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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Valentine visitors bring cheer to veterans

By Shant Shahrigian
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Army veteran Richard Robinson meets Miss USA, Erin Brady, at the annual Valentines for Veterans Celebration on Feb. 14 at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center.

As Emilia Robinson recalled her outlook and her outfit the day she met her future husband, a Vietnam War veteran and resident at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Kingsbridge, Richard Robinson made the effort to share a detailed memory from the date 41 years ago.

“Brown,” the ailing vet said after a Valentine’s Day celebration at the hospital’s community center. “Form-fitting.”

The Robinsons were among a group of veterans and their family members who heard grateful words from Miss USA, Erin Brady, as well as patriotic songs from Bronx students. State Sen. Jeff Klein organized the event, which was in its 19th year.

“It’s amazing to me what you’ve sacrificed and all of the horrible things that you’ve seen, and yet you have such a positive attitude and you’re able to put a smile on your face every day,” said Ms. Brady, whose presence at the Feb. 14 event evoked a U.S. military tradition of glamorous entertainers and personalities succoring the troops.

After P.S. 14’s choir sang the National Anthem and other songs, students from P.S. 83 belted out a mix of romantic pop hits from over the years.

But what the honorees seemed to appreciate most was the opportunity for students to catch a glimpse of veterans’ experiences.

“They get to see how it feels,” Korean War veteran and VA hospital patient Franklin DeVeaux said. “A lot of their parents are not veterans.”

Mr. DeVeaux and several other veterans at the event said they could not distinctly remember what Valentine’s Day was like during wartime.

“There were no set holidays,” said José Benitez, a Vietnam War and Desert Storm veteran. “Every day [was] the same. You don’t really remember.”

Along with thanking veterans at last Friday’s event, Mr. Klein touted legislative efforts to benefit people returning from the country’s most recent wars. His “Jobs for Heroes” bill, which became law at the start of the year, gives employers tax credits of $5,000 per veteran they hire. The benefits jump to $15,000 per wounded veteran.

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