Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System
VA celebrates Mardi Gras during National Salute
BILOXI, Miss. -- Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System’s (GCVHCS) Biloxi VA Medical Center patients and employees participated in a culturally unique event Feb. 13 at the Biloxi VA Medical Center, providing Veterans in the facilities’ clinics the opportunity to participate in a Mississippi Gulf Coast tradition.
The annual Mardi Gras parade, hosted by GCVHCS’ Recreation Therapy, rolled through the Biloxi VA Medical Center’s campus. The parade was a part of National Salute to Veteran Patients Program week, a nation-wide series of events designed to pay tribute to Veterans, increase knowledge at the community level of the role of the VA and to inspire the community to visit and volunteer at VA facilities.
GCVHCS Recreation Therapy Supervisor Laura Throop organized the parade in collaboration with other departments and said that events such as this can help a Veteran feel part of the local community.
“The Mardi Gras parade gives the Veteran patients a chance to experience local events that they may not otherwise be able to attend,” Throop said. “Our Veterans are our main priority and including this unique event during the National Salute to Veteran Patients Program is one way they can interact with the community and we can show our appreciation to our Veterans.”
The Mardi Gras parade included the Gulfport, Mississippi-based Krewe of Gemini, a nonprofit organization serving the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Also included in the parade was the Mississippi Gulf Coast Corvette Club, the Biloxi Police Department Honor Guard, VA Police Department, the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport Fire Department. Additionally, Veteran patients also walked in the parade, throwing beads and candy to spectators.
Following the parade, the GCVHCS Recreation Department hosted a Mardi Gras ceremony in the organizations’ Recreation Hall. Ceremony attendees celebrated Mardi Gras and the announcement of the GCVHCS 2020 Mardi Gras King and Queen and court members. The St. Patrick Catholic High School band also provided musical entertainment during the ceremony, which was also attended by the Biloxi-area Soldiers’ Angels, as well as the St. Martin U.S. Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC).
GCVHCS Chaplain Phil Audet, referred to by GCVHCS employees and Veterans, as “Father Phil,” served as the ceremony emcee, thanking parade organizers for their efforts.
“Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll!),” Audet said, receiving cheers from the crowd. “All the people that helped put this together played a huge part in making these Veterans – the single most important aspect in what we do – feel part of one of the Mississippi Gulf Coasts’ traditions. Improving the patient experience here at GCVHCS is one of our top priorities and seeing how much these men and women enjoyed today’s festivities is something we can all appreciate and love being a part of.”
The Biloxi Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, along with the Mobile, Pensacola, Eglin and Panama City VA Clinics are all part of the GCVHCS, which is headquartered in Biloxi, Mississippi, and provides a variety of medical outpatient services to more than 70,000 Veterans.