Veterans around the nation performed virtually in a music video to pay homage to VA health care workers on the front lines helping to care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Using the power of music—from their respective homes—Veterans sang, danced, played instruments, and provided words of encouragement and thanks to VA nurses and doctors. They wanted to show their gratitude to the VA health care facilities treating millions of Veterans from coast to coast.
For Barbara Wickham, a Veteran who spent 27 years in the Army and served in Desert Storm, the project was a welcome diversion during stay-at-home orders in Colorado. Wickham said she was delighted to focus on something positive to escape cabin-fever and appreciated the beauty of the moment.
“I could have chosen to feel down, but I credit this project for helping me get out of a rut,” Wickham said. “I was able to focus on something positive rather than what’s going on right now.”
Her piece in the project was two-fold. Early on in the video, she can be seen dancing. Later, she is holding up a handmade poster that read: “ Not all soldiers carry a gun to save their country…some carry a stethoscope.”
As for her dance in the video, that was impromptu, Wickham said.
“I decided to dance like no one was watching in honor of the professionals who move day in and day out to care for Veterans,” she said. “Sometimes we cannot express with words what we are feeling. By singing or dancing, music can help start the healing process.”
Veteran Dolores Day Clark said she sang in the project because she missed seeing her VA recreation therapists and thought the video was a worthwhile chance to explore her talent.
It wasn’t the first time Clark had performed for an audience. While on active duty working as a Navy personnel specialist, the Red Cross invited her to sing to patients. She knows what it’s like to be ready to perform and bring cheer at a moment’s notice.
Eventually, she said, the guitar she would always carry on her back became part of her ‘new’ uniform.
“Our hearts go out to them [health care workers] as they serve. They deal with a variety of stress in their daily workload.”
Music, a pathway to rehabilitation
Navy Veteran Kristin Weathers, who sings in the video, is a lifelong music student and believes in its healing power. She grew up in the music industry and had the opportunity to watch her parents work with powerhouse artists.
After suffering trauma in the military, Weathers says she slowly lost her love for music. She said she felt like she wasn’t good enough. However, post-military, Weathers connected with the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System where she met music therapist Abraham Ludwig. Weathers describes him as the ‘best friend and clinician a lost soul could ask for,’ and she credits him with helping her rediscover her musical talent and giving her a newfound self-confidence. Weathers emerged from treatment as a gold-winning solo artist in the 2019 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.
Weathers said she joined the singalong project because the VA system is a world within itself, and Veterans require true compassion and understanding.
“VA staff are a tight-knit family, and they are not here for money,” said Weathers. “They are here for the love of their patients, the Veterans.”
Thankful for kind and generous VA staff
The father and son duo, Michael and Stephen McCann, are Army Veterans seen in the video holding signs thanking staff at Long Beach and Richmond VA facilities. Michael McCann believes the general public should know about the quality care Veterans are provided when they go to VA.
“The VA system is a teaching resource for those entering into the medical field, and fresh young minds are there to learn and serve,” said Michael McCann.
According to McCann, music and drama helped his son, Stephen, find a new path after serving. Stephen McCann, a Gulf War Veteran, was once homeless when he left the military and VA mental health care helps him to stay on track.
“If it were not for VA staff, my son may have lost his life long ago,” said McCann.
For these reasons, and countless others, a small group of Veterans who understand the sacrifices being made by essential staff and health care workers presented the musical tribute to say, “Thank you for your service.”
Thank you: Alexandria VA Health Care System; Austin Outpatient Clinic; VA Central Iowa Health Care System; Durham VA Medical Center; VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System; Central Texas VA Health Care System; Hines VA Hospital; VA Hot Springs Healthcare System; VA Loma Linda Healthcare System; VA Long Beach Healthcare System; Miami VA Medical Center; Minneapolis VA Healthcare System; Northport, NY VA Medical Center; Orlando VA Medical Center; Sepulveda VA Outpatient Clinic, Greater Los Angeles HCS; St. Cloud VA Healthcare System; St. Louis VA Health Care System; Tampa VA Medical Center; West Palm Beach, FL VAMC.
Monica Smith is the chief communications officer for the National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events. For more, follow @Sports4Vets on social media.