It is no secret that women have served our country since the turn of the century, beginning with World War I. Their contributions have been vital to our way of life, but often forgotten. They were certainly remembered this past Dec. 10 at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System at American Lake in Lakewood.
A most thoughtful Dr. Lori S. Katz, Ph.D. at the hospital contacted music maestro Walt Kaplin to discuss the possibility of putting on a program for the ladies, and he was thrilled with the idea. Within a very short time, the two met to discuss the format, content and timeframe. The morning of Dec. 10, Kaplin showed up at the hospital to set up for the event. The room where the program was held was very warm and festive, with many decorations and a wonderfully decorative display of gifts everywhere.
The festivities started promptly with Christmas music softly playing in the background while lunch was being served. Then came the music medley sing-along, with all in attendance singing, laughing and having a marvelous time. Dr. Katz announced a raffle while everyone was being served cake, coffee and refreshments. A medley recognizing the five branches of the military – Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy and Marines – played, and smiles and tears were plentiful as everyone sang along.
Special guests Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus arrived adorned in their beautiful and very traditional attire. Presents were given to everyone in attendance. There was also a group sing-along of traditional Christmas music and, of course, Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters singing “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Silver Bells” and other popular Christmas songs. The entertainment concluded with Crosby singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and, of course, “White Christmas.”
Then the music turned to old time rock and roll, and the ladies jumped out of their chairs and started dancing and having a ball. They boogied to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll,” Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock,” Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline,” Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” and Elvis Presley singing “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog” and many more.
At the close of this very fun day, Katz thanked all who made the festive event possible and wished all a happy holiday and merry Christmas. Later, Kaplin told me that this event touched him deeply, having himself served along with his son, who gave his life while serving with the 101st Airborne on December 1985, and his father who served during World War II.
Katz sent Kaplin this thank-you letter below, showing the professionalism, concern and appreciation that the Department of Veterans Affairs has toward their patients and guests. As Kaplin said to me, “God bless the VA.”
Dear Mr. Kaplin (Walt),
Thank you so very much for the wonderful music you provided for the Women’s Health Clinic holiday party. The women veterans had so much fun singing, and the dancing! Several of the women said this was the best party they had been to in many years. One veteran in particular, who was feeling blue, just perked up at the party. A week later, she said she felt like a dark cloud was lifted from her. I share this with you because I want you to know how much the experience meant to the ladies. Thank you for your generosity, good cheer, professionalism, and most of all…for the music!
Thank you for spreading the message that these veterans are not alone, and they are not forgotten!
Wishing you a joyous holiday season.
With much appreciation and gratitude,
Lori S. Katz, Ph.D.