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Miami VA Healthcare System

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VA employees “adopt” Veteran families for holidays

Antoine Jr and A'meyah open a gift from Miami VA employees.

Antoine Jr and A'meyah open a gift from Miami VA employees.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The holidays are a time of giving, sharing and continuing traditions. At the Miami VA Healthcare System, VA employees continued one special tradition this year by “adopting” two Veterans and their families for the holidays.

Starting several holiday seasons ago, Miami VA employees from various departments—including nursing, education, quality management, social work, human resources, the Women Veterans Clinic, and many more—have donated clothing, toys and gift cards to men and women who have served our country. VA employees started this tradition as a way to express their gratitude and spread some holiday cheer.

Army Veteran Crystal Jones and her sons stand with Miami VA employees who

Army Veteran Crystal Jones and her sons stand with Miami VA employees who "adopted" them for the holidays.

“I don’t know where I would be without the VA”

Army Veteran Crystal Jones and her two boys—Andre, 9, and Andrae, 5—have no other family to celebrate the holidays with—or so they thought. During a holiday lunch held for Jones and her family at the Bruce W. Carter VA Medical Center, she was showered with gifts from VA employees. She was touched to see that people cared about her and her two sons.

“This is our blessing,” she said. “We’ve gone through so much throughout the year, and right when I wanted to give up, I got the call from people who wanted to give to us and do for us. The VA is my family. I don’t know where I would be without the VA.”

Within the last three weeks, Jones and her sons celebrated birthdays. She said the lunch and gifts were a belated birthday present and an early holiday gift. In January, she will start her final semester to complete a bachelor’s degree. She hopes to start a career where she can give back and help others.

“It is our honor to give back and spread a little holiday joy to our Veterans and their families,” said Karen Sutton, chief of Quality Management Service and one of the event organizers. “We appreciate their service to our country. It is so rewarding to see the joy on the faces of our Veterans and their families.”

Army Veteran Antoine Smith and his family stand with Miami VA employees who

Army Veteran Antoine Smith and his family stand with Miami VA employees who "adopted" them for the holidays.

“It was a sigh of relief”

Veteran Antoine Smith served 15 years in the U.S. Army and was deployed 13 months in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He, his wife, Selinda, and three children—Damoni, 13, A’Meyah, 7, and Antoine Jr., 2—were the guests of honor at a second holiday lunch at the medical center. When Smith walked through the doors, he looked surprised to see all the gifts and food. He said the gifts are a big help to him and his family.  

“It was a sigh of relief,” he said. “This means a lot to me and my family. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs this year. This is a big help. Without this, we probably wouldn’t have had a Christmas.”

“Nursing Service has been doing this event for years,” said Janet Dapprich, project lead and co-coordinator with Jean Logan, nurse. “I’m so grateful that our small group of employees came together to give this Veteran and his family the kind of Christmas they deserve.”

“Thank you, Miami VA”

The Veterans who were "adopted" this year had some words of appreciation to share with the Miami VA and its employees who shared some holiday cheer with them and their families.

“You have a big heart. You are wonderful people. You are magnificent souls,” Jones said. “To have these amazing people come into my life and light up my world, I just want to say you are so wonderful and such a blessing to my family. Thank you for thinking of my boys. They are my everything. I am grateful for everything.”

“As a Veteran, we appreciate everything you do for us,” Smith said. “We really do appreciate you from the bottom of my heart. My family appreciates you all. We are very grateful for everything you did for us. My kids are happy. That’s what makes me happy.”

On behalf of the Miami VA Healthcare System, happy holidays and thank you to all America’s Veterans.

To see more photos from the holiday lunches, visit the Miami VA Facebook page.

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