Cross-country Valentines for the Wounded in Combat
The February sky unloaded more than a foot of snow the day before Valentine’s Day, and yet the Freedom Alliance team didn’t let the inconvenient weather dash their determination to show care to recovering soldiers across the country who needed the cheering up.
A Freedom Alliance van pulled up to the Richmond Polytrauma facility, a division of the VA hospital, on Saturday morning with a cargo of surprises. Felix, the recreational therapist, agreed to meet us there on his day off, and he escorted a team member and a couple of volunteers into the unit.
Patients and staff emerged in awe as 675 yellow and red roses made their entrance.
Richmond Polytrauma is one of five such rehabilitation centers in the country. This one, in Richmond, Virginia, specializes in traumatic brain injuries and cares for about 15 patients at a time. Some patients can cycle out within three months, but others must stay for a year or more—all depending on the severity of the injury. The treatment is individualized and culminates with a reintroduction to the world outside of the hospital.
The Richmond Polytrauma building is state-of-the-art, with superior rooms for therapies and counseling, and even a gymnasium with highly advanced exercise equipment. Still, it is a medical facility, and the flowers made a big difference in the overall mood. Beautiful floral arrangements were spread to windows, recreation rooms, and all around.
In addition, Freedom Alliance had prepared Valentine gift baskets for each patient, featuring a plush animal, chocolates, balloons, and more. The seven-year-old niece of one team member helped to distribute the baskets, which meant a lot to the patients.
One young service member clasped his hands over his heart and told her, “If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have gotten anything for Valentine’s Day!”
This scene was repeated at other locations across the United States, including a polytrauma center in Tampa, Florida, which received 200 roses.
Other destinations for valentines consisted of Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas—to which 14 families accepted bouquets—and the Fort Carson Warrior Transition Battalion in Colorado. The Phi Sigma sorority presented 200 roses to service members rehabilitating at the latter facility.
Daniel, who is recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center, also expressed his thanks: “Y’all are so awesome. I know it means a lot to those guys that they are supported. And my wife was so excited when we got [bouquet] at the door.”
We later heard from Lisa, whose husband, Rob, was shot in the head while serving in Iraq and owes much of his recovery to the therapists and staff at Richmond Polytrauma. “[This is] so appreciated by those of us who live and have at one time called that place home,” said Lisa.
The Freedom Alliance team is enthusiastic about showing attention to our heroes in hospitals, and what a wonderful honor that is! Although we organize the events, we make sure the service members know that the roses and gifts represent our nation’s compelling respect and gratitude for their service and sacrifice.