February 21, 2012
Veteran Billy Ray Hartgrave of Claremore.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation brightened Valentine’s Day for area veterans by distributing thousands of handmade cards to Veterans Affairs hospitals in Fayetteville, Ark., and Muskogee, VA nursing homes in Claremore and Talihina and VA clinics in Jay, Vinita and Tulsa. The cards were gathered from various schools, churches and civic organizations as part of the tribe’s annual Valentines for Vets campaign.
“Basically what we do is we collect valentines from young folks,” said Rogan Noble, the tribal veterans representative in the Cherokee Nation Office of Veterans Affairs. “These valentines are mainly for our hospitalized and elderly vets—guys that are confined to VA nursing homes, the hospitals and places where sometimes they don’t get a whole lot of visitors or a whole lot of mail.”
Students at Cherokee Nation’s Sequoyah Schools made cards and contributed them to Valentines for Vets as a community service project. Sequoyah Schools junior Nathalie Tomasik expressed why it is important to her to honor veterans.
“I think it’s important to let the vets know that we still recognize them and respect them and let them know that they’re appreciated,” said Tomasik. “Because a few years after a vet has finished doing their time, they might think their country has probably forgotten about what they have done.”
Students at Cherokee Nation’s Talking Leaves Job Corps in Tahlequah also contributed to Valentines for Vets. Sandra Caughman, a GED and high school class teacher at TLJC, believes participation in the valentine drive is beneficial not only to veterans but to her students as well.
“The students enjoy doing it,” said Caughman. “We had some discussion about the different wars, so we can use it as a teaching moment also. It gives them something to think about besides just themselves.”
Army veteran Billy Ray Hartgrave is one of many veterans who received a special Valentine’s Day greeting thanks to Valentines for Vets. He gladly read a card thanking him for his service. Noble delivered that one and numerous other valentines to the VA nursing home in Claremore.
“That’s a nice little card. It shows their appreciation for our service,” said Hartgrave. “Valentine’s is a time of love and unity, so we need to show one other that on this day at this time.”
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