United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
National Salute to Veteran Patients Week
Portraits of two men
Actor James Reynolds and Country Music sensation Stephen Cochran are co-chairs of the 2011 National Salute to Veteran Patients.

The week of February 13-19 is VA’s National Salute to Veteran Patients Week.

All this week, VA medical facilities across America are honoring the men and women who have given so much to protect and preserve all we hold dear as Americans and providing an opportunity for the public to join in the recognition.

Exciting musical concerts and bags and bags of Valentines set the tone for the festivities.

On Friday, The Drifters performed for Vets in Montgomery, Ala.; a concert for Veterans in Atlanta featured The Platters.

But wait…there’s more! Seventeen VA Medical Centers in 17 major cities are hosting “Valentines for Veterans” concerts featuring country artists and Motown legends.

According to Dennis Smith, Director of the VA Maryland Health Care System, “It’s very exciting for us to bring Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and the Charlie Thomas Drifters to Baltimore as part of our 2nd Annual Valentines for Veterans Concert.

“This is our Veterans Appreciation & Welcome Home Celebration to honor the sacrifices of our nation’s Veterans and to encourage the community at large to volunteer at VA medical centers and outpatient clinics throughout the state.”

After a concert last year, Vietnam Veteran Jim Burg said, “This is a terrific idea!”

Daytime television actor and Emmy nominee James Reynolds and Country Music sensation Stephen Cochran are co-chairs of the 2011 National Salute to Veteran Patients.

VA’s National Salute to Veteran Patients Week and the Valentines for Veterans Concerts are also a wonderful opportunity for the local community to come together and show their appreciation for the dedicated men and women who served our country in uniform.

Timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day, the National Salute observance connects the holiday’s sentiments of caring and sharing to express honor and appreciation to Veteran patients.

There is no entrance fee for the concerts because concert donors and organizers believe “the price has already been paid” by this nation’s Veterans.

Volunteer Opportunities

Laura Balun, VA Voluntary Service Director, says, “VA’s goal of informing America’s Veterans of VA programs and services is a very important part of the outreach going on through the Salute program and the concert series. We want citizens to visit VA medical centers or to come enjoy a great show plus learn more about volunteer opportunities available with VA."

VA volunteers epitomize the one-to-one sharing and caring that is a core value of our Nation. Last year, close to 90,000 VA volunteers gladly gave more than 12 million hours of service to veterans.

The VA Voluntary Service 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.

The Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur, Ga., was one of 17 VA medical centers selected to host a Valentines for Veterans Concert. The concert was sponsored by Help Hospitalized Veterans, the largest supplier of free therapeutic arts & crafts to VA and military hospitals worldwide.

“Little Anthony and the Imperials” performed last year at the VA Medical Center in Baltimore.

Veterans, military personnel, their families, and the community are invited to attend. The concerts are also intended to raise awareness of the VA’s role in providing comprehensive care to our nation’s heroes and to promote volunteerism at our facility.

Getting involved is easy! You can find all the information you need at www.volunteer.va.gov.

A super southern salute will take place in Tennessee.

According to Juan Morales, Director of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, “During our salute, we invite all citizens to make a positive difference in the life of Veteran patients by participating in activities throughout this special week.

Some of Tennessee Valley’s guests this year will include recording artist and National Salute Co-Chair Steven Cochran, recording artist Sammy Sadler, the Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs, members of the Tennessee Titans, local university ROTC students and athletes, along with several service organizations and a host of other special guests.

“In addition to paying tribute to our Veteran patients, the National Salute increases the community awareness related to the quality care provided to our nation’s heroes,” said Morales. “Special thanks to each Veteran today and always.”

Among the many nationwide salutes planned, two will take place deep in the heart of Texas. Veterans at the Audie Murphy and Kerrville Divisions of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System will be honored at special ceremonies. In addition to receptions and patient visits, Valentines will be distributed and a proclamation by Marie Weldon, Director, South Texas Veterans Health Care System, will pay tribute and express appreciation to America’s Veterans.

Portrait of a woman
Marie Weldon, Director, South Texas Veterans Health Care System

The South Texas Veterans Health Care System’s Volunteer Program serves two hospitals, four VA staffed community-based outpatient clinics, multiple contract community-based outpatient clinics, Veterans Outreach Centers, the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery and the Floresville State Veterans Home.

The annual VA National Salute program began in 1978. VA Voluntary Service staff plan and execute local events and activities at VA medical centers. The National Salute is observed annually during the week of Valentine’s Day, because it is a day of caring and sharing which underscore the Salute’s expression of honor and appreciation to inpatient and outpatient Veterans.

Valentines to Veterans

For the twenty-third consecutive year, the nationally syndicated column started by Ann Landers, now called “Ask Annie,” has devoted a column to the National Salute, asking readers to send Valentine cards and letters to hospitalized Veterans at VA medical centers.

Over the years, her readers have opened their hearts to America’s veterans by participating in the National Salute to Veteran Patients each February. In 2010, more than 300,000 valentines were received at VA Medical Centers, and 15,252 Americans visited more than 45,000 Veteran patients.

In the words of the “Ask Annie” editors, “We can never repay these courageous veterans for the sacrifices they have made on our behalf, but we can take the time to let them know they have not been forgotten. Please remember our veterans this Valentine’s Day. We know of nothing else that costs so little and brings so much happiness.”

An outstanding VA staff of 239,000 and 85,000 volunteers at 1,400 sites provide care and support to our Veterans with the state-of-the-art health care they earned defending our great nation.

VA is projected to treat 6.1 million patients in 2011 — equivalent to the populations of Los Angeles and Chicago combined. Those 6.1 million Veterans, including 439,000 Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, will make 83 million outpatient visits and be treated as inpatients 937,000 times.

During the National Salute, many 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.

A new generation of proud, young American fighting men and women is serving and sacrificing for freedom around the world, and they are coming to VA Medical Centers for care. Their special needs and challenges require the hearts and hands of a new generation of VA volunteers.

At VA, our patients have a special place in our hearts. We are pledged to do all that we can to alleviate their pain, but they are more than “patients” — they are our “Veterans.”

Respect and honor for those who have served is at the heart of the VA mission. It’s a mission we share with them today, tomorrow and every day of the year.