For the past few years on the 4th of July, I’ve joined a group of volunteers to sing patriotic songs to the veterans at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto, CA. I love to sing and it’s an easy way for me to offer a tribute to the brave veterans who have served in the military.
The afternoon is always an emotional experience for me as we walk around to the different units in the hospital. We stand at the nurse’s stations, outside patient’s rooms and always start by singing “Thank You for Your Service” with these poignant words:
It’s a simple melody that stays in my head for hours after we finish singing. We sing the song in a 4-part round and the harmony is so beautiful that inevitably I get so choked up, I can barely sing. As I look around at the faces of the vets, young and old, I wonder what they were like as vibrant young soldiers volunteering to serve our country.
Our leader provides a songbook with some classic patriotic songs — The Star-Spangled Banner, God Bless America, America the Beautiful and This Land Is Your Land. The songbook also includes songs for each branch of the military — Anchors Aweigh, Army Song, Marine’s Hymn and Air Force Song.
When we get to the Air Force Song, I feel more tears sliding down my cheeks remembering my father who served as a tail gunner in World War II. Fortunately, he survived the war after flying sixty missions and lived a wonderful life, but he’s been gone for 20 years.
Today I had another reason to cry. One of my dear GaGa Sisters, Janada Clark, was not standing by my side in the alto section to provide a strong voice for me to sing the harmony. Janada passed away on April 26, 2017 after a brief and courageous battle with cancer. I felt her presence today and remembered how devoted she was to serving the vets in her community.
Spending two hours of my July 4th holiday didn’t take much effort on my part, but the gift of seeing smiles on the vets’ faces was truly priceless. I encourage you to visit veterans in your community. Often, they don’t have many visitors and they really appreciate it when people remember them.