Kissimmee veterans share camaraderie, love for special park

Good Samaritan Society keeps a place to honor servicemembers past and present

Four older adults stand in the arched entryway of Veteran's Memorial Park, flanked by palm trees, a waterfront and blue skies.

Leave a place better than you found it, Chris Biernaski says.

“All this that you see is, for the most part, is donations from either residents or veterans,” says Biernaski, a Navy veteran and Society resident, as he walks through the veteran’s park at Good Samaritan Society – Kissimmee Village in Florida.

Embedded in the campus of Good Samaritan Society – Kissimmee Village in Florida is a special park built and cared for by veterans who live here. This sacred memorial got its start in 1986.

“I love it,” Army veteran and resident Patsi Bayne says.

When Bayne marches through, she feels “fuzzy. I get fuzzy feelings all the time when I’m happy.”

Honoring servicemembers going back to World War I, this space, filled with amenities, stays very active.

“I get a lot of pride out of that,” Korean War veteran and resident Paul Rankin says.

Veteran’s association at ‘biggest point’ since starting

50 residents make up the campus veteran’s association.

“This is my favorite group of people, my veterans. I love them. They’re my family,” Army veteran and resident Elizabeth Sifuentes says.

Biernaski, the association’s chairman, is a former Navy disbursing officer on the USS Kitty Hawk.

“On a 5,000-man ship, I was No. 1,” Biernaski jokes. “No. 2 was the cooks and they were right behind me.”

Biernaski is turning the Kissimmee Village veteran’s association into a force to be reckoned with, a force for good.

“It’s at the biggest point it’s been since it started,” Biernaski says. “We’re going to expand it. We can’t sit here and say, ‘Hello, here’s veteran’s park. Here’s our organization. Nothing is happening.’”

Adding a Vietnam War memorial

Plans are in the works to update Challenger Grove and design a Vietnam War Memorial.

“In Vietnam, I was door gunner on a helicopter,” Army veteran and resident Craig Davidson says. “It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for my left arm and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”

Davidson is all for recognizing his fellow vets, despite the pain.

“I won’t go to the wall (in Washington D.C.). I’m sorry. I got too many buddies there. I got too many,” Davidson says with tears in his eyes.

Fortunately, he has a lot of new buddies here.

“We understand. We have that certain type of spirit that’s unique and refreshing. There’s a lot of caring and love amongst us,” Elizabeth says.

That camaraderie is making Davidson feel right at home.

“Just a big happy family here,” Davidson says.

A family showing others how to treat veterans and build community.

“It makes us realize that we are recognized, and we have been an important part of the country’s history,” Rankin says. “It feels good to be appreciated for what you did even though it was 60 years ago.”

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Posted In Senior Services, Veterans

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