At VA Medical Centers across America, thousands of Veterans are being served Thanksgiving dinners by Veterans, staff, volunteers, community organizations and government officials.
VA Western New York Healthcare System in Buffalo, New York, is holding their 17th annual Thanksgiving Dinner for Homeless and Veterans in Need. Here’s a couple photos from there:
VA Western New York Healthcare System
Thanks – Evangeline Conley, Public Affairs Officer VA Western NY Healthcare System
St. Albans Community Living Center – 100 year old Vegetarian Army Veteran
Looking forward to a Thanksgiving meal presents no surprises for Brooklyn born and raised WWII Veteran Morris Ducat. The 100-year-old, who resides at VA’s St. Albans Community Living Center, knows he will happily enjoy the same meal he has every day: Vegetarian Burger, Rice, String Beans, double fruited yogurt, double garden salad with dressing, fruit salad, milk and two bottled waters. Read about his colorful career – World War II Army Veteran, mountaineer and opera lover.
Thanks Claudie Benjamin, VA NY HARBOR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
American Legion Post Hosts Florida Veterans
While many of us will spend our Thanksgiving at home or celebrate the holiday with friends and family, the Cross Bayou American Legion Post #252 Legionnaires and volunteers will host their 25th annual Thanksgiving Day meal for many of the Veterans currently receiving their health care at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.
Vietnam Veteran Andy Smith has attended the annual event for several years. Both he and his wife, Gwen Smith, explain that the festive environment and incredibly gracious hospitality from the beginning of the event till the very end means so much to them.
“The Legionnaires are very welcoming,” said Gwen Smith. “Everyone enjoys sitting together at the table to celebrate and eat the delicious meal prepared by the volunteers. It truly feels like being with family.”
Each year, approximately 45 volunteers along with hospital staff from Bay Pines work to ensure that the Veterans not only enjoy their holiday, but are safe, taking into account the complex medical needs of the Veterans.
“This year we are happy to include additional collaboration and support from our domiciliary staff which includes social work, mental health counselors and psychologists,” explained Heather Ruiz, Lead Recreation Therapist at Bay Pines.
The coordinated effort between the Legionnaires and hospital staff provides an opportunity for Veterans to get out of the hospital setting and into a new environment to interact with other Veterans and volunteers from the community.
“The comradery displayed during these special events for Veterans can positively impact many who may be experiencing triggers and a multitude of mixed emotions and memories during the holidays,” Ruiz said. “It’s especially comforting for those Veterans who are unable to spend time with their own family and loved ones.”
Despite the 30 turkeys and over 100 pounds of mashed potatoes prepared this year, more than meals will be served insists Pam Bostrom, Chaplain for American Legion Post #252.
“This is one of those things that does our heart good,” she said. “To watch a Veteran enjoy a holiday meal with his fellow comrades puts things into perspective and reminds us of what is truly important in life.”
Service to Veterans is one of the pillars the American Legion organization believes in strongly. Thanksgiving gives the Legionnaires the opportunity to refocus on what their organization is all about.
“We take a lot of things for granted,” said Edward Lewis, Commander of American Legion Post #252.
“Serving a holiday meal to Veteran’s allows us to show our gratitude on a personal level. It helps us as Legionnaires to give thanks and put our mission into perspective.”
As many as 55 ambulatory Veterans and their families will arrive at the event on a bus chartered by Bay Pines staff. An additional 14-passenger wheelchair accessible bus will be on hand to shuttle Veterans attending the event this year.
Community relationships and support are essential for the Recreation Therapy department and the opportunities provided to Veterans at Bay Pines. Many of the programs available to Veterans would not be possible without support from these important community partnerships.
Thanks to Melanie L. Thomas, Public Affairs Specialist