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Veterans Health Administration

How to Celebrate the Holidays with Veterans

A senior Veteran stands between two army soldiers

Veteran Arthur Afdahl, 98, visits with two Ft. Stewart Soldiers.

Five men in army fatigues play brass instruments

Army brass quintet performed holiday favorites.

Women working around a long table in a gym

Volunteers stuffing stockings with Christmas goodies for the Veterans.

A police vehicle pulls a parade float

The Carl Vinson VA Medical Center float was first in the parade.

Great Random Acts of Southern Hospitality from the Good Folks in Dublin, Georgia

Although it wasn’t Santa’s sleigh, the hundreds of gift bags that filled a cart at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center were just as welcome. The bags were packed and ready to be handed out to more than 300 Veteran patients at the hospital.

Santa did make an appearance, but he had a little help distributing gifts from soldiers assigned to Ft. Stewart Army Base in Hinesville, Ga.

“We felt like this would be a great opportunity for us to share the Christmas spirit with our soldiers and Veterans, and just come out and let them know we appreciate them,” one of the soldiers said.

To show their appreciation, they carried in the gifts and personally thanked each veteran for their service. “It humbles you as a person that we have our Veterans here and that they appreciate us coming to see them,” another soldier said.

“Talking to our Veterans means so much more than a gift.”

The appreciation went both ways.

As one patient said, “We call it the brotherhood. We have something in common. It’s the fact that we’re there for each other in case we need each other.” Brotherhood is especially important because being in the hospital means some Veterans will not be able to spend Christmas with their own family this year.

And according to Frank Brooks, Chief of Voluntary Service, often the best gift the Veterans receive is the time of the volunteers. “Our volunteers not only hand out presents but always take a moment to just stop and visit. Visiting and talking to our Veterans means so much more than a gift.”

“These gifts are just for the Veterans.”

In early December, the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center hosted the VFW, VFW Ladies Auxiliary, Daughters of the American Revolution and other Veterans organizations during their annual Christmas gift shop for residents of the medical center.

The Veterans organizations prepared over 300 holiday bags full of goodies for the Veterans in the hospital. They also prepared plates of cookies, cake, and punch which they brought to all the wards of the Hospital.

“This Christmas Wrap shop is different than what you would expect. The VFW actually lays all the gifts on the tables and each volunteer takes a Christmas bag and fills it with one of each item on the table; once we have made all the gift bags we then take the Christmas party to the Ward,” said Erlinda Holden, coordinator for the VFW. “The gifts are just for the Veterans. It lets them know how much we appreciate each and every one of them.”

Brooks said many of the Veterans either cannot afford to buy presents or have mobility issues preventing them from shopping for presents.

Because of the generous donations and fundraising projects held throughout the year by members of the VFW and the Ladies Auxiliary, and other Veterans Service Organizations, they were able to give out over $18,000 in non-monetary gifts.

“It means a lot to these Veterans,” said one volunteer. “You can see the smiles on their faces as we hand them gifts and a few cookies. You just know some of them would otherwise not receive any gifts during this holiday season.”

Nothing can compare to the smiles.

The holiday spirit was in the air as residents lined sidewalks on both sides of Veterans Boulevard in Dublin for the 2012 Christmas Parade in early December.

Hosted by the Exchange Club, the annual Dublin Christmas Parade came down Main Street into the heart of downtown Dublin on a bright Saturday afternoon.

The first float to be seen was presented by the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center. The riders on the float were residents of VA’s assisted living center, along with staff from Recreation Service. The float was pulled by the medical center’s police department vehicle. As the float made its way down the streets of Dublin, the Veterans received waves from children of all ages.

Nothing can compare to the smiles on the Veterans’ faces as they waved back to all the men, women and children as the float came through town.