Honoring veterans on Valentine’s Day | From the Edmonds CC Veterans Resource Center02/14/18
When you think about veterans and special days when we honor veterans, what usually comes to mind? Veterans and Memorial Day? The Fourth of July?
These days are certainly important times to pause and reflect on the service and sacrifice of those who have worn the uniform and served in the U.S. military. But, what about the rest of the year?
|Edmonds CC student veterans from the college’s Student Veteran Association host a card-making table for students to make Valentine’s Day cards for veterans in a local retirement home.|
This year, a group of Edmonds Community College student veterans got together in late January and early February to find a way to ensure our local veterans would not be forgotten this Valentine’s Day.
And here’s where the story begins: Valentine’s Day is traditionally a time when we celebrate love. However, for a group of veterans at Chateau Pacific Assisted Living Facility in Lynnwood, this can be a happy, but potentially difficult, time.
I recently learned about an effort underway through the Lynnwood Heroes’ Café to host a monthly coffee hour at Chateau Pacific. The Heroes’ Café holds a regular monthly gathering at the Verdant Health Commission Community Wellness Center in Lynnwood where veterans from throughout the community come together for camaraderie, food, and help with a wide range of resources from Veterans Service Providers.
The Café has expanded its efforts beyond the monthly meeting to reach out to pockets of veterans in the community that have traditionally been marginalized including incarcerated veterans, and those who might be staying in shelters or assisted living facilities.
When I heard about Chateau Pacific’s coffee hour, I thought it would be a good opportunity for our student veterans to meet with other veterans in our area. We’ve delivered holiday cards in the past, but we’ve never made it past the front desk to meet with the veterans –– they run a pretty tight ship at Chateau Pacific.
We were happy to deliver the cards, but I really wanted our students to be able to connect with their fellow veterans. There’s a special bond between veterans that transcends age, branch of service, gender, and politics. To actually meet other veterans and share stories has great benefits for veterans of all ages.
To find common ground with people who came before us is special. We all served at different times, in different branches of the services and jobs, but everyone was on the same team with the same goal – serving our country.
As club advisor for the Student Veterans Association (SVA), I wanted to engage our student veterans in a project that would be both meaningful for them as well as the veterans at Chateau Pacific, and help them see the value in their educational experience outside of the classroom.
Edmonds CC’s student veterans gathered everything needed from construction paper and glue sticks to heart stickers to make more than 50 Valentine’s Day cards for their fellow veterans at Chateau Pacific.
The student veterans made their first delivery on a rainy Monday in late January to Chateau Pacific, where they were welcomed beyond the front desk. They also met Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith who was there to give a brief presentation. Smith had high praise for the college’s Veterans Resource Center––which has been thoroughly engaged with the city’s effort to improve living conditions for veterans through the Lynnwood Veterans’ Initiative.
|Edmonds CC students made more than 50 cards.|
After brief introductions from our Edmonds CC students, the Chateau Pacific veterans began sharing some of their stories. We met a WWII veteran who was stationed in Rome in 1944, as well as a Korean War veteran, and a woman who served with the “WAVES,” or Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service during WWII. Chateau Pacific is currently home to 12 veterans and spouses of veterans.
Each of our student veterans were also encouraged to share their stories with the group. SVA Co-Advisor and the college's Vet Corps Navigator Carl Kurfess said he enjoyed hearing about one veteran’s experience on the Honor Flight, which is a program to bring veterans to Washington D.C., especially WWII veterans, to see monuments throughout the city.
“It’s important for younger veterans to connect with older veterans to thank them for all they’ve done,” Kurfess said. “Hopefully, we will have someone come and do something like this for us when we are in the same situation.”
Another opportunity arose to replenish the stock of Valentine’s Day cards and to draw on the immense talent pool of Edmonds CC’s larger student body. The SVA recently had a table at the Center for Student Engagement and Leadership’s Club Fair where we brought our card making supplies and provided an opportunity for all students to help with the card making effort. Throughout the day, a large number of students, and employees, including Dennis Curran, vice president of Human Resources and retired U.S. Air Force colonel, contributed to our card project.
By the end of the event, SVA’s stock of cards went from about a dozen cards to more than 50. This was an important contribution as our Edmonds CC student veterans have plans to visit the Veterans Coffee Hour at the Lynnwood Senior Center and veterans at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Seattle in the coming week.
The Chateau Pacific veterans were so touched by the efforts of our student veterans who ventured over on a cold, rainy January day that they wanted to do something nice for them and the rest of the veterans at Edmonds CC. They didn’t want our veterans to have cold hands this winter, so they collected and sent over new winter gloves to our Veterans Resource Center.
If that doesn’t warm your heart this Valentine’s Day, I don’t know what will.
–Chris Szarek, VRC director and retired Navy Seabee