Prose

The HVWP’s Legacy of Love

by Van Garner, VA Medical Center — Murfreesboro, TN
(published in Veterans’ Voices Spring 2003 issue)

I recall a time of extreme despondency, a time when life was void of any fruitful expectations. I was like a wind-blown leaf floating upon a sea of disaster, with no hope of being reunited with others of my kind.

This feeling of emptiness threatened the core of my existence. I walked the halls of mental affliction in the Veterans Administration Hospital, Murfreesboro, Tenn. For me, there was no hope for tomorrow; there was no escape from my tormented mind.

A year passed, then two. I could see no relief from the strange circumstance that had destroyed my thinking processes and left me as a vegetable in a lonely, forgotten field of endeavor. This is until I heard about the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project. Frankly, I was afraid to try my hand at writing, for a failure to win would have driven me deeper into my shell of insignificance.

At this time, I needed a catalyst of accomplishment to stir the creative juices lying dormant in my mind. Hello, H.V.W.P! Hello to a new chance of mental redemption, a chance to unveil the real me and toss my heart through pages of the written word. No, it was not easy for me to express myself on paper, just as it was a frightening experience to speak a single word.

One might say I gambled on winning. After all, I thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Fuzzy-headed, I tried a four-line poem. My emotions about my effort were mixed. When the listing of winners in the H.V.W.P. contest arrived, my poem did not make it. So, while I was disappointed, I decided to try again. It was as though something inside me yearned to succeed and I could not turn away from the challenge.

I began to wonder how HVWP was started and who had the foresight to establish such a far-reaching program for us hospitalized veterans. Later, I learned that Elizabeth Fontaine founded this organization in 1946, just after the end of the World War II. With this newborn knowledge, I was compelled to write a fictional short story and, lo and behold, it won first prize! Thus began my 35-plus years of writing for HVWP. I have won many prizes during my career as a writer, and quite a few poems, articles and short stories have been published in Veterans’ Voices magazine, which was founded by Margaret Sally Keach in 1952.

I was honored in October 31, 1998, with an opportunity to give the keynote address at the annual meeting of H.V.W.P. in Kansas City, Mo. I was given a plaque of achievement and was recognized as an honorary member of the Board of Directors.

The entire meeting was videotaped and everyone who spoke was much more relaxed than I. But, I can say, I was proud to know I did it. In fact, I was so proud that I took one of the tapes and had it reproduced. I gave a copy of it to my doctor at the VA Outpatient Clinic in Chattanooga, Tenn., and he said it took a lot of courage on my part to deliver my speech.

I look back with admiration for those wonderful ladies who made dark clouds disappear and replaced them with sparkling sun rays. Now, I salute all the officers of present day HVWP for reaching out all over the United States of America to us veterans. This caring and giving is the core of HVWP. This is their legacy of love. And the legacy goes on!

These sample prose pages are provided compliments of PromotionsAndPrint.com. We thank all veterans for our freedom. And for personal help, a thanks is sent to vet Paddy Kelliher.

Dinner for Nine

by Lee Hill, VA Medical Center — Oklahoma City, OK
(published in Veterans’ Voices Spring 2004 issue)

I reside at the Clinton Veterans Center in Clinton, Okla., and we have many different activities. One of these is a dinner outing. I had been feeling a bit closed in, so I signed up to go along on Sunday, July 27. I arose early in order to prepare for the trip, and I was ready and waiting by the time the bus was ready to go. The trip was quite uneventful until we arrived at our destination. My friends who could walk all made a mad scramble to disembark from the bus. I had to wait for the Tommy lift to set me on terra firma, because I drive a Rascal Three-Wheeler.

We all entered together and were seated at the same table by a very pretty waitress. We ordered our most-wanted dishes, from hamburgers to expensive steaks cooked to order. As we were finishing our salads, the manager came to our table and told us our dinners had all been paid for by a lady who was dining there when we entered. She had asked the manager who we were, wanting to know if we were disabled veterans. The manager had told her we were house-bound veterans from the Clinton Disabled Veterans Center. The lady then asked if she could pay for our dinners and be kept anonymous.

She did so, and told the manager that it was the least she could do. We had done more for her and the United States than most other citizens in our fine country. She wanted to show her appreciation.

Upon hearing this, I assure you that I had to keep my mouth full to keep from crying. The tears were running down my cheeks as it was. Looking down the table, I noticed I was not the only one. More than one hand had to reach to the tears sneaking down cheeks. There was a short period of silence before we all asked in unison who this lady was. The manager informed us that she was bound to secrecy.

We each gave a heartfelt thanks to pass on to our unknown benefactor. Since then, we have decided to purchase a large thank-you card that we all can sign. We’ll send it to the manager of Simon’s Catch to relay to this wonderful lady, to show our thanks and let her know the joyous effect she had on nine lives that day.

I don’t know if my comrades feel the same; but for me, it’s a feeling similar to a resurrection. I had almost come to believe no one cared whether I lived or died. You might say I had begun to think I was just an old crippled, worn-out discard to be a burden to others. This incident has given me a real shot in the arm and restored my faith in my fellow citizens.

I must tell you this lady must be one of the most wonderful people I have most sorrowfully never had the great pleasure to meet. I will always do my utmost to uphold her opinion of me. I am overjoyed to once again have the recognition I once had so many years ago. It is one of the reasons I hold and respect the symbols of our great nation, the Eagle and Old Glory. May her stars and stripes shine on through eternity. May this fine lady stay in good health and be able to enjoy that for the rest of her days.

She will always be in my prayers as I watch the stars at night and wonder which of the brightest ones is hers.

Typist: Kathy Maynard

These sample prose pages are provided compliments of PromotionsAndPrint.com. We thank all veterans for our freedom. And for personal help, a thanks is sent to vet Paddy Kelliher.