During the week prior to Veterans Day, the Center for Development and Civic Engagement, sponsored a celebration for veterans at the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Loma Linda, CA. With COVID restrictions still in place for those hospitalized, the four-day event focused on outpatients coming to the VA for routine visits. Each day several organizations were on site to provide information, outreach services and provide items.

The Order of Malta partnered with Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Court St. Anne, to distribute donated items such as blankets, books, puzzles, cards, writing material and gift cards, along with the Order’s signature hygiene kits. This was the 3rd year of partnership between the Order and CDA in honoring the heroes among us. The endeavor is near and dear to this group of ladies, in that each has had a connection to the military in some way.

What started out as a quiet morning with coffee and donuts, quickly turned into a celebratory atmosphere as more and more veterans, their spouses and caretakers filled the foyer, arriving for appointments.

Curiosity as to what we were “selling’” was replaced by surprise, gratitude, joy, and a few tears when it was understood these were things were being given to them in humble thanks for their sacrifice and service to our great nation.

In addition to sharing these “gifts” with our heroes we had many delightful conversations about their experiences and some good-natured bantering about the upcoming Army-Navy game. Our Lady of Lourdes challenge coins accompanied by the traditional handshake were passed with a heartfelt, “Thank you for your service!” whiles others received Archdiocese of Military Services pins to add to their existing collections on the lanyards many wore.

Veronalynn “Iggy” Ignacio-Romero, Army Veteran and representative of the Center for Development and Civic Engagement thanked the Order of Malta and Catholic Daughters for participating in the celebration. We look forward to next year’s event and being of service to the men and women who have been the guardians of our freedom.