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.