Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tidings of Comfort and Joy for Our Military Veterans

By Bill Fortune

The sacrifice that has been made by those who have served in our Armed Forces is immeasurable but deeply appreciated. During the holiday season the American Red Cross expresses that appreciation across the nation through our Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Across the country people get together to sign cards, some of which are handmade, wrap gifts and then deliver to active duty service members around the globe.

Our military veterans are also part of that effort. The cards are personalized and delivered to many of our nation's veterans homes, hospitals, service center and medical centers in an effort to show our appreciation for what they did to protect our freedom.

In Colorado cards were delivered to our veterans across the state by Red Cross Service to Armed Forces staff and volunteers and by our Red Cross youth clubs with the hope of spreading some holiday cheer.

Spanning the Generations
Students from Monte Vista Red Cross Club bring
joy to veterans at the Colorado State Veterans
Center-Homelake. Photo by Bill Werner
Students from Monte Vista 7th grade Red Cross Youth Club put on their holiday smiles and delivered cards and gifts to veterans at the Colorado State Veterans Center-Homelake, near Monte Vista. The students were given the names of their resident ahead of time so that they could get appropriate gifts and make personal cards. One student dressed as Santa and handed out gifts while other students spent time talking with each of the veterans. Bill Werner, Disaster Program Manager for southwest Colorado said it all with, “Hugs, smiles and tears were everywhere.”

SAF volunters and students from Red Cross Youth Clubs
brought comfort and joy to the Grand Junction
 VA medical center. Photo by Eric Myers
Students from the Red Cross Clubs in Fruita and Palisades put together a welcome event at the Grand Junction VA Medical Center. There, too, the personally made cards and happy conversations brought smiles from the residents of the VA Center.

Like good Christmas Elves, SAF staff and volunteers delivered cards to military installations across southeastern Colorado. Cards and warm wishes were delivered to service members at Fort Carson and Evans Army Community Hospital. The teams brought sign cards to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Carson along with boxes of blank cards that service members could use to write home to loved ones.

A Christmas Miracle?
At the VA Community Living Center (CLC) in Pueblo, Barbara Shufelt, a manager for the SAF program in Colorado, brought her Christmas Elf powers to provide an extra level of joy to the residents. The CLC has had a tradition of a holiday party for the residents over the years and Barbara has attended several. She noticed recently that the piano, which had been a source of merriment for the veterans, was not being used. When she checked on it, the staff at CLC told her that the old Steinway grand piano had “fallen on hard times” and it was no longer useable.

Barbara Shufelt (R) and  Bob Marshall stand behind the
new electronic piano provided to the Pueblo CLC.
Photo by Red Cross
That’s when Barbara went to work. Campaigning within the ranks of the Red Cross, Barbara managed to get funds approved to purchase a new electronic piano to give to the CLC residents. December 23, Barbara brought the gift to the CLC just in time for their holiday party.

“It was like a Christmas miracle,” said Keith Anderson, Volunteer Coordinator for the VA Community Living Center. “This was a very generous donation and we thank the Red Cross for all of the support they give to our veterans here at the CLC. The timing was perfect”

The new piano was placed in the lobby right next to the old Steinway. According to Rob Marshall, Recreation Therapist at the CLC, the electronic piano can play prerecorded music and it will be turned on each morning. “This will really brighten up their day, every day,” he said. “It is a great gift for these veterans who have served our country.” They also plan to arrange for students and other volunteers to come to the CLC to play music and sing along with the veterans.

I just couldn’t stand by and let them have their holiday party without the piano,“ Barbara said. “It was always such a source of joy for the veterans.”

When the music came on the mood in the room brightened. One veteran gave Barbara a hug and told her that about how they all appreciated the Red Cross and all that has been done for them at the Pueblo CLC. “You do great work and we love having you visit.”

The American Red Cross has a long history of support for our nation’s military and veterans in peace time and in war. That support continues and if you would like to be part of that effort you can become a Red Cross volunteer by visiting our web site at and then click on Volunteer.

Happy Holidays to all of our military service members, their families and to all veterans. We appreciate what you do, and what you have done, for us.

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