Listening to war stories, cracking friendly jokes and reminiscing about times in the military was part of the scene at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Philadelphia.
Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support military personnel volunteered at the medical center to thank veteran patients for their service and help raise their spirits in support of National Salute to Veteran Patients Week Feb. 11.
“Supporting our veterans during ‘National Salute to Veteran Patients Week’ and specifically by visiting our local VA facility in Philadelphia was a wonderful opportunity to extend our gratitude for service to our country,” Navy Capt. Gerald Raia, Construction and Equipment director, said. “We could physically see their excitement as we walked around. Each time I spoke with a veteran, I could feel their own gratitude for us spending time with them…that in itself is very gratifying.”
Each year during the week of Feb. 14, the VA invites the community to recognize the more than 9 million U.S. military veterans who are cared for every day in the VA medical system. National Salute to Veteran Patients Week also raises awareness about each medical center’s role and its volunteer opportunities, according to the VA website.
The volunteers met some of the medical center’s leadership to learn about their services and capabilities before walking the halls of the medical center and passing out Valentine’s Day and thank you cards to the patients.
“The visitation to the CMCVAMC was beneficial for some of the veterans, as well as myself,” Army Sgt. First Class Jerod Cotton, a Clothing and Textile customer account specialist, said. “Many of the veterans encouraged me to retire from the service, because some of the veterans that did not complete their 20 years regret not doing so. Before arriving to the CMCVAMC, I was uniformed about how much the VA center has to offer veterans.”
Some of the volunteers even witnessed how their presence reignited a friendly rivalry between the services.
“Upon meeting the veterans, it was amazing to see how quickly we were able to transcend decades of time and life experiences and start speaking as old friends due to our shared military service,” Air Force Capt. Roy Cruz, Industrial Hardware Operations Cell director, said. “One of my Navy colleagues and I had the opportunity to meet and speak with a Marine veteran, and within 30 seconds they were going back and forth about Navy and Marine Corps rivalries and [they] were both serving up the typical clichés about how easy the Air Force has it. It was great!”
Some of the volunteers believed the visit had a mutual impact.
“It was heart-warming talking to the VA staff that spends time every day working with the vets and helping them enjoy everyday life,” Raia said. “Listening to the patients’ stories not only give us an appreciation for what they experienced, but gives veterans another venue to meet with a younger generation of active duty [service members] and hear our experiences.”