Honor. Admiration. Salutation. Support.
That's what VA Pittsburgh employees aimed to provide a select group of Pittsburgh-area Veterans on a special spring afternoon recently.
These heroes did not just vow to battle all enemies, foreign and domestic, on behalf of their country. They also battle cancer.
Just like during their service to our Nation, they fight valiantly, they fight with courage, and they fight to win.
But the third annual Spring Fling luncheon was not about fighting. It was about celebrating.
"It's great to see people that have survived and are here for the third year," said Deborah Goral, voluntary program specialist. Goral noted that 75 survivors attended this year, up from last year's 60.
The Spring Fling began with the desire to honor their battle and invite them to return to VAPHS for something other than treatment. "It's not a day about their illness," said Recreation Therapy Assistant Marlena Regus. "It's a day for them to come and relax and for us to show that we appreciate them."
Representatives from Gilda's Club of Western Pennsylvania were on hand again this year to introduce the program to Veterans. Founded by actor Gene Wilder in memory of his comedian wife Gilda Radner, the clubs provide free social and emotional support for anyone living with cancer.
VA employees entertained Veterans with their musical prowess while they dined.
Alan Salisbury, 62, of Bellevue, is a throat cancer survivor. "This is a great hospital and they take good care of me," said the Vietnam Marine Veteran.
Rita Carfang, 49, of Export, is an Air Force Veteran, a VA employee and a breast cancer survivor.
"This gets people together that have the same problems and lets you see you're not in as bad shape as you were at one time," Carfang said. "They also let you know about groups like Gilda's Club so you can get involved in something outside of treatment."