In the early 1940’s a young man named Arden set out from Iowa. While still just a kid, he became a tail gunner for the U.S. Army’s Air Forces in World War II. His plane was gunned down in battle. He was the only man in the plane to survive. When he came home to Iowa, his face was badly burned and scarred. After he recovered, he worked as a janitor. He raised four kids and sent them all to college. He could always be counted on, and he always showed up. His last name was Collison.
Two generations later, his grandson Nick Collison strode through the hallways of the Oklahoma City Veteran’s Hospital, visiting some of Arden’s generation, and those who have served the United States at home and abroad in the 87 years since the second great war came to an end.
On Tuesday, just three days after the United States celebrated Veteran’s Day, Collison spent time with the men and women in Oklahoma City who have served their country. As he met with the vets, Collison was reminded of his father’s father, who fought for freedom and good, and for the world we live in today.
“He was always a hero for us in our family. He was just a guy who showed up all the time,” Collison said. “It’s somebody that we’re very proud of.”
Watch: Collison Makes Special Visit to VA Hospital
It wasn’t just Collison who was reminded of family on Tuesday. As he stopped bedside on three different floors of the hospital, he and the patients chatted in rooms on a couple different floors before he stopped by the community living center. There he met Cindy Franks, a woman who served in the Army and has recently had some health troubles.
When Franks saw Collison, her first thought flashed to her own mother, who passed away just four years ago. Prior to that, Franks, her mother and two more generations would sit around the living room watching Thunder games, “talking them over and working out plays”. Collison was their favorite player, and as Franks put it, she was “tickled to death” to have the Thunder forward pay her a visit.
“It brought back so many happy memories to see Nick because he is the foundation, one of the pillars of the Thunder,” Franks said. “He stayed here in the state of Oklahoma helping these young men do their best every day. You can just watch them bloom and grow and become the Oklahomans that we all wished they would become.”
Franks is one of a group of veterans who will hopefully get to leave the hospital soon, and Collison’s visit may have provided the spring in the steps of many patients who needed a boost on Monday. While the connection to his grandfather’s service was on his mind, he recognized that those at the Veteran’s Hospital are some of the Thunder’s greatest supporters, and that their service for the United States should not go forgotten.
“I’m just here to help do my part and say thank you for all these people and their service, to try to do whatever it is that I can do. It’s the least I can do,” Collison explained. “We feel that way about our local community. We feel very lucky to play here. We get support from everywhere.”
“There are so many men and women that served,” Collison continued. “A lot of times they come home and they’re dealing with a lot of stuff. If there’s anything we can do, we’re happy to do it for sure.”
The Thunder makes sure to remember and honor servicemen and women from Oklahoma and around the globe at each game and through other off-court endeavors. That support, along with the services provided at the VA Hospital are what keeps many veterans going through difficult struggles. A nice visit from a good man with a personal connection to service may even get them feeling better on the double.
“It means a lot because as you get older, you ask yourself, “Why did I do that?” Franks recalled. “We have staff that try to make our days worth being around no matter what we face every day. Between their support and watching the Thunder, it’s made one happy woman out of me.”