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Wright-Patt volunteers deliver Valentines to veterans

Airman 1st Class Lillian March (left), 88th Comptroller Squadron travel technician, Airman 1st Class Brittany Horton (middle), 88th Comptroller Squadron customer service technician, and Airman 1st Class Nicholas Bradley (right), 88th Comptroller Squadron financial services supervisor speaks with Dennis Hodson, Army veteran and patient at the VA Medical Center, Feb. 14.  The VA medical center hosted the Valentine’s for Vets event to honor veterans and increase community awareness of the VA’s role in providing comprehensive medical care to the nation’s Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michelle Gigante)

Airman 1st Class Lillian March (left), 88th Comptroller Squadron travel technician, Airman 1st Class Brittany Horton (middle), 88th Comptroller Squadron customer service technician, and Airman 1st Class Nicholas Bradley (right), 88th Comptroller Squadron financial services supervisor speaks with Dennis Hodson, Army veteran and patient at the VA Medical Center, Feb. 14. The VA medical center hosted the Valentine’s for Vets event to honor veterans and increase community awareness of the VA’s role in providing comprehensive medical care to the nation’s Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michelle Gigante)

Chief Master Sgt. Michael Marshall (left), 88th Air Base Wing band manager, and Col. Elena Oberg, 88th Air Base Wing vice commander, chat with Juan Veloz, Marine Corps veteran and patient at Dayton Veteran Affairs Medical Center, Feb. 14. All VA medical facilities, VA outpatient clinics, and state veterans homes observe annually the National Salute to Veterans the week of Valentine’s Day, a day of expressing appreciation to veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michelle Gigante)

Chief Master Sgt. Michael Marshall (left), 88th Air Base Wing band manager, and Col. Elena Oberg, 88th Air Base Wing vice commander, chat with Juan Veloz, Marine Corps veteran and patient at Dayton Veteran Affairs Medical Center, Feb. 14. All VA medical facilities, VA outpatient clinics, and state veterans homes observe annually the National Salute to Veterans the week of Valentine’s Day, a day of expressing appreciation to veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michelle Gigante)

Chief Master Sgt. David Rice (right), 88th Comptroller Squadron manager, shakes hands with Wayne Weaver, Navy veteran and patient at the VA Medical Center, Feb. 14. Rice and Col. Elena Oberg, 88th Air Base Wing vice commander, gave Weaver a valentine’s gift bag during the VA’s Valentine’s for Veterans event as part as National Salute to Veterans week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michelle Gigante)

Chief Master Sgt. David Rice (right), 88th Comptroller Squadron manager, shakes hands with Wayne Weaver, Navy veteran and patient at the VA Medical Center, Feb. 14. Rice and Col. Elena Oberg, 88th Air Base Wing vice commander, gave Weaver a valentine’s gift bag during the VA’s Valentine’s for Veterans event as part as National Salute to Veterans week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michelle Gigante)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – More than 50 military and civilian volunteers visited the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center to pass out Valentine bags to veterans during the annual Valentines for Vets event Feb. 14.

Veteran patients in various clinics were greeted with warm smiles and handshakes as they received a bag full of “thank yous.”

The Valentine bags filled with cards and drawings were made by schools, churches, volunteer organizations, veteran groups and individuals to show their gratitude and support for what veterans have done for our country.

Some of the organizations that donated include the Empowering Children with Hope and Opportunity program, West Carrolton Middle School art students, University of Dayton’s Center for Catholic Education and other local schools from the area, according to Ryan Pleasants, the Voluntary Services chief with the Dayton VA Medical Center,

“It’s an honor to be able to show our support,” said Airman First Class Alexis West. “My grandfather served in the Vietnam War and I know he would be proud of me coming out here to let the veterans know we appreciate them.”

Patients from all branches of service were present. Most served in past wars such as World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“It’s an amazing experience listening to their stories,” said Col. Elena Oberg, vice commander for the 88th Air Base Wing. “It’s so intense to imagine all that they went through.”

Oberg listened intently as a Marine veteran explained that other patients may be suffering from dementia or memory loss but will always remember their military service because it stays deep within them.

One of the VA caregivers shared how patients might not remember their children’s birthdays but can clearly recall the tail number of the aircraft they flew in the Vietnam War and can point it out when they visit the Air Force museum.

The tradition occurred in conjunction with the 40th annual observance of the VA’s National Salute to Veteran Patients, an opportunity to pay tribute and express appreciation to American’s heroes, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

“Once I put out the call for volunteers the response was huge,” said Tech. Sgt. Deondra Parks, executive assistant to the 88th Air Base Wing Command Chief. “In no time all slots were filled and I had to start turning people away.”

Valentines for Vets began in 1989 when the late newspaper columnist, Ann Landers, encouraged her readers to create special valentines for veterans in care facilities throughout Canada and the United States. Every year, Landers' special "Valentines for Vets" column asked her readers to remember the sacrifices of their nations' veterans by making them personal hand-crafted valentines, according to a Veterans Affairs resource.