VA staff helps Veteran celebrate 50th wedding anniversary


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Peach Heckman and her son Gary (Jr.) use VA Video Connect to talk with Chaplain Verhurlst and Gary Heckman Sr. during the vow renewal ceremony of their 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration.

Special occasions are a joyous time that allow people to celebrate events in life, such as graduating from school, getting a promotion or celebrating the birth of a child.

Some special occasions are rare and only happen once in a lifetime. U.S. Navy and Vietnam War Veteran Gary Heckman and his wife Peach just experienced one of those rare events. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center.

Gary and Peach met and fell in love while working together in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He was a lead in the rafter and roofing department and she worked in cabinets and sinks. For Gary, the key to staying married so long is “a little bit of luck.” Peach knows it was more than that. “We did everything as a family, and we didn’t keep anything from one another,” she said.

Once in a lifetime

Navy Veteran Gary Heckman smiles through the window at his wife of 50 years.

The current situation has caused most special occasions to be delayed or canceled. Still, Peach and social worker Mistie Haddix were determined to make sure this once in a lifetime celebration still took place, even with strict physical and social distancing rules in place.

Thanks to Haddix, the technology of VA Video Connect, Nursing Service, Chaplain Service and Nutrition and Food Services, the Hackmans were able to renew their vows. They exchanged rings and enjoyed cake and fellowship to create a memorable moment they will cherish forever.

From inside his room, Gary beamed as he peered out his window at his loving wife of the past 50 years. From outside, in the medical center’s Healing Garden, Peach smiled, blew kisses and reminisced about their life together. In that moment, they were two of the happiest people on earth.


Matthew Bell is a public affairs specialist at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center, Martinsburg, WV.

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