Virginia post’s Legion Family resumes annual luncheon for VA patients, staff
(Tom Mastaglio photo)

Virginia post’s Legion Family resumes annual luncheon for VA patients, staff

With the exception of the years encompassed within the coronavirus pandemic, American Legion Post 49 in Smithfield, Va., has hosted an annual luncheon for patients and staff from the Hampton VA Medical Center.

The luncheon resumed for the first time since the pandemic earlier this month, when the post’s Legion Family hosted 33 patients, staff and volunteers on Feb. 11 to kick off National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans Week.

“A lot of us have been in the hospital before, and we know how it is,” Post 49 Commander Jerry Starling said. “It’s just not the prettiest and most beautiful place to be. So, we figured if we could get them out a day … it can brighten things up for them. They really thank us for having the day, the good food, getting them out of the hospital. A lot of them enjoy the food, and a lot of them enjoy just getting out.”

This year’s luncheon included fried chicken, ham and side dishes. Buses transport the patients and staff to the post, with an escort of either cars and trucks or motorcycles, weather permitting, from Legion Family members and other organizations.

Auxiliary Unit 49 members provide the patients with what Starling calls “goody bags” with toiletries, knickknacks and other items. The post and its Auxiliary unit working in tandem to put on the luncheon is one of the highlights for Starling.

“That’s one of the good things about it: the camaraderie not just with the people from the hospital, but the people from the post,” he said. “Getting together and enjoying having that time together. We have a good time also.”

In addition to the meal, the post offers music and dancing to their guests. “And at the end, if they want to stand up and say something, they can,” Starling said. “They talk about the day they had or anything they want to talk about. They get to laughing and get to joking. They go home happy.”

Starling said the annual luncheon is a chance to thank the veterans for their service, as well show their support for the efforts of the VA staff and volunteers.

“That is what The American Legion is about: supporting our veterans, supporting their families, supporting those in need,” he said. “What we get out of it is the pride in knowing that we have helped them.

“As long as the good Lord will let us, we’ll keep getting them out there. It costs us a couple of bucks, but you don’t count that when you’re helping people.”