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Cedar Crest 'Battle Buddies' forge connections between students, veterans

Written by Daniel Walmer/The Lebanon Daily News | Oct 18, 2018 7:08 PM
Battle Buddies club.jpg

Cedar Crest students and veterans join in a drum circle as part of the "Battle Buddies" program at the Lebanon VA Medical Center on Oct. 17, 2018. (Daniel Walmer/The Lebanon Daily News)

World War II Navy veteran Bernie Cordial enjoyed participating in a drum circle Wednesday at the Lebanon VA Medical Center. But most of all, he was thankful for the five Cedar Crest High School students who joined the drum circle as part of a monthly effort to befriend local veterans.

"I think this was the nicest thing," Cordial said. "I think they're wonderful."

More: Lebanon VA Medical Center improves to 5-star rating

The students are part of club called "Battle Buddies," started by senior Gabe Tobias, who is hoping to enlist in the Naval Academy or Coast Guard Academy. In summer 2017, he approached school counselor Stephen Thompson, who is an Army veteran, and they developed the idea.

"This is something we could do - start right away - and it would benefit a lot of people, not just the students in our school," Tobias said.

The club now has about 50 students with interest and about 15 active members who meet to plan monthly activities with veterans in coordination with VA employees. Other activities involving both students and veterans have included pumpkin painting and designing pinewood derby cars.

"They tell us all the time they appreciate us being there," Tobias said. "They like giving advice to us - what they think that we should do. It's nice for them to have us here, listening to them."

The program gets rave reviews from VA recreational therapist Sybil Stambaugh. She believes intergenerational friendships have become less common in recent years and thinks "Battle Buddies" is a step in the right direction.

"We can learn from each other," Stambaugh said.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Lebanon Daily News. 

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