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The Launch June 2021 Edition

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Lovell FHCC Monthly Newsletter - June 2021

A Message from Leadership ...

Captain Thomas J. Nelson, MC, USN, Deputy Director, Commanding Officer


November 1, 1955 to May 7, 1975 are the dates of the United States of America’s official involvement in the Vietnam War. Close to 9 million men and women served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces during that time. Whether they were stationed in-country, in-theater or elsewhere during those decades, they answered their country’s call to service.

The federal initiative launched to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War was started in 2012, by then-President Barack Obama, and will continue until 2025. I was excited and honored to participate in my first two Vietnam Commemoration events of this type here at Lovell FHCC this year. The recordings of both events – the first one held March 29 for residents of our main Community Living Center in Bldg. 134, and the second most recent event held June 15 for residents of our CLC Green House homes – can be viewed on our Facebook page.

On a normal occasion, events like this take a lot of work to bring to life. During a world-wide pandemic, these events take much, much more. Teams from Infection Control, Facilities Management, Recreational Therapy, Communications and more all worked hard for multiple months to safely plan these events. Even with all that work, the main things that made it possible were science and service.

Science has provided us with multiple COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccines work. Of the estimated 310 million doses delivered nationally (per the CDC through June 14, 2021), the vaccinations have generated very few medical issues beyond anticipated initial side effects. That’s what we’ve seen here at Lovell FHCC too, where we’ve now administered nearly 45,000 doses to VA and DoD beneficiaries and staff, as well as other veterans, their spouses, and caregivers eligible for our vaccinations under the SAVE LIVES Act. Far less than one percent of those we’ve vaccinated have reported any medical issues beyond the expected, initial side effects.

The service of these veterans looked a little different this time around than it did 50 years ago when they took an oath to serve their country. But because of their sense of service, they voluntarily received a COVID-19 vaccine that allowed them to safely participate in the commemoration, as well as keep themselves and residents around them safe from COVID-19.

I hope you will do the research, review information put out by trusted sources like the CDC and consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect yourself and those around you. Events like our recent Vietnam Veteran Commemoration don’t have to be few and far between. The more people who receive the vaccine, the safer it will be for all of us, especially our older veteran population. If you’d like to schedule a vaccine appointment, you may call 224-610-3899 or view our Lovell FHCC website for details on walk-in clinics.

Let's Get Social

FHCC has a presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Please see the links below to visit our social media sites. Below are the posts that received the highest engagement for the month.

Top Posts from June

Lovell All Hazards Team Training

Haz Mat  

More than 50 active duty and civilian staff members completed a two-and-a-half-day course recently to prepare them to respond to hazardous material emergencies at Lovell FHCC.

The newly trained and/or certified personnel are known as the Lovell FHCC All Hazards Team. The course is designed to educate first receivers on life-saving skills required to triage, initiate field treatment, decontaminate victims from Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN), or hazardous materials exposure.

Read about their training and view pictures of the team on our Lovel FHCC Facebook page.

Corpsman Birthday


Whether they serve patients at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center or Recruit Training Command, NMRTCGL corpsmen are a huge part of our mission. On June 17, 2021 we celebrated the 123rd Hospital Corpsman Birthday. Below view photos of the corpsman birthday event and a video of our sailors reciting the corpsman pledge.

Event Photos & Corpsman Pledge Video

New Parking Garage for Patients and Staff


We are excited to announce the opening of a new parking garage at our North Chicago hospital. The garage is free for use by patients and staff and located on the north side of building 134/ Lovell FHCC Community Living Center.

 A small ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new garage was held on June 1, 2021, and the recording can be viewed on our FHCC Facebook page.

Pride at Lovell


June is Pride month throughout the country and at Lovell FHCC. Pride month provides us an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of our veteran and active duty staff and patient population and an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to 'Serve all that have served." 

Our Pride celebration looked a little bit different this year due to COVID restrictions. Despite the restrictions on large gatherings, Lovell Diversity Committee, with the help of Visual Information Specialist Trevor Seela, put together an informative and historical Pride display for patients and staff to see at the Lovell Quarterdeck.

COVID-19 Delta Variant Update



We are currently following many COVID-19 variants, and we expect to see more variants arise. Research tells us that the Delta variant, which has caused many hospitalizations and deaths in India, spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. 

According to the CDC, there is additional concern that the medical treatments we are using to treat COVID-19 patients may be less effective against this variant. Over the past month, the Delta variant has rapidly spread and expanded in the United States, and we believe it may soon become the dominant virus strain. What is of critical importance is having as many people vaccinated as possible. Time is of the essence!

Have you gotten your first dose and don’t think you need your second? Consider this: The Delta variant most severely impacts those who are either unvaccinated or only received their first of two-dose vaccine series, such as Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. If someone is late for their second dose, they should still get it. Lovell FHCC will provide the second doses to employees, Veterans or anyone who qualifies under the SAVE LIVES Act, such as spouses and caregivers, no matter where they received their first dose, if that is more convenient.

If you are undecided about getting the vaccine and need more information to make a decision, check out our Vaccine Questions page, which includes videos, downloadable information and frequently asked question. 

Vietnam Veteran Ceremony at FHCC Green House Homes

second collage

Pictured above from left to right, top left: Director Dr. Robert Buckley presents Leon Harris, Navy veteran and Green House Home resident, a Vietnam War commemoration pin with Captain Thomas Nelson, Deputy Director/Commanding Officer. Top right: Matthew Hanson poses with his father Richard Hanson, Army veteran and Green House home resident, at the FHCC Vietnam Veteran Recognition Event. Bottom left: Two members of the Great Lakes Navy Band Brass Quintet play during the ceremony. Bottom right: Deputy Director/ Commanding Officer Captain Thomas Nelson helps pin Christopher Clements, Marine Corps Veteran and Green House Home resident, with Director Dr. Robert Buckley.

Story by: Jayna Legg, Public Affairs Specialist

Photos by: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Caylen McCutcheon 

The recent Vietnam Veteran Recognition Event at the Lovell FHCC Green House homes was an “amazing moment,” commented one family member who watched the ceremony as it was streamed online.

Janet Wright-Shah wrote her brother “has never been recognized for his service officially until today.”

Those two things – providing Vietnam veterans who have long been isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic an amazing moment and honoring them publicly for their service in the controversial war – were the main reasons for the outdoor event under a tent in the Green House homes parking lot June 15.

To retain social distancing, each of the 20 veterans recognized had the opportunity to invite one guest. The veterans and their guests were joined by FHCC staff members who watched as FHCC Director Dr. Robert Buckley and Deputy Director/Commanding Officer Capt. Thomas Nelson personally thanked each veteran and attached the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pins to their collars. The leaders visited two veterans in their rooms after the ceremony to present them pins at the bedside.

“Something that always strikes me when I talk to Vietnam veterans is two things: They haven’t heard ‘thank you’ and ‘welcome home,’” said Lovell FHCC Director Dr. Robert Buckley in his remarks. “You are hearing it today.”

Woodstock resident Mary Jo Vollrath, whose husband, Bill Vollrath, served in the Navy, said, “This ceremony is just wonderful, to see these veterans being honored for their service. They sacrificed so much for us,” she said, noting that most of her husband’s friends didn’t survive the war.

Vollrath, who retired as a senior chief after 29 years in the Navy, served on the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier. His wife said he was one of five men who flew over the Mekong Delta in a Vought F-8 Crusader and conducted photographic reconnaissance for troops on the ground.

“He feels very proud of his service,” she said for her husband, who has trouble speaking but communicated with motions that he agreed with her. “He’s a very proud Navy man through and through.”

Mary Jo Vollrath sat close and rubbed her husband’s arm as she talked, joking about how much affection she lavishes on him now that she’s been able to see him in person. The couple had to make it many months with just phone calls, and video chats every other week, which were difficult. Then for a short time, they got to see each other face-to-face – albeit with Plexiglas in between – during visits on a bus parked outside the Green House homes. But in-person visits are best, she said.

“It’s precious,” she said. “I’m always hugging him. I say, ‘I love, love, love you’ all the time.”

The Vollrath’s feel “very fortunate” that Bill Vollrath was able to move into a Lovell FHCC Green House home after spending time on the waiting list. “They take very good care of him,” Mary Jo Vollrath said. “They are wonderful people … I come every week and bring him his favorite treat, snickerdoodle cookies.”

Lovell FHCC’s four Green House homes are part of its Community Living Center. Up to 10 residents live in a home, each in a private room with bathroom. Common areas are shared, to include a dining room, TV room, living room, porch, and patio. Universal workers, also known as Shabazzim under the Green House model, staff the homes and cook meals with resident input into menus.

More than half the total time Bill Vollrath has lived in a Green House home at Lovell FHCC, he’s been isolated in the home without the usual pre-pandemic activities and outings offered to residents. It was a good thing he learned patience during his time in the service, Mary Jo Vollrath said, because, “It’s been very difficult getting through the pandemic.”

It was only three weeks ago that Antioch resident Matthew Hanson was able to hug his father Richard Hanson for the first time since the pandemic started in early 2020. “I’m very happy to be here,” said Matthew Hanson, who wore an Army T-shirt for the occasion.

The elder Hanson served in the Army two years, one of the years as an infantryman in Vietnam. “I came back with a bad attitude and PTSD, but I didn’t know it,” he said. “They didn’t know much about it then.”

Richard Hanson said he missed participating in his PTSD support groups in person during the pandemic, “because that’s how I judged how I was doing,” he said.

Matthew Hanson said it was a relief to move his dad into a Green House home three years ago. Richard Hanson has suffered multiple strokes and uses a wheelchair. “Dad,” Matthew Hanson said, turning to him, “you have people here who care about you and for you. I know you will always eat and have a place to sleep. It’s a good thing.”

The June 15 event also was the first time Great Lakes Navy Band members performed together, in public, since the start of the pandemic. Dressed smartly in their service whites, the band’s Brass Quintet played for 25 minutes before the ceremony began and then played the National Anthem.

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration – a national 50th anniversary commemoration – was launched in 2012 by President Barack Obama and will continue through 2025.

Lovell FHCC is one of many thousand organizations across the nation to be a Commemorative Partner and continue to recognize Vietnam veterans in public ceremonies, usually around Vietnam Veterans Day March 29. In March of this year, Lovell FHCC honored residents of its main Community Living Center in an outdoor ceremony; however, COVID-19 restrictions prevented family members from attending, and Green House home residents also couldn’t participate.

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Veterans Health Administration · 810 Vermont Avenue, NW · Washington, DC 20420 · 877-222-VETS (877-222-8387)