To The Editor:

The veterans at Missouri’s seven VA hospitals and seven nursing homes and their families were not forgotten this Christmas. The Missouri Department American Legion Auxiliary sponsored Christmas gift shops in these facilities.

What are Christmas gift shops? Each veteran who was in a VA hospital or veteran nursing home at Christmastime had the opportunity to do Christmas shopping for members of their immediate family at no cost to them. These gifts were provided by units of the American Legion Auxiliaries throughout Missouri. Some units preferred to donate money instead of sending gifts. This being the case, representatives at these facilities selected and purchased the gifts.

Picture if you will: Rooms or lobbies with beautiful Christmas decorations and tables filled with gifts for persons of all ages — men, ladies and children. When the veterans came in, several wards at a time, some veterans in wheelchairs, they were absolutely stunned at what they saw. When they were told that they could do Christmas shopping for their immediate families at no cost to them, there were tears and smiles.

If a veteran was not able to leave his or her room, a volunteer did the shopping for him or her and took the gifts to their room. Gifts were all new, nothing glass because of perhaps shipping. If units donated gifts they were urged to select gifts they themselves would enjoy giving to their loved ones or would enjoy receiving. There was clothing, housewares, fancywork, pillowcases, towel sets, toys, games — a nice variety. Some unit members made and donated various items.

After the veterans had finished shopping there was another surprise. If a veteran wished to take the gifts to his or her room and present them to family members at Christmas, the gifts were gift wrapped. If the veterans wished to have his or her gifts sent, the gifts were wrapped and mailed to family members. Yes, there was no cost to the veteran.

Representatives and volunteers of the American Legion Auxiliary at these facilities spent much time decorating and made sure every little detail had been taken care of the opening day of the Christmas gift shop. Many Legionnaires also helped, especially in the mailing department. The gift shops were held the first part of December, usually for two days or until all the veterans had finished shopping.

It is truly a heartwarming experience to attend one of these gift shops. A portion of the American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Fund is used for this. Each year the Washington American Legion Auxiliary Unit No. 218 makes a generous donation to these Christmas gift shops.

Poppy Day will be coming up in early spring — so when you are asked to wear a poppy and you make a donation, please remember that you too are helping to make Christmas a little brighter for our veterans in VA hospitals and nursing homes.

Not just at Christmastime do the American Legion Auxiliaries remember the veterans and their families. They provide various services for veterans throughout the year.

We are sure the veterans do not forget the members of the units of American Legion Auxiliaries either. They realize the auxiliaries’ unselfish dedication to veterans and their families is an example of living the Christmas spirit throughout the year.

The Christmas gift shops are just one of the many ways the American Legion Auxiliaries honor the services of our veterans.