The National Salute to Veteran Patients

By Annie Lane

January 11, 2017 5 min read

Dear Annie: America cares deeply for its veterans. Each and every day, volunteers and Department of Veterans Affairs employees alike provide compassionate and devoted care for those who "have borne the battle." As we have done for many years, this February, Americans will participate in the National Salute to Veteran Patients by visiting and volunteering at VA medical centers and by sending letters of thanks or valentines to veterans. This year's National Salute week is Feb. 13-17, and we again encourage communities across the country to take part in this effort to honor our hospitalized veterans.

The National Salute is a great time for citizens to get to know their local VA facilities and the veterans who receive care from the VA. Activities and events throughout the week open the door for those in the community to show their appreciation through special ward visits, valentine distribution and veteran recognition programs. Those interested will also have the chance to explore some of our exceptional volunteer programs.

The VA is more than just buildings in a community. Over 350,000 people serve veterans at the 1,200-plus health care facilities across the country every day. The valuable partnerships with volunteers strengthen the bond with the veterans we care and provide services for. We also work hand in hand with our valuable veteran service organizations, civic and community partners, and caring individuals from across the country.

Last year, 272,834 valentines were received at VA medical centers, arriving from schools, community groups and youth organizations nationwide. Additionally, more than 9,000 volunteers contributed to events and activities recognizing our hospitalized veterans. I thank you and your readers for your work in bringing attention to this worthy cause.

Of special note, VA Voluntary Service estimates that approximately 160 new community organizations participated in the 2016 National Salute campaign. The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to do a considerable amount of outreach to invite nonprofits and community, civic and corporate entities to share in our noble mission of caring for veterans. Last year's effort will serve as a notable benchmark to begin expanding our efforts to sustain and grow viable strategic partnerships, as well as meaningful volunteer engagement.

I encourage your thoughtful readers to take time this February to honor our veterans. As always, Annie, thank you for your support for this outstanding program.

For more information regarding the National Salute and volunteer opportunities at a local VA medical center, please visit — Sabrina C. Clark, director of VA Voluntary Service

Dear Sabrina: Thank you for this excellent reminder to honor the veterans in our own communities. I encourage all my readers to participate in the National Salute this February.

Dear Annie: My sympathy goes to "Disheartened in Florida," whose grandchildren do not acknowledge gifts or send cards, and to the many other parents and grandparents who likewise do not receive such from their families. Unlike your response, however, I do not suggest continuing to send gifts when such a golden opportunity affords itself for a very valuable lesson.

Learning to acknowledge gifts and write appropriate thank-you letters is extremely important in many areas of life. The job applicant who writes a good letter after the interview greatly improves her chances of getting the job. The guest who writes a gracious thank-you is much likelier to receive future invitations.

My advice to "Disheartened" is to write to her grandchildren and tell them that she wants to hear from them because she has no idea whether her gifts suit them or not, even though she spends a lot of time and money on them. Then she should continue sending gifts only to those who write thank-yous. Word will spread, and others will begin writing. — A Counselor's Advice

Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected] To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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