nursing supervisor who served in the Army during Operation Desert Storm, said she “loved helmet hair and the smell of diesel in the morning.”
“It is an honor and a privilege to be there for my country,” said Johnson, who comes from a long line of service members.
Mitchell praised the values he learned in the Army: Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. He said those values form his core beliefs and he shares them with his children – and he’s constantly reminded of his commitment, thanks to the Army creed hanging next to his computer monitor in his office.
Mitchell and Johnson praised their families and the families of all service members for the support they provide and for standing, as Mitchell put it, “beside their soldier, airman, sailor, Marine and guard member, through good times and bad.”
Mitchell also praised Spectrum Health for providing extensive support to him and his family during his deployment and upon his return: “Spectrum Health is the gold standard for how it supports its military men and women,” including human resources support for him and his family as well as sending goods, reading materials and food to him while he was in Afghanistan.
Mitchell and Johnson both appealed to veterans who needed support upon returning to seek it, citing high rates of suicide, homelessness, alcohol abuse and other challenges. Mitchell recounted the depression that afflicted him when he returned from Afghanistan, and credited his family, resources from Spectrum Health and supportive colleagues who helped him transition back into civilian life and work.
“Unfortunately, not all returning soldiers have the support and help they need to transition back into civilian life,” Mitchell said. “I implore all veterans out there who are suffering from the scars that combat has left on them to please look for help. Swallow your pride, reach out to a fellow veteran for help, reach out to the VA (Veterans Administration), or just find a group of fellow veterans who have had experiences like yours to find fellowship with.”
Johnson, who is also a seven-year member of the Kent County Veterans Services Committee, echoed that call: “If veterans reach out to us, we can help. Veterans are very private. Those with post-traumatic syndrome don’t always want to talk. But we want them to know that there is help.”
Gerber Memorial President Randy Stasik said the hospital is honored to employ veterans, provide resources and support community efforts to help all veterans.
“We believe in providing for our veterans,” Stasik said, citing efforts at Gerber Memorial that included identifying veterans at registration sites throughout Gerber Memorial; signing a pledge to end homelessness among veterans in Newaygo County; and working with community partners to support veterans’ health – physically, emotionally and mentally.
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