Dear Ann: Every year, your readers have opened their hearts to America's hospitalized veterans by sending cards and letters through your Valentines for Vets program. Millions of your readers from all over the world have shown these veterans that we are still grateful for their service by sending valentines to the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers throughout America, or by visiting VA hospitals to deliver Valentine's Day wishes in person. Schoolteachers also use this program to educate their students about our veterans and the sacrifices they made so that all of us might live in freedom. As a result of your column last year, nearly 750,000 valentines were delivered to VA medical centers, and more than 79,000 patients received personal visits.
This year, the Department of Veterans Affairs National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans will be observed the week of Feb. 11-18. Your readers can mail their valentines to the nearest VA medical center or drop them off in person. The addresses of our facilities can be obtained by looking in the telephone directory, or by calling the VA's toll-free number, (800) 827-1000, or by accessing the VA's Web site at www.va.gov and clicking on "Health Benefits and Services."
Ann, thank you again for your continued support of our nation's veterans. And special thanks to your readers who, year after year, have made this program so very successful. Hershel W. Gober, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Washington, D.C.
Dear Secretary Gober: I've always known that my readers are the most warmhearted, responsive people in the world. When I ask them to do something, they come through like champions.
Readers, it's time once again to let our veterans know we appreciate them. It won't cost much, and it's sure to bring enormous pleasure to our vets, to whom we owe so much.
Every day, approximately 187,000 veterans are treated in VA medical facilities. These men and women served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo and all the places where our soldiers have been sent around the world. They represent every race, color and creed. We can never repay these valiant vets for the sacrifices they have made, but we can do something to cheer them up and let them know they have not been forgotten.
Last year, the women at the Bath, N.Y., Chamber of Commerce dressed in red and brought homemade treats to the patients in the VA hospital nursing home unit. Shepherd College cheerleaders in Martinsburg, W. Va., distributed valentines and performed cheers. Fourth-grade students at LaGrange Elementary School in Tomah, Wis., sang songs and staged skits for the veterans.
Thousands of Salvation Army volunteers distribute valentines and gifts to various VA facilities around the country. Camp Fire Boys and Girls have been giving valentines to our veterans for quite some time. God bless them. This year, Westin's O'Hare, River North and Michigan Avenue hotels in Chicago will be baking a huge cake for the veterans and having their guests sign a 5-foot card.
Teachers, you have always been extremely helpful and supportive. I'm depending on you once more to make this a class project. Those handmade valentines are real heart-warmers, especially the ones made by the younger students. Please encourage your students to be creative, and let them learn firsthand the satisfaction that comes from doing something for others.
I know of nothing you can do that would cost so little and bring so much happiness to the men and women who were willing to lay down their lives for us. They deserve to be remembered. Thank you all and God bless. Ann Landers