The Times West Virginian

February 5, 2014

National Salute to Veteran Patients Feb. 9-15

Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg to host the 36th annual event

By Kristen Talerico
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg will host the 36th annual National Salute to Veteran Patients Feb. 9-15.

Wesley Walls, interim chief of Voluntary Services at the VA Hospital, said the salute is always the week of Valentine’s Day because it is a time of sharing and caring, which “underscores the honor and appreciation to all veterans.”

Walls said the main reason for the event is to promote recognition, encourage citizens to express gratitude and recruit volunteers.

When people visit, they will reminisce with veterans, walk to each of the rooms by escorts, and hand out gifts to show thanks and appreciation for their services to this country, Walls said.

“Most people bring personal-care items, toothbrushes toothpaste, soaps, socks, T-shirts, puzzle books and Valentine’s Day cards,” Walls added.

He said the best way to get involved is by contacting voluntary services at 304-669-0587.

Walls said people can schedule a visit to bring a group (church, Boy Scouts, pageant queens, politicians, etc.), mail Valentine’s Day cards that will be given to in-patient and out-patient veterans, and encourage volunteerism.

“We usually get 5,000 to 6,000 Valentines a year, and people can drop them off at the front desk as they will personally be distributed,” Walls said.

He added a lot of the veterans really enjoy the visits because some in-patient veterans get very few visits, and enjoy the children and seeing how much they are appreciated.

“One veteran received letters from a school in Pennsylvania and was so thankful he wrote a letter back to them,” Walls said. “They adopted him for the year, and it really changed his life.”

He said he hopes this dedication will continue throughout the year.

He said people who come for a visit and like the atmosphere can start the volunteer application process at www.clarksburg.va.gov.

People can schedule visits from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but the hospital will take visits until 8 p.m. during the National Salute to Veteran Patients.

Email Kristen Talerico at ktalerico@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @KTalericoTWV.