Dear Annie: I am honored to see citizens and patriots step forward to honor and support one of our nation’s greatest assets, the American veteran. Helping those who have given their mind, body and spirit in defense of our nation is woven into the fabric of our society. From the Revolutionary War to the present, everyday people donate their time and expertise to help those who have served on the front lines of freedom.

Our veterans reflect all that is good in our nation: honor, courage and commitment. The volunteers who serve and support our veterans bring that same measure of greatness to their mission.

Many of your readers join us each February in the National Salute to Veteran Patients. This program encourages Americans to visit and volunteer at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and to send letters of thanks or valentines to those who have protected our nation. This year’s National Salute is February 10-16.

Last year, more than 361,000 valentines were received at VA medical centers, and 21,904 people visited nearly 82,493 veteran patients. We have had an increasing number of Americans participate in this program each year, and 2012 was no exception. I thank you and your readers for your work in bringing attention to this worthy cause. Of special note, VA Voluntary Service recruited a total of 364 new volunteers during the week of the 2012 Valentines for Veterans Concert Series. This is an outstanding testament to the ongoing support our veterans receive at the community level.

On behalf of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, I encourage your thoughtful readers again to take some time this February to honor our veterans. Annie, thank you for your support of this outstanding program.

For more information regarding the National Salute and volunteer opportunities at a local VA medical center, please visit VA’s Voluntary Service web page at www.volun teer.va.gov. — Tommy S. Sowers, Ph.D., Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Washington, D.C.

Dear Dr. Sowers: Every year, our readers make us proud with their outpouring of appreciation for our veterans through the Valentines for Vets program.

Our veterans deserve our thanks and appreciation. Sending a valentine or volunteering at one of the VA medical facilities is a wonderful way to express our gratitude to those who have served our country. The veterans would be especially thrilled if you could spend a few minutes visiting and talking about their families and hometowns. Tell them how much you appreciate their service.

Teachers, you have always been wonderfully supportive in making this a class project, especially with those charming and much-appreciated handmade valentines.

Every year, the dedicated members of Camp Fire USA participate in this VA program, and Salvation Army volunteers distribute valentines, gifts and refreshments at various VA facilities around the country.

If you do not live close enough to a VA facility to drop off your valentines in person, it’s perfectly OK to put them in the mail. Simply check your phone book for the nearest VA facility, or go to the VA website at www.va.gov. — Marcy and Kathy

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