Years ago Tom Dolan started a tradition that has gone mostly unknown and out of site of most in Londonderry. While on a visit to a VA hospital as part of a team from his company to reach out to veterans in need, he was moved to take action.
“I was so deeply moved by many of the sad and lonely veterans in the long term care facility in Manchester. I talked over my experience at the VA Hospital with my wife. She offered to make valentines for the veterans with her 1st grade class at Matthew Thornton School.” said Tom Dolan.
Mrs Dolan decided to conduct this exercise in conjunction with a teaching module on veterans and their contributions to our country, and the Londonderry “Valentines for Vets” program was born. It has since spread to other grades and schools. The program has enjoyed wide support from both teachers and administrators alike. This year Tom was able to deliver more than 800 valentine cards to the VA Hospital from our Londonderry school children.
Tom continued his touching story, “During my visits, I’ve run across some incredible stories about ordinary men and women who have experienced extraordinary situations. I met one of the last survivors of the Baatan Death March. His stories of his fellow soldiers were compelling and inspiring. This soft spoken man quietly described to me the most horrific experiences of pain and endurance imaginable. It was truly humbling to be in his presence. He is but one example of the many storied veterans I’ve met who’ve made extreme sacrifices for their country. Every year smiles sometimes gave way to tears as the veterans read the touching cards created by the Londonderry students. The fact that they are remembered and appreciated is huge to them. ”
When asked what he gets out if it Tom simply said, “It is an experience from which I receive much more than I give.”
This is all part of the National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans celebrated each year during the week of February 14th by the VHA.