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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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U.S. Olympic Athletes Visit Former POWs & Other Veterans

April 17, 2014


U.S. Olympians Lolo Jones, Julie Chu, and Kikkan Randall with former WWII POWs Joe Ramirez, Clarence Fountain, and former Vietnam POW John Brodak.

Veterans at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center were thrilled when three of our country’s U.S. Olympic Athletes stopped by the Medical Center for a special visit.  Lolo Jones, Julie Chu and Kikkan Randall, who all three competed in the Sochi 2014 Olympics, recently spent a morning at MEDVAMC visiting the Medical Center’s Fisher House, attending a special former POW Veteran celebration, and visiting Veteran patients.  The athletes trip to Houston was sponsored by BP America as part of their ongoing partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“Meeting these women who represented our country in the Olympics was an experience of a lifetime,” said David Cerda, an Army Veteran.  “I remember seeing each and every one of them on TV during the Olympics and they are even more impressive in person.  I was proud to shake their hands.”

The athlete’s began their visit at the MEDVAMC Fisher House, where family members of Veterans receiving treatment at the Medical Center gathered to pose for pictures with the Olympians.  “Meeting the families at the Fisher House was very special,” said Lolo Jones, who competed on the U.S. National Bobsled Team at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Jones, a world-class hurdler, who also placed fourth in the 100meter hurdles at the London 2012 Olympic Games, tweeted photos of her experience at the Fisher House to her many followers and thanked the family members for their support.  “As Olympians we know firsthand what a difference family support can make. I’m so glad you are able to stay in this beautiful house and be close to your family members when they need it the most.”

During their visit, the Olympians also visited a very special group of Veterans; former Prisoners of War gathered at the Medical Center for a special recognition ceremony.  “As Olympic athletes, some people call us American heroes,” Julie Chu, a key member of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey team who carried the flag for Team USA at the opening ceremony, told the former POWs.  “However, I want you to know that we know that your service and sacrifice on behalf of our country make you the real heroes.  Real heroes are the men and women who wear camouflage.”

All three athletes spent a great deal of time getting to know the Veterans during their visit, even stopping to take “selfies” with some former POWs and high five some Veterans who competed in the VA’s Golden Age Games competition.

Kikkan Randall, a U.S. Olympic cross country skier who was the first U.S. woman to win the World Cup sprint title, in both 2012 and 2013, was popular among the Veterans as she allowed them to hold her World Cup trophy. 

“Because I have family members and friends who served in the military, I have a special appreciation for Veterans,” said Randall.  “As athletes we always focus on determination, hard work and sacrifice.  I can’t think of a group of people who understand that better than the men and women who have served our country.  We speak the same language.”