Miniature beauty queen heads up Valentines for Veterans project

Special to Leader-Press 

When going to the hospital, most patients can count the support of their family. Local medical facilities make it easy to visit hospitalized family and friends. The difference with veterans’ hospitals is location.
There are 153 veterans hospitals in the United States and many of the patients are forced to be away from their home for extended periods. Not all families can afford the money or time of spending extended periods away from home, even when it is to help hospitalized veterans. 
Miniature Miss Five Hills Autumn Munoz is working to ensure the nation’s heroes feel loved and appreciated this Valentine’s Day.
The 4-year old whose father and grandfather are both veterans is heading up a Valentines for Veterans campaign asking those in the community to make cards that she will deliver to the Olin E. Teague Veterans Medical Facility and the Central Texas Veterans Nursing Home both in Temple on Saturday.
“I want veterans to feel love and happy and smile,” Munoz said.  
Different school groups in Copperas Cove including student councils, National Honor Societies, Junior Historians, Student 2 Student members and the Copperas Cove Five Hills royalty have created hundreds of handmade cards for veterans. 
Autumn Munoz’s mother, Shana Heikkinen is a school counselor and got several classrooms involved in showing their appreciation for the veterans.  
“This served as a terrific opportunity to teach Autumn and other children not only about giving back to the community but also the importance of the role that our veterans have played throughout history to ensure the freedoms we enjoy daily,” Heikkinen said. 
Loneliness and depression are common problems in hospital patients even when they have family and friends near. When forced to be apart to receive the care they need, patients at VA hospitals are more prone to these problems. Munoz and members of the Copperas Cove Five Hills royalty will deliver the valentines Feb. 15 during a special visit as part of National Hospitalized Veterans Week.
“I am going to give them valentines and give them hugs,” Munoz said. 
This is the sixth year the titleholders have conducted the Valentines for Veterans card drive in Copperas Cove and delivered the valentines to hospitalized veterans as well as veterans in nursing homes. 
Anyone interested in making cards for veterans may deliver them to Copperas Cove Independent School District Service and Training Center, 408 S. Main, no later than Feb. 14.
Munoz will crown her successor, the 2020 Miniature Miss Five Hills on Saturday, March 21, at the Copperas Cove Civic Center. Applications to enter the pageant are available through March 1 at

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