02/15/06 — A special Valentine for hospitalized veterans

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A special Valentine for hospitalized veterans

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on February 15, 2006 1:53 PM

DURHAM -- Master Sgt. James Smith walked through an open door and pulled a colorful valentine from the plastic bag hanging around his wrist. He held the colorful card out to a war veteran resting in his hospital bed -- to say thanks.

"Because of you, I'm able to be standing here," Smith said. "So thank you, sir."

The man looked down at the card and began to cry.

Like many others being treated at the Durham Veterans Administration Medical Center, the man was touched to see servicemen and women from Seymour Johnson walking the halls, holding "stacks of love" created by Wayne County school students.

"When he got emotional in there it caught me off guard," Smith said. "Just imagine the sacrifices he had to make for us."

Juanita Joseph said this is the fifth straight year that members of the base community have participated in "Valentines for Veterans," an event held in conjunction with the National Salute to Hospital Veterans. Every year, during the week of Valentine's Day, it's time to give back.

"It's a special time," she said. "We're here to let these men and women know that they are not forgotten and that we do love them."

As the 40 airmen went room to room, many said they couldn't believe that some valentines, candy and American flags could mean so much.

But to those who served years ago in wars and conflict many have only read about, it meant the world.

"This is so great of you to be here," one veteran said as he passed by one of the groups.

Smith said walking the hospital halls was one of those little things that made being in the service extra special.

"It's one of the good things," he said. "Being able to give back."

Other airmen agreed.

"It's nice to have someone think of you (on Valentine's Day)," 2nd Lt. Shannon Decker said. "I'm just interested to talk to these guys. They have done so much."

Before the event began, the airman were greeted by some distinguished guests -- Miss North Carolina, the Mayor of Chapel Hill and Congressman David Price.

Price gave special praise to those who traveled from Seymour Johnson.

"It's great to have these young soldiers here from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base," he said. "From all of us here, thank you for your service."

Price added that while those who currently serve deserve recognition, the day belonged to those who manned battlefields in the past.

"Today, we're mainly here to say thank you," he said to the veterans. "You're our heroes."