VA was a part of Teresa Harrington’s family ever since she can remember. Her parents used to say they didn’t know what they would have done without it.
The future VA Bedford Healthcare System employee spent hours visiting her father during many VA hospital stays when she was a toddler until he died in 1998. Her father served in the Army and reenlisted in the Navy during World War II. He left his wife and two children to head off to war, uncertain if he would ever see them again. He kept a diary of his life in war. It was the diary of someone who didn’t know if he would see family again.
Veterans Day Poster Signed by This Is Us cast.
Harrington’s father’s devotion to family and his country inspired her to design a Veterans Day poster and enter it into the annual poster contest. Her Veterans Day poster design, featuring the diary and her brother’s dog tags, won.
“I don’t consider myself an artist,” Harrington said. “I was looking to honor my father’s service – some of which is documented in the (secret) journal pictured in my poster. I held on to that journal all these years wondering how I would share it. Finally, I decided the best way to do so was through this contest.”
Off to Hollywood
Veterans Day posters go out to our VA facilities and to the community as well. Harrington’s poster caught the eye of set designers for the NBC drama “This Is Us.” The show had scenes in a Vet Center, and the poster hung on the wall.
The show incorporates stories of real service members and Veterans. The authenticity caught the eye of Army Veteran and VA employee Jeanette Mendy.
“I was watching the show and caught a glimpse of the poster. I work in the office that’s in charge of the Veterans Day poster contest and am very familiar with the poster,” Mendy said.
Mendy searched online and connected with James LaPorta, a Marine Corps Veteran who is a technical consultant for “This Is Us.” LaPorta offered to send Mendy the poster, signed by the cast.
Mendy took the offer, but it wasn’t for her. She wanted to send it to the poster’s creator.
The return home
VA Bedford Healthcare System Director Joan Clifford presented the poster signed by the “This is US” cast to Teresa Harrington (center), while Meg Kabat, senior advisor for Families, Caregivers, and Survivors explains how the poster travelled from Hollywood to Bedford, Massachusetts. After a two-year odyssey of pandemic interruptions, Mendy finally got the poster to Harrington. Kabat volunteered to travel to Bedford to present it to Harrington.
VA Bedford Healthcare System Director Joan Clifford presents the poster signed by the “This is US” cast to Teresa Harrington (center).
“I’m not sure people realize the multi-generational impact VA has when it comes to dedication to Veterans,” Kabat said. “About a third of our workforce is Veterans, but at least another third is family members of Veterans.”
If you’ve lived the military experience, chances are the need to serve recurs for the rest of your life. Harrington felt it, finding a way to honor her father. LaPorta and Mendy felt it, asking “How can I serve here?” It’s a thread that runs in the Veteran community.
Or as Harrington’s father wrote in a letter home while he was in a war he may not have returned from: “There will probably be a question as to why I enlisted in the Navy. I enlisted because to my way of thinking when my country is in danger, I think it is my duty to help her all I can, and I want you to be proud of me, as I was of my father. I want you to know that wherever I go I will try my best and if it is God’s will that I should be taken from my little family, then I will die happy fighting for my country.”
Harrington’s poster appears in multiple episodes of “This Is Us,” which airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Eastern on NBC. The sharing of non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement on the part of VA.