Central Texas veterans remembered on Valentines Day

Special to Leader-Press 

Miniature Miss Five Hills Autumn Munoz made her way down the halls of the Olin E. Teague Veterans Hospital in Temple. Armed with homemade valentine cards, she shared them with residents along with a hug and words of appreciation for their service. 
Munoz headed up the 6th Annual Valentines for Veterans service project hosted annual by the Copperas Cove Five Hills royalty. Each of the titleholders hand-made cards that were delivered along with more than 1,000 cards from school children who made cards of their own to show their appreciation for National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans Week.
“Giving back to others has always been something Autumn enjoys doing,” said Shana Heikinen, Munoz’s mother. “When she was given the service project, Valentines for Veterans, I thought it was perfect for her, especially growing up in a military family.”
During the national salute, the Veterans Administration invites individuals, veterans groups, military personnel, civic organizations, businesses, schools, local media, celebrities and sports stars to participate in a variety of activities at the VA medical centers.  The activities and events include ward visits and valentine distribution, photo opportunities, school essay contests, special recreation activities and veteran recognition programs.
“Elementary, middle and high school students, and children in daycare centers, took the time and helped Autumn meet her goal of 1,000 cards for our veterans,” Heikinen said. “Her brother, Cristian, helped count the cards the morning of our distribution and he was so excited as the numbers kept climbing.”
Leadership groups such as the Martin Walker Elementary, Williams/Ledger Elementary, Copperas Cove Junior High, and Copperas Cove High School student councils, House Creek Elementary Student2Student group, Five Hills 4-H Club and the CCHS Copperettes made cards for the event.   
“Watching the veterans smile as they kept receiving cards was such a heartfelt moment,” Heikinen said. “As we walked the halls of the hospital, I could hear all the staff say ‘Are you all a family? What a blessing,’ That really made me think to myself that it’s the little things in life that can make a difference and what an honor it was for my daughter to be a part of the Copperas Cove Royalty.”
Munoz and the royalty also delivered cards to the residents of the Central Texas Veterans Nursing Home. Munoz and her brother made a special visit to one veteran’s room. Cristian’s first babysitter, whom he had not seen in over a year, was in the room and he made sure he kept a very special valentine for her.  
“I wanted to veterans to smile and feel loved and I think they did,” Munoz said. 
Munoz will crown the new Miniature Miss Five Hills on March 21 at the 7th Annual Miss Five Hills Scholarship Pageant. The deadline to enter the annual contest is March 1 at http://www.copperascovetx.gov/parks/five_hills_pageant/.

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