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December 08, 2012

'Decorate a Vet' Helps Military Families on the Holidays

by Deborah Block

The holiday season is typically a time for giving.  A small, non-profit group in northern Virginia, called Decorate a Vet, is doing its part by helping local U.S. military veterans and their families.  Groups of volunteers spruce up the homes of veterans and disabled soldiers, and then decorate them for Christmas.

The volunteers do everything from fixing patios, to clearing out tree branches, to mulching garden beds.  Then they put up Christmas decorations.  
 
Today, they're working at the Spraul family's house.

Angela Spraul and her husband are both in the military, but he is disabled.  It means a lot to her to have the volunteers helping her family.

"The girls love the holidays," said Spraul.  "They're young.  It's really nice to be able to do something fun for them and have the help.  Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to do this."

Her husband, Wes, is suffering from a painful genetic spinal cord disorder.  

"I think it's unbelievable that other people are so passionate about helping other people out," Wes Spraul added.

Volunteer Mary Thiebault, whose son is in the military, came to support the Sprauls.

"It's exciting to see that a family will have such joy for the holiday season," Thiebault said.

Jeff Jones, founder of Decorate a Vet, says that's the spirit of his organization.  Jones is not a veteran, but his father and grandfather were in the military, and he wanted to honor their memory.  

"I think it's important to clean the outside of the homes and decorate for Christmas because it's the time of year when people are trying to give back, and it also happens to correspond with the time of year when houses are starting to look a little sloppy with leaf debris," Jones explained.

Wayne Parks and a group of colleagues from his workplace helped out by clearing out overgrown trees at the home of a woman with three small children whose husband is serving overseas.

"They need all the help they can get, especially when our servicemen are far away and can't help out their families back at home," Parks noted.  "This is just our way of giving back a little bit the best we can."

Sadly, one WW II veteran did not live to see his home spruced up because he had passed away three weeks earlier.  His widow, Carol Keister, was amazed at all the work the volunteers had done at her home. Keister says the decorations lifted her spirits.

Decorate a Vet is the only program of its kind helping veterans in the United States. But founder Jeff Jones says he would like to see his idea spread across the country, and to help veterans of other nations as well.