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“VA nurses are the compassionate heart of VA’s world-class health care system,” stated Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake. The VA has one of the largest nursing staffs of any health care system. The department’s 43,000 registered nurses, 12,000 licensed practical nurses and vocational nurses, and 9,000 nursing assistants provide comprehensive, complex and compassionate care to the nation’s veterans.

Five nursing-staff members recognized by Dr. Peake with the “Secretary’s Award for Excellence” include:

• Nursing assistant Shirley Cutler from East Orange, N.J.

• Nurse administrator Tina Lund from Minneapolis.

• Registered nurse Joy Edvalson from Los Angeles.

• Licensed professional nurse Lenora Scroggins from Topeka, Kan.

• Registered nurse Natalie Russell from Columbia, Mo.

• The Sarge looks forward to joining the Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF) and its guests at the 23rd annual congressional awards reception from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on June 12 in Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building. The annual event, held in conjunction with the foundation’s Flag Week observance, honors members of Congress, members of the news media and volunteers.

The recipients of the BAVF’s “Buck” Gillispie Congressional Awards are Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, and Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat. Recipients of the Carlton Sherwood Media Award are Jane Watrel, NBC Channel 4, and Victor Morton of The Washington TImes. The George Alexander Memorial Volunteer Award will be presented to Connie Telesco, of Pitney Bowes Inc., and Ben Rogers, retired VA chief of prosthetics. The Corporate Volunteer Award will be presented to Health Net Federal Services.

A joint color guard will set the stage for the awards ceremony, and the Marine Corps Brass Quintet will entertain guests with a medley of patriotic music.

Two days later, the BAVF holds it Flag Week picnic in Silver Spring. Flags that have flown over the U.S. Capitol will be presented to many guests.

This year’s June 14 picnic will honor Maryland Delegate Sheila E. Hixson, Montgomery Democrat and chairman of the House of Delegates’ Ways and Means Committee and a friend of America’s veterans.

Join us for an afternoon of fun and patriotism. There will be plenty of refreshments, and as usual, Lakis will prepare his famous New York hot dogs, Washington style, and guests will be serenaded with the sound of oldies but goodies and patriotic music. Bring your swimsuits and something to sit on — blankets, towels or folding chairs — and be sure to take them home with you.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail