PORT ORCHARD, Wash. – While restrictions begin to ease following the latest surge of the COVID-19 omicron variant, the Washington National Guard continues to support people in need.
A Washington National Guard team recently spent two weeks helping residents and staff at the Washington Veterans Home in Port Orchard, the Washington Soldiers Home in Orting, and the Spokane Veterans Home.
Washington National Guard members assisted veterans’ home employees by answering resident call lights and non-clinical requests, performing COVID screenings and many other duties.
Capt. Geneva Hoskins-Dorsey, the officer in charge at the Port Orchard facility and a nurse practitioner in the 194th Medical Group, has worked at several nursing homes throughout her medical career, but never at a facility run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“It’s just a different feeling here,” she said. “You can feel the camaraderie among the residents and the staff.”
Airman 1st Class Mckenzie Airhart spent most of his time at the VA home helping the human resources department file patient and employee records.
“Just the presence of the uniform and what that means really psyches up the residents, especially veterans,” Airhart said. “It makes them happy to see other people in uniform.”
Despite the generational gap between Hoskins-Dorsey and her team and the veteran service members who live there, she can’t help but feel a connection with them.
“We have a lot in common. These are vets who have served years and years before us, but we have had similar experiences. We’ve been to the same states, same bases,” she said.
Members of the Guard also support the Department of Corrections with similar tasks at several facilities across the state. The assistance comes after Guard members completed a mission to help eight hospitals with COVID testing, non-clinical support and administrative assistance.
The time spent at the VA home may have been relatively short compared to other recent missions, but this assignment has been meaningful for those who helped fulfill it.
“There’s a lot of commonalities that we can bond over, and I have bonded with a lot of the residents here,” Hoskins-Dorsey said. “It’s been an experience that I’ll never forget.”