Kobe and I volunteer at the Tampa VA Hospital, or as I often explain to people, Kobe is the volunteer. I'm just his driver. Every day at the VA hospital reminds me of how expensive freedom is, and of the men and women who have paid that bill for all Americans. There are veterans of multiple wars (one gentleman wears a cap that proudly states that he is a veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam).
We visit patients and residents at the Community Living Center (Nursing Home) once each week for four hours. Many of these folks have few, if any, visitors. One sight of Kobe and faces brighten, teeth show, and comments, such as, "I love you," and "He's so beautiful" abound.
After a session of brisk petting and scratching on Kobe's soft fur, we have heard, "Thank you: you made my day" several times. It's a great feeling. I wrote an article about our escapades as volunteers that appeared in PN Magazine's November 2015 issue.
When I was in the Army, orders arrived sending me to Vietnam. I took the supplemental combat training and was punctured with vaccinations against all the jungle cooties in 'Nam. Richard Nixon ordered troop strength reductions in Vietnam and my orders were rescinded at the last moment. A later ruling by the president got me out of the service twenty-seven days early.
Over the years, I've wondered what might have happened if I had gone to the war. Every time I think of my son and grandchildren, I am forever grateful.
I decided to volunteer at the VA Hospital to honor the 58,000+ Americans who gave their lives and the more than one million who served there.
Recent conflicts have supplied the VA system with more and more patients. Their sacrifices are evident in every move they make. Charlie Chaplin once said, "A day spent without laughter is a day not lived." Kobe can bring that laughter to faces that haven't had much reason to smile. A VA employee once said to me, "Thanks for coming here. You bring joy to this place." Many people have made similar comments to me, which makes it all worthwhile.
Thank you to all my brother and sister U.S. Military Veterans for your service and your devotion.