Like most health care facilities across the country, the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital has restricted visitation policies throughout the pandemic to continue to fight COVID-19.

Family members and loved ones of inpatient Veterans have not been able to visit them for months due to the safety precautions.

On February 11, Skye Miller decided she would give her luck a try and visit her father, Robert “Bob” Miller, at the hospital.

She wanted to celebrate Miller’s 73rd birthday by bringing colorful balloons, a beautiful cake and gifts to his bedside. She was unfortunately stopped by the screeners and told she could not visit her father due to the current visitation policy.

Frustrated and saddened, Skye gave up hope. Getting off an elevator nearby, VA Chaplain Ron Leininger noticed her and asked what he could do to help.

Chaplain made birthday happen

After hearing what had taken place, Leininger decided he would help Skye celebrate her father’s birthday.

He asked her if he could represent her by taking the items to him. She was most thankful for his kind gesture and relieved her goal could still be accomplished.

With cake, balloons and a gift bag, Chaplain Leininger got on the elevator and went to find Skye’s father.

He was introduced to Miller’s nursing staff, Jerry, Faith and Maribel. He asked them to assist with making the day special. They agreed and led him into Miller’s room.

Miller was surprised and his smile lit up the room.

Tears of joy and no dry eyes in the room

Chaplain Leininger introduced himself. He informed Miller he was representing his daughter who had dropped off the items to ensure that he was celebrated on his birthday.

Miller cried tears of joy that left no dry eyes in the room.

The staff joined the Chaplain (far right in above photo) in singing a robust Happy Birthday to Miller. Chaplain Leininger followed up with a prayer and a heart-felt handshake for the 73-year-old warrior.

Miller sent a huge thank you to the South Texas VA Staff that helped his daughter make his birthday one to remember.

It’s that type of can-do attitude that drives and maintains the positive rapport and high reliability within the South Texas Veteran Health Care System that we all can appreciate during the current times we are globally facing.


Keona Raynor is a program support assistant for Education Service, South Texas Veterans Health Care System, San Antonio, Texas.

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Published on Apr. 24, 2021

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