LEEDS — VA registered nurse Tim Moran said he took a note from his days as a sailor in the Navy when he started “Operation Mail Call.” So far, he’s delivered hundreds of letters to veterans quarantined in the Community Living Center (CLC) of VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System.
Moran, who recently volunteered to deploy in support of the VA’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, said he started his letter-writing initiative in early March by posting a “call to action on Facebook. I asked people to write to our veterans in the CLC on the main campus since they can’t leave or receive visitors for their own safety.” That Facebook post was quickly shared more than 100 times, and continues to be shared.
“We received between 115 and 120 pieces of mail in response to that first Facebook post, and every veteran received at least three or four letters during the first mail call,” Moran said on his last day at work in mid-April, as he prepared to deploy to a VA CLC located in Bedford to help care for coronavirus patients. “I might not be here for the second mail call, but we already have that many letters collected for our veterans.”
Moran said an early sharer of his Facebook post, VA recreation therapist Meaghan Breed, would step up and ensure that the letter campaign continued to bring positive and encouraging words to the CLC veterans.
“I think that, right now, the response is incredible,” Breed said, adding that many of the veterans immediately started writing responses to their visitors via the post. “We’re happy to spread the love to other veterans who live on our main campus and who are unable to receive visitors at this time as well.”
Moran said “Operation Mail Call” was inspired by his time as a sailor in the Navy, and the importance of receiving well wishes and letters while away from home. “I worked on a fast frigate homeported in San Diego, and my high-school sweetheart used to write me letters scented with perfume,” he recalled. “I used to read those letters over and over again.”
VA Central Western Massachusetts Nurse Executive Marie Robinson-McLaughlin, who also serves as a high-ranking flight nurse in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, said she fully supported the initiative because all veterans appreciate mail, whether they’re deployed during a war or patients at a VA hospital.
“We want to keep our nursing-home veterans safe, and a part of that safety is knowing that they are thought of and appreciated,” she said, noting that one letter came from as far away as a Facebook follower in Arizona. “At this time, it’s important that we come together and remember those who are unable to travel safely or as freely as they once were able to.”
Moran and Breed said they would keep their social-media campaign growing to help ensure that those who want to reach out to veterans in nursing homes have the means and instructions to be able to. But for now, Moran, who is married with three children — including a son currently serving as an officer in the U.S. Air Force — said he has a different letter-writing campaign to start.
“While I’m deployed and working with coronavirus patients for the VA, I’ll have to stay away from my family to keep them safe,” said Moran, who is on his second VA deployment after previously going to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. “I’ll be writing and calling home every day.”