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CSAF urges visits to hospitalized veterans

by Master Sgt. Scott Elliott
Air Force Print News

WASHINGTON - The Air Force chief of staff is urging airmen to share personal Valentine's Day wishes with hospitalized veterans.

"I strongly encourage airmen across the country to spend a few minutes visiting with our hospitalized veterans during Valentine's week," Gen. John P. Jumper said. "One of the most memorable, meaningful and fulfilling experiences you'll ever have is to meet (veterans) and hear their personal stories."

Airmen of all ranks at bases in the United States are participating Feb. 9 to 15 in the National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans by visiting their local Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and other veterans' facilities.

More than 50 MacDill members visited the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital Wednesday delivering valentines to patients there. "It was a moving experience," said Airman 1st Class Vic Brown, 6th Operations Support Squadron. "You could tell they really appreciated us being there. They were very happy to see us."

Airman 1st Class Dana Whaley, 6th Medical Group, said it was an interesting trip.

"I enjoyed going to the veterans hospital and having the opportunity to talk with some veterans," she said. "They all had stories to tell."

"Our great nation is richly blessed with ordinary citizens who, without asking, became heroes because they were willing to make a personal sacrifice to protect and defend the freedoms and security we enjoy today," Jumper said.

"This is an endearing and heartfelt way to say 'we care' and 'thank you' to those hospitalized veterans who have served and sacrificed to keep our nation free."

About 50 airmen, including members of the Air Force Band, traveled to the Baltimore VA Medical Center on Feb. 10, said Wendy Varhegyi, chief of community relations at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C.

"I think it's a wonderful way to reach out to our veterans," she said.

National Salute Week is planned each year to coincide with Valentine's Day because of that date's tradition of sharing and caring, Varhegyi said. However, honoring the nation's vets should not be confined to just certain days.

"We hope that scheduled events such as this will jump-start people to volunteer in our veterans' facilities throughout the year."

Participation is simple, Varhegyi said. "All that is required is the willingness to share a little time. "Visits to veterans' facilities usually involve simply talking with them and shaking their hands. It's about spending a few minutes with each veteran, sharing some kind words and, with this event, delivering balloons and Valentine cards.

Varhegyi said the veterans appreciate seeing military members in uniform and love to share stories with those who can relate and understand what they have sacrificed. The chief of staff agreed.

"This will be time well spent and deeply appreciated by our veterans and their families," Jumper said. For more information, contact local base public affairs offices or Veterans Affairs facilities.




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