February 01, 2005
**Op-Ed** - Valentines for Vets
By: Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11)
Valentine's Day is almost upon us again. It is a time to be with our loved ones and let others know how much they are appreciated, especially our military veterans.
This Valentine's Day, I will continue my tradition of encouraging the making of Valentines Day cards by elementary school children across northern New Jersey and delivering them on their behalf to veterans at the East Orange VA Hospital and Lyons VA Medical Center in Bernards Township.
The Valentines for Vets, program, as it is commonly called, holds a special place in my heart. For nearly 10 years, I have witnessed how a valentine from a child can lift the heart of a veteran confined to hospital bed on Valentine s Day. A hospital can be a lonely place. Yet, this widely popular program has delivered countless scenes of children touching the lives of hospitalized veterans with their very creative and colorful valentines.
Teachers and students across northern New Jersey have always been very helpful and supportive in making this a class project. Each year the week of February 14 is commemorated as the National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans. This is an opportunity to say thank you to more than 98,000 veterans who are cared for every day in our VA medical centers, outpatient clinics, domiciliaries, and nursing homes. Honoring our hospitalized veterans by giving a simple card or paying them a visit on Valentine s Day will give them more hope and reason to smile than a prescription or treatment ever could.
Participating in this program not only helps our veterans. It also gives students a special way to learn about the satisfaction of doing something for others while also saying thank you to our veterans for risking their lives in defense of our freedom. It offers students a chance to learn more about who our veterans are and the role they played in shaping our nation s history.
Today, there are more than 25 million living American veterans, including 750,000 here in New Jersey. We enjoy the freedom and prosperity America offers because many of them put their lives on the line.
Drafted or enlisted, Regular military or as Reservists and members of the National Guard, each lived by a code and defended our nation with everything they had. They fought on the shores of Normandy, in the mountains of Korea, in the jungles of Vietnam, in the valleys of Afghanistan, through the deserts of the Persian Gulf and Iraq, and on many other battlefields around the globe.
The servicemen and women who have served our country with pride, valor and dignity deserve the best of America s appreciation. The Valentines for Vets program is simple way for all children to learn about the men and women who served our country in uniform. It also offers them a way to say thank you to our veterans for their service and sacrifice. Please, use this holiday as an opportunity to let our veterans know they are appreciated and will never be forgotten.
Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen represents New Jersey's 11th Congressional District and is a Vietnam veteran.