During the season of giving, a legacy continues to ensure Veterans are remembered. The Remember-A-Vet program is now in its 67th year and the legacy of its creator, Art Middleton, lives on in his descendants.
Two of them give back by working to support Veterans each day at VA. His daughter, Pam Lajoie, and granddaughter, Shannon Cochran (pictured above), both employees at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center, are now also supporters of the program.
“Giving to our Veterans through this program is a tradition for many in our family,” said Lajoie. “It’s great to see Dad’s legacy still helping our Veterans.”
Art Middleton, pictured here in his service uniform, loved helping his fellow Veterans in the community.
Middleton started the Remember-A-Vet program in 1953. He was commissioned an Army infantry officer in 1942, was injured in combat in St. Lo, France, in 1944, then served as public relations officer at the Percy Jones General Hospital. After he was honorably discharged in 1946, he became a reporter at the Battle Creek Enquirer newspaper.
Reader asked how to send gifts to Veteran patients
He wrote a column in December 1953 proposing the program to provide holiday cheer for military Veterans who could not leave the hospital. Middleton got the idea after a reader asked how she and some friends could send Christmas gifts to Veterans who were patients in Battle Creek.
“Dad loved finding out about people and their stories,” said Lajoie. “He was very well known throughout the community, and he loved helping out his fellow Veterans.”
Middleton died in 1971. His wife continued supporting the program until her death a few years ago.
“I remember Mom and I attending a recognition ceremony for my Dad about 13 years ago,” said Lajoie. “It made us proud to see all that he accomplished for our troops.”
Today, the money raised by the Remember-A-Vet program is used to provide coupon books. Patients can use those coupons to make purchases at the canteen or cafeteria.
The coupon books are given to in-patients on seven holidays: Memorial Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day and Christmas.
Last year, the program raised $17,600
“I think the program has been very valuable,” said Todd Greenman, chief of Community and Volunteer Service. The real success comes from members of the community giving small amounts at a time. The Veterans appreciate being remembered during the holidays throughout the year when they receive the coupon books.
Donations can be sent directly to: Community and Volunteer Service, VA Medical Center (135), 5500 Armstrong Road, Battle Creek, MI 49037.
Donations can also be provided electronically by visiting the VA web site at: www.battlecreek.va.gov/giving and selecting the Donate button. Then, click the 1010 Fund for Remember-A-Vet. The name of a person who is being recognized or remembered with the donation may be included with the gift.
Adam V. Swager is a public affairs specialist at the Battle Creek, MI, VAMC.