When my generation thinks about Christmas time we don’t think about receiving material things. We think about having our children and grandchildren around us and enjoying a traditional Christmas meal and reflecting on the happiest or perhaps saddest Christmas of our youth. Kids today could not possibly enjoy the Christmas holiday more than we did when we were kids several generations ago. We literally counted the days from the time we received the first Christmas catalogue in the mail. Although our gifts may have been few, we enjoyed them for months until they were worn out and discarded or put away for souvenirs.
In keeping with the Christmas spirit of giving, many of us find fulfillment in giving to needy families or visiting those who are sick, elderly or disabled. For the past four years the 10th District American Legion and Ladies’ Auxiliary has visited the Veterans Administration Center at Hazard. On December 18, our group journeyed there to deliver blankets for all 120 residents. Our group consists of the Bradley Burkhart Post #66 in Jenkins; the Mc- Clean Post #104 in Neon; the Douglas Day Post #152 in Whitesburg and the John B. Reynolds Post #283 in Martin. The VFW Post 9600 in Pound, Va., also participated. This group has been an important part of our family for many years.
Funding was provided jointly by all four American Legion posts and the VFW plus generous donations from some very caring individuals including: State Representative Leslie Combs; Senator Johnny Ray Turner; Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward; Letcher County Sheriff Danny Webb; Letcher County District Judge Kevin Mullins and Letcher County Magistrate Wayne Fleming. I also want to thank Ms. Brenda Hughes of the Pikeville J.C. Penney Store and its home office for their very generous act of providing the blankets for us at their cost. I can never find enough words to express my gratitude for these people’s loving gifts for our American veterans.
When we visited the VA Center we took time to talk with each individual and present each with their own blanket. There were 115 men and 5 ladies residing there who had served our military during diff erent eras from World War II through the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some had debilitating physical injuries and others suff ered from posttraumatic stress syndrome. Some had permanent injuries and had become permanent residents there. Others were there for rehabilitation and could hopefully go home to their families eventually. The oldest one was age 97. He was affectionately known as ‘Pappy’ and was apparently their spiritual leader. He was a joy to talk to and brought happiness to all of the other patients and the staff .
The VA Center is funded by public money and private donations. The money, which is donated to the center, is maintained in a fund set aside specifically for the needs of the residents. In November, two of the former residents had died and their families needed help with the burial expenses. Money from the private donations was made available to help relieve the financial burden on the families.
We in America and in many other countries owe our freedom to the sacrifices of our veterans. Let us always treat them with respect. We must never forget that we have the rights to choose our leaders and worship as we choose because of them.
I would like to extend a big thank you to Rick Hall, who accompanied us there to do a video to be shown on the local television cable. I also want to send a big hello to my friend Willard Blankenship, a World War II veteran, who now resides in South Carolina.