By Capt. Xeriqua GarfinkelNovember 15, 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A young private shakes the hand of an older soldier and thanks him for his service during the Korean War, over 60 years ago.
As James Rutherford, a retired Army veteran, receives his medical treatment at the Veterans Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., he beams with pride and vitality as he relays his memories of the distant past to Pvt. Nancy Delgado, a chaplains assistant, 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, who is barely 19 and has only served two months in the Army.
Delgado is one member of the 159th CAB's Unit Ministry Team who traveled to Nashville's VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System (TVHS) hospital Nov. 5 in order to say "thank you" to the nation's veterans that turn to this facility for medical needs.
The purpose of the visit is twofold, said Maj. (CH) Edward J. Yurus, the 159th CAB's chaplain. First we want to thank the veterans for their service and let them know that we have not forgotten them.
The second is to introduce a new initiative for soldiers to get involved with the VA hospital.
"The UMTs will have good points of contact (at the hospital) and they will be able to take the soldiers in each of their battalions down there," he said. "We would like to have a positive impact on our veterans and on our Soldiers here."
During the next few months, the 159th CAB's UMTs will act as liaisons for the soldiers in the unit to connect with the veteran who come to the hospital. They will assist with scheduling and visitation so that those who serve today may support those who have served before.
This has a tremendous impact on all participants involved.
Johhny "Lawman" Wordlaw, a Vietnam Veteran, said he really appreciated the fact that we took time out to visit, listen and pay respects to those who served in the past. He served eight years during the Vietnam War and said he would do it all over again.
"Lawman" is just one of approximately 82,000 veterans a year who seek medical care at the VA TVHS hospital. This branch covers the communities from middle Tennessee to southern Kentucky all the way to northern Alabama.
They provide ambulatory care, primary care, and secondary care in acute medicine and surgery, specialized tertiary care, transplant services, spinal cord injury outpatient care, and a full range of extended care and mental health services.
They also partner with Fort Campbell at the Integrated Disability Evaluation Service to allow for concurrent processing of VA and DoD claims for injured and ill soldiers.
"Simply stated, our mission is to honor America's Veterans by providing exceptional health care that improves their health and well-being" said Christopher Alexander, the VA TVHS hospital Public Affairs Officer.
Caring for our nation's veterans goes beyond medical treatment. It is about providing the family with the peace of mind that their loved one is receiving the best care available and reminds our soldiers that they are soldiers for life.
The Army is committed to lifelong success for our veterans and their families and demonstrates that bond by providing exceptional healthcare opportunities even after their service term is over.
Strengthening the partnership between soldiers and government agencies, like the Department of Veterans Affairs, requires an astute awareness of the medical needs required and a team approach on achieving the best healthcare.
"The VA as a whole is proud to serve America's heroes," said Alexander. "Our employees are highly skilled and dedicated many of them Veterans themselves. At VA TVHS, our goal is to provide an excellent healthcare experience for every Veteran we serve. When we don't, we want to know so we can improve. We challenge ourselves to be the best we can," he added.
As the 159th CAB UMT concluded their initial visit to kick-start their partnership with the veteran community at the VA hospital, they left with gratitude and a deeper respect for Veterans.
The fundamental gesture anyone one can do is to thank a Veteran for their service. Those two simple words mean so very much to the men and woman who have chosen to serve our country.