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Salisbury VA staff make the day for veterans with visitation parade

By Todd Goodman

Salisbury VA Medical Center

Every 20 minutes, a new set of cars pulled up to the curb at the horseshoe drop-off point at Salisbury VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center. Veteran residents waited anxiously to see their loved ones during the CLC’s recent drive-through visitation parade.

During the pandemic, a strict no-visitor policy was followed to protect veterans and staff. However, the visitation parades have allowed residents to spend quality time with their families, all while maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols. These short visits do a lot to brighten the spirits of all involved.   

“It cheers me up,” said Army veteran Tom Taylor. “It really means a lot. I saw my wife and got to see a photo of my granddaughter. That made me feel old.” 

The parade has been a great way to get back to some sense of normalcy. Veterans and family members aren’t the only ones who love these visits. They also mean a lot to the staff who organize them. 

“It is very meaningful for them to be able to visit,” said social work supervisor Michelle Gillespie-Gray. “It was heartwarming to sit back and watch families enjoy the interaction with their loved ones.” 

For Jane Roach, the visitation alleviated concern about her brother, Army vaeteran Richard Hodgin. She hadn’t seen him in quite some time except over video calls and this opportunity reassured her that he was doing well. 

“For me being able to actually see him and see the color in his face and the brightness of his eyes, I know he’s healthy and I know he’s being looked after” she said. 

CLC staff realize the value of these parades. Being able to lay eyes on a loved one in person is much more valuable to the family members than phone or video calls. This is the third visitation parade held since October, and CLC staff would like to do all they can to increase face-to-face visitation opportunities for veterans and their loved ones.    

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to provide this service to our veterans and their families,” said Gillespie-Gray. “I am grateful that our leadership team has allowed us to do these.” 

All of the work CLC staff members do to pull off a visitation parade is not lost on the family members of veterans.  

“They are wonderful,” Roach said of CLC staff. “Richard has been here a long time. His care is just beyond great. And I can see this—not just with him—but with how they interact with all patients. They are awesome!”

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