West Kendall families of the U.S. military are becoming acquainted, exchanging recollections and ideas to support service personnel, thanks to a new community program hosted by West Kendall Baptist Hospital.
The “Military Family Appreciation Dinners” take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month in the Bamboo Café of the hospital that opened April 2011 at 9555 SW 162 Ave.
For a veteran like German Rodriguez, 76, who lives near Princeton, “it was very nice to see Vietnam veterans given such recognition.
I’m hoping to sit down again and talk with more veterans during the next dinner night.”
A U.S. Army Chinook helicopter pilot with 990 of 1,200 hours in “high” combat areas, Rodriguez said he especially enjoyed exchanging experiences with others who saw service during the 1960s.
“As a mother of a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I feel that this is an opportunity for the community to come together and show our support of these brave men and women,” said Lucy Tamajon of Kendall.
“I feel it is important that we don’t forget the great sacrifices that all of our veterans have made in the effort to protect, honor, and serve our country. I commend West Kendall Baptist Hospital for this great effort and token in showing the communities’ appreciation.
“I would love to see a larger outreach from the community to help our young men and women returning from service,” she added.
“It‘s so difficult for them to incorporate back into the civilian world, to find jobs, and to become a productive part of our community.”
The dinner series was begun as part of a “Healthy West Kendall Coalition” advanced by hospital CEO Javier Hernandez-Lichtl to create “the healthiest community in Florida,” according to Ralph Rios, vice president of Professional Services.
“One of the hospital’s basic missions is involvement in the community, especially in areas of health and the welfare of its citizens,” Rios said. “This is part of a continuing effort to help further that mission in cooperation with all community organizations and agencies.”
The first of the monthly dinners took place Jan. 22 attracting 20 guests, a number that increased to more than 30 on Feb. 26. Future dinners are scheduled on Apr. 23, May 28 and June 25.
“Of course, the VFW and similar veteran’s organizations provide full support to veterans and their families,” Rios said. “This program was designed as part of the hospital’s effort to provide a gathering place for family members of active servicemen and women, and have their own ‘sense of community.’”
The hospital has contacted SouthCom headquarters in Doral to let families among West Kendall’s estimated 300,000 residents know about the program.
“Those interested in attending are welcome to call us for reservations,” Rios added.
Responding family members and veterans may send email to AnnaDi@BaptistHealth.net or call 786- 467-3404 for more details.