By Hans Petersen
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
This week is the 40th annual observance of VA’s National Salute to Veteran Patients, an opportunity to pay tribute to America’s heroes – the men and women we proudly care for and serve. VA facilities across the nation are honoring these men and women, who have given selflessly to protect the freedoms we hold dear, by reflecting on our obligation to serve those who have served us.
Each of us who are privileged to live in this nation has a special place in our hearts for these defenders of freedom. That is why VA takes time during the week of Valentine’s Day to encourage our community to express affection and respect for those we admire.
During National Salute Week, many American citizens visit Veterans to thank them for what they have done for our country in the past and support them in the challenges they face today. They come face-to-face with the cost of our freedom and see for themselves that freedom is not free. It is earned with their valor, commitment and undying patriotism, which is worthy of our time, energy and appreciation.
Everyone has the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of Veterans receiving care at VA facilities and in the community. Hundreds of thousands of Valentines cards and letters from people of all ages are pouring into VA hospitals addressed “Dear Veteran.”
Celebrities and civic officials at national and local levels are visiting VA hospitals and Veterans community living facilities. Civic leaders and community groups are also showing their support.
Many VA Medical Centers around the country have concerts to celebrate Salute Week. Singer Tracy Lawrence will perform at the Poplar Bluff VA. The Manhattan Dolls will entertain Veterans at the Tucson VA. The Richmond VA has a musical performance scheduled every day this week.
Personal contributions of time and care are the National Salute’s hallmark and the foundation of VA Voluntary Service (VAVS). VA volunteers epitomize the one-to-one sharing and caring that is a core value of our Nation. Last year, over 76,000 VA volunteers gladly gave more than 11 million hours of service to Veterans.
Everyone has the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of Veterans.
The human connection is essential to providing great clinical care. Without volunteers, the quality of our services and programs would be lessened.
Our volunteers do what it takes to make their heroes feel at home. They read to patients, provide recreation transportation, entertainment and training. They offer respite for caregivers, coaching, friendship, or sometimes the value of a volunteer is as simple as the offer of a sympathetic ear.
This personal dimension of kindness and concern goes to the heart of VA health care. We are blessed to have volunteers who make life better for those who gave selflessly of themselves.
As we treat increasing numbers of Veterans at VA, our reliance on community support and involvement continues to grow.
Actor Lou Diamond Phillips, a dedicated Veterans’ advocate, is VA’s 2017 National Salute Chairman. In 1993, he was the recipient of the Oxfam America Award for his dedication to ending world hunger.
The VAVS program is a key link between Veterans who seek care with VA and their communities. It is an avenue through which every citizen and organization can show our Veterans, young and old, that America cares and remembers.
You can volunteer to show your support and commitment to the men and women who preserved our freedom yesterday and serve freedom’s cause today. It is through the sincere dedication of volunteers and trusted partnerships that allow us to live up to the VHA mission of “Honoring Service and Empowering Health” of Veteran patients nationwide.