UAW Veterans and friends make a difference at the Veterans Hospital

On November 7th, the United Auto Workers of local 2069, Veterans Committee will celebrate and recognize Veterans Day at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in Salem Virginia, as the group hosts its annual catfish fry for the patients.pic

Veterans Committee chairman, Mark Peterson, explains,  "We're rewarded each time we visit or host an event at the Veterans Hospital. You just cannot help but get excited. You know you're going to meet some pretty interesting people with some of the most wonderful stories of days gone by.  Over the many years, we've met some of the most humblest and kindest veterans that are true red, white and blue Americans. It's pretty awesome to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in a auditorium full of veterans and patriots. It's quite humbling to pray and thank God for such great people who have defended and made sacrifices for our freedom. You meet men, and often women who have done some remarkable and heroic things in their lives. Many are proud to say, "I met Ike, or I served under Patton and met him or I was in the Frozen Chosin or Tet."

Eric Patton the committee's treasurer says "We're cooking 100 pounds of fresh catfish with allpic of the fixings-- homemade slaw from the local VFW, and desserts from the New River Valley Christians Motorcycle Association and AMVETS helps us also! Everyone comes together. It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun. We'll have six or seven deep fryers going outside frying the catfish and ladies in the kitchen will be working up the hushpuppies and french-fries. The local CMA chapter helps make this event successful, they are enthusiastic about contributing and being an outreach for veterans. We all put our aprons on and just have fun."

The UAW's Veterans Committee at local 2069 hosts several events at the VA Hospital during the year including a motorcycle poker run and  a delightful Christmas party.  Patton continues, "At the VA, you'll find some of the eldest veterans in the United States with some of the most picfascinating stories. Many have lost their youth but not their spirit. We're thankful for every one of them and we want to share this day with them and let them know it.

Peterson shares, " Every year the Sunday before Veterans Day, we host the fish fry. We have lots of support from the local VFW Post 1184, AMVETS Post 50 and local CMA, we do several other events together during the year. Our local veterans servicing organizations do a huge amount for our local citizens during the year. They should be recognized more. VFW 1184, may arguable bury more veterans than any other in the state. I can't say enough about our local CMA chapter. They are just fun and up-lifting to be around and they are not afraid of hard work.

Patton adds, "Sunday's fish fry will also feature some of the finest toe- tapping, hand clapping and singing along music for the veterans at the VA.  We have several very talented union picmembers at the Volvo truck plant. They come together to play and help celebrate Veterans Day with the patients, there is nothing like the whole auditorium singing "You Are My Sunshine" or watching a veteran come to life as he plays an instrument that takes him back in time."

Peterson sums it up, "At the VA, everyone is supportive and comrades to each other, many of these veterans have no one else and we like bringing people together and there is no other place where the people are more deserving and more appreciative of our efforts. We bring a festive atmosphere to the veterans hospital, it's enriching for everyone involved and it's our goal for each and every veteran to say they had a better day than the day before and to leavepic proud knowing there is gratitude for their service and of the sacrifice for our country. We want our brothers and sisters at the VA hospital and their staff to know, here in the New River Valley and in the UAW we care."

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Ron Hendrix