Friday, March 8, 2013

4th Virtual Veterans Tour ~ Cameron, MO

February 20, 2013 ~ The VU Crew (Veterans United) and a Midway-an all get in a car and head down Hwy 63.... No it's not the start to a bad joke it was for real! We were planning our 4th Virtual Veterans Tour and would be heading to Cameron, MO.  We made plans to head to the Missouri Veterans Home with a team of dedicated volunteers so that we could take 50-75 veterans that were too sick to travel via the regular Honor Flight on a trip virtual to see their memorial in Washington, D.C. (Google+ has an amazing feature called a hangout which allows up to 10 people to "hangout" virtually together)

We had planned to leave Thursday morning in order to have the Virtual Veterans Tour at 3 PM but with the amount of snow they were calling for we decided it was much wiser to leave Wednesday night. I was going to be the driver that would get Sarah Hill, Scott Schaefer and Dani Wexelman safely to our hotel in Cameron, MO. We met at Hy-Vee off Conley Road in Columbia, MO and loaded up my car. We had my SUV packed full of luggage, camera equipment as well as blankets, books and t-shirts for all of the veterans. We headed out at 9:30 PM and arrived around 12:30AM and although we were tired it was a little tough going to sleep right away. (I think being excited about this event and nervous about the weather and what it was going to do was on our minds) I didn't sleep super well just thinking about how bad the snow was going to be and making sure I was able to get us to the nursing home without any problems. (I don't get scared with the weather and can drive in just about anything and I love my ride because of the all wheel drive and it has never let me down in the almost 100,000 miles since I purchased it but when it's your job to get the "key" people to a place you want to make sure everything goes off without a problem)

We got up and got ready and thought it would be a great idea to get something to eat before we drove the 8-10 minutes to the Missouri Veterans Home. (As you can see in the picture it was pretty snowy but the weather didn't start hitting until around 8 AM. When we left the hotel around 11 AM it was snowing pretty good!)
So after getting some fuel we decided to get something to eat and the only place open was Pizza Hut! It was the happening place and after a salad and few pieces of pizza we were ready to get on the road. (Many good laughs were shared and there was almost a fight that broke out between an employee and what appears to be an ex-employee.... interesting!)

We finally made it to our destination and started unloading stuff out of the car to take inside. (I sure didn't remember us packing that much when we left Wednesday night!) We were set up in the Chapel at Missouri Veterans Home which would accommodate our internet connection and 2 large screens to display the hangout on.

There was a huge sigh of relief once Sarah and the gang did a test hangout to make sure the connections were good and clear. I am not an "IT" person so while they figured all of that stuff out with Bruce Garber and John Butterill (working remotely in their respective homes located in Boston and Canada and they are the founders of Virtual Photo Walks which allows individuals to see places and things they might not have a chance to see via a Google+ hangout) to get everything set up for our 3 PM event. Dani and I started working on getting the t-shirts, books, lap blankets and letters out to give to each veteran attending today. I'm not worth a hoot at technology but I am good at getting things together and making it look nice! Ha!

Here's a picture of our awesome crew! 

This truly was an amazing time getting a chance to interact with some of our National Treasures.... our veterans! They are full of knowledge and we need to learn as much as we can from them!

 This is one of my favorite photos of Dani Wexelman talking to one of our veterans

 and this one of Jon Galloway having a great conversation with another veteran before we got started.

So while we were waiting Scott found the piano and Sarah decided to have him play a special little number for her..... 
(Interesting fact I bet you didn't know.... Scott played the organ during the St. Louis Cardinals ball games with Ernie for about 60 games at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO... How cool is that!)
You want me to play what????

Hit it! 
"You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain
Too much love drives a man insane
You broke me will
But what a thrill
Goodness gracious great balls of fire!" 

I have never heard Scott play before and a few other people thought he was pretending (like a piano that plays a song for you) but once they saw him actually playing it they thought it was cool that we brought entertainment along! (After all... we had to have a plan B if the hangout didn't work because of the snow storm!) 

It was time to get started.....
Almost 75 veterans in attendance that would be going on our 4th Veterans Virtual Tour

Sarah Hill would be our moderator for today. 
(Barb Brueggeman has helped with this in the past but her internet connection was not working well from the snow storm)

This was truly an awesome experience and one I am proud to have been a part of!

Several folks stopped in the hangout to give a special message of thanks to these veterans. 

Then it was time for "Mail Call". Many of these veterans never received mail and we had some amazing people make sure that every veteran received plenty of mail today!

Each veteran received a "Jewel of the Mall" book compliments of Veterans United

Truly an amazing and inspiring day to be with some wonderful people. A very special thank you for the men and women that made this 4th Veterans Virtual Tour possible.... 

John Butterill & Bruce Garber with Virtual Photo Walks

Veterans United Employees:
Sarah Hill, Scott Schaefer, Dani Wexelman, Jon Galloway & Mike Burch

Many "behind and in front" of the scenes that were there to help:
Chad LaFarge, Barbara Brueggeman, Kyle Hess, Jacob Hess and Brenda Schmitz

The True Heros:
The Veterans from Missouri Veterans Home in Cameron, MO! 
Thank you! 

Anyone else I may have forgotten... please forgive me.... I am blonde and can't remember some things. Please tell me who I am missing and I will get them added right away! 

We did have to spend the night because of the snow but we celebrated a successful day at the only place in town that was open... El Maguey!


  1. Thanks to everyone! Great story and great read!

  2. What was really interesting about this Michele, was that part of this story made the NBC national news. Many people are watching now.

  3. Michael Tucker you are right! Truly amazing trip and to have NBC Nightly News there... way awesome!!!

  4. Michele, My very deepest thanks for you and all those that take the time to remember those that sacrificed so much for all Americans and the world. You said it perfectly, these are our national treasures. They are simply priceless. The veterans of yesterday, today, and tomorrow are our greatest assett. Without them making the sacrifices they have made day in and day out we would not enjoy our fabulous country. And in case those not in America forget, they also bled for your freedom as well.

    Please everyone that reads this find some way to tell a veteran thank you every chance you get.


    T L Scott