The VA Medical Center in White River Junction was the place to be Friday for holiday shopping. Every year the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary puts on the Veterans Gift Shop. Any veteran can come in and pick out gifts for their families and themselves, free of charge.
"The American Legion Auxiliary and all of the units we have, 46 in the state of Vermont, we all donate money and everything here is free to the veteran. We charge for nothing. We come down, they shop, they get whatever they want for their families and loved ones, and it is all free to them. It's our way of giving back to our vets for their sacrifice," said Candy Huseman of the American Legion Womens Auxiliary.
Barbara and Burnam Snide come every year from Springfield.
"Stuff I need, stuff for my sister, stuff he needs," said Barbara Snide, a Navy veteran. "It's very good with my eye problem, I have to have someone to go with me tell me what I am looking at, what I am not."
"They will go around one by one with a volunteer, they will say like how many people are in their family and they can shop for them or even a friend," said Rebecca Moricette of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary.
The gifts are then wrapped on the spot. But what about the veterans who cannot make it to the shop? No problem, members of the American Legion baseball team from Colchester donated their time to deliver mobile gift shops to those bedridden upstairs.
"And our baseball team, we love them. Without them we couldn't push all those carts and be able to deliver those gifts right to those rooms," Huseman said.
"You know, I just want to give back. Not a lot of kids usually go out and help the community, it's not really what they do and it is really good to see young kids going out helping someone and bringing joy to people," said Cassidy Moore of the Colchester Cannons.
And this even takes on special significance this year, falling on the 71st anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day.
The oldest shopper at the hospital Friday was Ruth Smith. She's 92. She remembers the original Pearl Harbor Day. She was in her early 20s, living at home with her parents in Danville, N.Y.
"I lived with my mother and father, and every time we heard an airplane fly over we all hid in the cellar," Smith said.
Shortly after that, she joined the Army, doing mostly office work during the war.
It was hard to tell Friday just who was having more fun, the shoppers or the ball players.
"Very good, the boys have been fantastic. They are very helpful," said Peter Kilfeather of Hartland. "And I even got something for myself-- candies."
"Something about receiving and giving that just makes it special," Moore said.
The auxiliary also holds a Veterans Gift Shop at the Bennington Soldiers Home. Last year, organizers say they served 250 Vermont veterans.
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