Kaustav Bandyopadhyay just knew the next number was going to be I-22. He just knew it.
The postdoctoral fellow from India peered over the shoulder of an elderly gentleman sitting at a small round table and wearing a hat emblazoned with a Navy destroyer. They made eye contact, smiled at each other and Kaustav whispered: "We're just one number away. That's all we need."
The bingo announcer took another ball from the hopper. "N-36," he said. "N. Three. Six."
Kaustav threw up his hands in disgust and said, "Ah, man. We are so close!" The room filled with military veterans and Noble employees chuckled at the mock outburst but quickly quieted for the next number.
It's the day before Veterans Day. As chairs are arranged outside around the flagpole for tomorrow's memorial, a volunteer team from the Noble Research Institute has joined the men of the Ardmore Veterans Center for an afternoon of bingo and birthday cake.
Noble Research Institute employees visit with residents of the Ardmore Veterans Center as part of a Noble in the Community volunteer event.
The outing is part of "Noble in the Community," the organization's volunteer effort that draws together employees from across the organization to support various community causes. From manning the soup kitchen to cleaning up the local lake, the Noble faithful arrive like a swarm – all wearing their green "Team Noble" t-shirts – ready to serve.
"Of all our volunteer activities, this is my favorite," Kaustav said. "The first time I came, I talked for an hour with one guy who was in World War II. He was losing his memory. When I left, I was sad and almost decided I would not come back, but when the opportunity came up, I wanted to come again. I feel attached to these guys. It's hard to explain. It's just a feeling."
It's true. For many Noble employees, interacting with these soldiers, seeing their faded tattoos and hearing their faded memories, that feeling was difficult to draw out and fit with words. Awe. Sadness. Respect.
The Ardmore Veterans Center houses men from each of the United States' major conflicts (dating back to World War II) who still proudly wear their service hats and vests; reminders of wars they can never forget. Their hands tremble, and their bodies are broken. The proud strides of their youth have been replaced with shuffling steps. War is won by the young, but the cost is not fully realized until much later.
Noble's Landscape/Environmental Services Manager Terry Martin stood to the side, observing the entire scene before uttering just one word, "Humbling."
The Noble employees came to simply show kindness, but many left receiving more than they could ever possibly give.
R.A. Lindsay sat in his wheelchair grinning like a man with a million dollar secret, soaking in the revelry and laughing with newfound friends. The 91-year-old veteran of World War II toured the South Pacific as a young man. His ship was the second one to hit the beach during the reclamation of the Philippines from Japan.
He regaled a small audience with his personal slice of history, narrating the operation with calm words, teaching his pupils about events they have only viewed through glamorized Hollywood recreations.
Listening nearby was Dr. Elison Blancaflor, a Noble Research Institute principal investigator who is originally from the Philippines. After Lindsay concluded, Blancaflor leaned over and – in a whisper – said, "Thank you."
Separated by generations. Sometimes hailing from cultures that were once bitter enemies. These two groups, whose lives would have never intersected otherwise, shared stories, found common ground and became friends.
"I'm so proud of what all these guys have done for this country," Kaustav said. "It doesn't matter that it's not my country. What they did, their sacrifice, is universal."