P.E.I. veterans feeling the love through annual Valentines for Vets program

P.E.I. veterans are feeling a little love as Valentine's Day approaches as they receive handmade cards, hand delivered by members of the naval reserves.

'We thank them for their service'

Shirley Johnson is a veteran, having served as a dietitian during the war. She received her valentine at Andrews of Stratford. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

P.E.I. veterans are feeling a little love as Valentine's Day approaches as they receive handmade cards, hand delivered by members of the naval reserves.

Students at Stratford Elementary School have created valentines that are being given to veterans in long term care facilities across P.E.I.

Tanya Newson and Cindy Read's grade four class at Stratford Elementary created valentines for veterans across Prince Edward Island. (Submitted by Stratford Elementary)

In other parts of Canada, the valentines are put in the mail. But on Prince Edward Island, they are being delivered by members of HMCS Queen Charlotte's naval reserve division.

'We're thinking about them'

"I think it just lets the veterans know that we're thinking about them," said Leading Seaman Amber Gaudette with HMCS Queen Charlotte.

"Valentine's Day, in particular, may be a hard day for a lot of them, many lost loved ones. It's just nice for them to know that people are thinking about them and that we respect them and we thank them for their service."

Leading Seaman Amber Gaudette (right) shakes hands with veteran Jack Muise at the Beach Grove Home in Charlottetown. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Gaudette is a nursing student at UPEI and has done a few clinical rotations at long term care facilities, but she said it's different visiting the homes in uniform.

"I think they like that they can relate, they see the uniform walking in, their eyes just light up and they know they can tell their stories, that we understand what they're talking about and they can really relate to us."

These sailors from HMCS Queen Charlotte will hand out more than 70 valentines to veterans and their spouses across Prince Edward Island. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Sharing stories

In total, the team from HMCS Queen Charlotte will visit 18 long care facilities across the Island, handing out approximately 70 to 85 cards. And with each card, comes a story.

"You get to hear all these great stories, for instance today we met someone who stormed the beaches of Normandy with the army, someone who was in the North Atlantic convoys with the navy and just a moment ago, the wife of a pilot who was shot down in the jungles of Burma," said Master Seaman David MacPherson.

MacPherson admits that being in uniform also creates a bit of a stir at the places they visit.

"You get a lot of attention on you right away," said MacPherson.

"Being from the old school, they really appreciate a well-maintained and good looking uniform and us sailors always look pretty dapper."

The valentines are handmade and on P.E.I., they are also hand delivered. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The personal touch on P.E.I.

This is the third year that the naval reserve has handed out the valentines in person. 

"I thought because the Island's relatively small, we would be able to go out ourselves and visit every care facility on the Island with veterans in it," said Lt. Jim Smith, staff officer with HMCS Queen Charlotte.

"The veterans are our brothers and sisters, we wear the uniform just as they did," he said.

Flu outbreaks and the stormy weather are cutting into their deliveries, but Smith is hopeful that they will reach every veteran by Valentine's Day.

In 2016, Veterans Affairs Canada distributed approximately 17,000 valentines to 6,700 veterans in 1,505 long-term care facilities.

This will be the last delivery for Smith, who has been re-deployed to Victoria, B.C.  But he says his unit has promised to continue the tradition.

"It's something that we care deeply about," said Smith.

Students from Kerri Hambly's grade 4 class at Stratford Elementary created valentines for veterans. (Submitted by Stratford Elementary)