By Mary Wade Burnside
Times West Virginian
When February rolls around, Art Malcolm and other members of the West Virginia Order of the Eastern Star buy an assortment of items, from socks and T-shirts to Valentine’s Day cards — and take them to patients at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.
It’s part of the National Salute to Veteran Patients Week, which this year occurs Sunday to Feb. 16.
“A lot of veterans come to the hospital and you’d be surprised, they don’t have a lot of the things they need,” said Malcolm, a Clarksburg resident and chairman of the West Virginia chapter of the Freemasonry-related fraternal organization.
“We take things like T-shirts and socks and toiletry articles, that sort of thing. That’s the reason we visit and pass those out. They all seem to appreciate it when we come by and say hello. They really thank us for that.”
Established in 1978 and popularized by advice columnist Ann Landers, who encouraged her readers to send Valentine’s Day cards to veterans in hospitals, the National Salute to Veteran Patients will be filled with various groups dropping by the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, said Thomas J. Gallagher, chief of voluntary service.
“The program is to pay tribute to express appreciation to veterans and to increase the role of the VA medical center and to encourage citizens to visit hospitalized veterans and become volunteers,” he said. “That’s the three basic tenets from the National Salute on the website,” which is www.volunteer.va.gov/NationalSaluteVeteranPatients.asp.
In addition to the members of the Order of the Eastern Star, as of last week, the Liberty High School jazz band was scheduled to perform Feb. 11 — the same day that West Virginia University’s Mountaineer mascot was to visit — and the Liberty High School choir was scheduled to perform the next day.