The holidays are typically a time for family.
But for many members of the military, it can be a time of stress.
The Eisenhower VA Medical Center has numerous activities and support groups to help veterans who are struggling.
“We are very sensitive to the needs of veterans during the holidays,” said Bill Lanning, a social worker at the VA. “Some of them are coping with stress associated with the holidays.”
Lanning said there are many avenues of support at the VA. He said one of them is a holiday shopping service on campus.
Donors contribute gifts and money to the shopping service. Veterans are welcome to shop for family at the event, have the gifts wrapped and then sent by the VA. There is no cost to the veterans.
Marine Corps veteran Danny Owens, a resident of the domiciliary at the VA, said many local organizations donate time and money to the VA and veterans. The VFW, American Legion, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution and others have been active in their support of veterans not only during the holidays, but throughout the year.
“It’s all about veterans loving veterans,” Owens said.
Elizabeth Weinmann, who works as a substance abuse specialist at the VA, said programs like the free holiday shopping service “helps veterans re-connect with their kids.”
Ret. Army Spc. Amanda Brown, another resident of the domiciliary, said there are many support groups active at the VA that help veterans in need.
“People at the domiciliary become your family,” Brown said. “You share stories, and you bond with each other.”
Lanning said “there is nothing that pulls people together like a common experience.”
Kim Schrader-Matthies, a recreation therapist at the VA, said helpful programs offered by the VA include chili suppers, caroling and receiving Christmas cards and letters from family and friends.
Approximately 40 residents of the domiciliary recently were treated to a free dinner theater in Missouri.
This week, the VA hosted its annual holiday banquet for veterans at the Riverfront Community Center.
On Saturday, the University of Western Florida football team will play in the NCAA D-II national championship game. Before the game, members of the team will visit the domiciliary at the VA. Domiciliary residents at the VA are invited to attend the championship for free at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
“We have a dedicated and caring staff who not only provide quality health care but go above and beyond in providing a sense of belonging for our veterans,” said Joe Burks in a press release. Burks is the public affairs officer for the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System.
“The holiday season can prove to be a lonely one for veterans who may be without family. We are proud to be a part of an incredible community that understands this and does nothing less than amazing work to address it. Our veterans … will be a part of the much bigger family known as ‘the caring community of Leavenworth, Kansas’ this holiday season.”