“This past Veterans Day, we marked the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. It was a long and bloody war, leaving little to celebrate besides the final few months of victories that brought the war to an end. But with the holidays upon us, it is worth looking back at the first December of that war when both sides paused to celebrate Christmas.

It started with troops decorating their trenches with candles and Christmas trees, singing carols and exchanging greetings, and then venturing into no man’s land to trade schnapps, chocolate, cigarettes, and souvenirs. There were prisoner swaps, soccer games, and joint funerals for the dead. A British barber even cut a German soldier’s hair.

A captain wrote home to England, “We are having the most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable. A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front.” Yet even as he wrote, he could hear gunfire farther down the line, and before the week was over, that captain was killed in action.

The war would drag on for another 4 years, bringing Americans into the fight, including two men dear to me—my great-grandfather, Capt. A.D. Somerville, and my wife’s grandfather, Private Onslow Bullard. But the Christmas truce of 1914 still reminds us of the higher truths behind the holidays—the truths that give meaning to life, meaning to the selflessness of those who offer their lives in defense of others, and meaning to our mission of caring for them afterwards.

In my first 100 days as Secretary, I have visited 16 states and over 40 VA facilities from Anchorage to Orlando. I am so impressed with your commitment to Veterans. As I said at my first Town Hall with you, this Department provides world-class services to Veterans, and I am still stunned that the story has not been told to the American people.

As you gather with family and friends for the holidays, wherever you may be across the Nation, please take the opportunity to share your stories of the great things you do every day for Veterans and their families. Let them know that, at VA, the season of giving lasts all year long.

To the men and women of our Armed Forces, to the Nation’s 20 million Veterans, and to our 380,000 VA employees, I offer you and your families my heartfelt thanks for your selfless service and best wishes for the holidays and the coming year. May God bless us all.”


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Published on Dec. 19, 2018

Estimated reading time is 2.1 min.

Views to date: 67


  1. Heather Benda January 15, 2019 at 1:06 am

    Jay Timbrell, I am also a veteran and have the same concerns as you do about my health care. Here in Tampa at James A. Haley veterans hospital, they treat veterans like crap. They lie on patient records, it takes 2-3 months to get an appointment. When you do get seen by a doctor the care you receive is very limited and there is hardly any follow up care. I have been miss-diagnosed 3 times in one year, I was told my cancer was back, then it wasn’t, then it was. Can you imagine how a patient feels when going through this. The worst part is the Hospital Director thinks he is too good to talk to veterans that try to get in touch with him, he does not care about the veterans or the lack of quality health care. His secretary told me he does not talk to veterans. Many veterans have died at this facility due to lack of care. You are not the only one, they will tell you that you are the only one, but you are not. I hope you get the answers you are looking for.

  2. Jay Timbrell January 10, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    It says on the bottom of my reply “Your comment is awaiting moderation? Please explain what I need to do next have no idea what awaiting moderation is or what I have to do next to explain my compliant?

    • Gary Hicks January 14, 2019 at 6:46 am


      Each comment is reviewed before being made public. Among other reasons, we moderate comments to protect Veterans; especially those that include personal information in their comments such as their Social Security Number.

  3. Jay Timbrell January 10, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    I would like to know about the process of filling a tort and finding an attorney in my area on my health not being addressed as well as other issues which are quite a few as in not getting help, doctoring my records. I feel I am being discriminated and using the Choice Program is just as bad or worse.

    I will be writing and have it published about my experiences of neglect, long waits as in many months to get an approved medication that is not on VA list, doctors that see me can’t find my records or get access and……..

    In your newly 2018 published VA hospitals on VA.gov shows Palo Alto Health Care System numbers from 1 to 5, 5 being the best PA VA was given a 2. If you go back to the old system before you change the perception 5 is an A, 4 a B, 3 is a C, 2 a D and 1 is F. I am receiving or seeing people that are qualified as D. I served this country and believe I should get better care which I am not.

    I am not the only one, hundreds of us are having the same problems and are just getting worse.

    Jay Timbrell

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