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VA Employee Reminds Purple Heart Recipients they are all MVPs

The Purple Heart football on display in its glass case.
Rayford Ellis, medical support assistant, had the "Purple Heart Football" placed in the display case at the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic. Ellis hopes that it reminds others to find ways to appreciate our Veterans. Photo by Shelly Sisemore.

Rayford Ellis, medical support assistant, has been with the VA for eleven years and loves having the opportunity to provide service and support to his fellow Veterans.

Ellis, who served in the Army Reserve for 15 years, also enjoys collecting football memorabilia. It was that passion which inspired him to start a project in which he could recognize and celebrate Veterans in the same manner as we celebrate our Nation’s athletes – by asking them for an autograph.

“I was assisting a Veteran one day and noticed he was a Purple Heart recipient. I asked him if he would be interested in signing a football. He asked what the football was for. I told him it was my way of giving Veterans their flowers while they are still here and believed it was a shame that people forget to celebrate our Veterans while they are still here with us.”

After seeing how much his request meant to that first Veteran, it reinforced Ellis’s commitment to recognizing more Veterans this way, but more specifically Purple Heart recipients.

“All of the Veterans who signed the ball thanked me for the gesture of appreciation and I would reply with NO, thank you for your service and your sacrifice,” said Ellis. “When I see the signatures on the football, it reminds me that these Veterans are were here to sign it in person and I was able to let them know their sacrifices are appreciated. I hope when others see the football displayed it reminds them that these Veterans are here, and we can find ways to appreciate them now.”

Ellis recently had the opportunity to place the ball, filled with signatures, in the Trophy Case at the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic so the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System can display it with pride and bring awareness to how many Purple Heart recipients we have in just the Tulsa area alone.

"I think this is a great idea,” said Eugene Schmidt, assistant director. “I really want to give kudos to Mr. Ellis for his willingness to go out of his way to recognize these Veterans. It is amazing to see the effort he put into this project, and we will display the ball proudly for our staff and Veterans to see.”