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May 28, 2010 > County honors 2010 'Friend of the Veteran'

County honors 2010 'Friend of the Veteran'

Submitted By Gwen Mitchell and Lingxia Meng

For the past 27 years, Gladys Bemis has been a dedicated volunteer with the Veterans Affairs (VA) Palo Alto Health Care System, also known as the VA Palo Alto Hospital. She raises funds to improve veterans' living conditions, provides support to veteran families in need, and brings an innovative spirit to the hospital. On May 25, 2010, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the Office of Veterans Services honored Ms. Bemis as the 2010 "Friend of the Veteran." Bemis is turning 92 years old this year.

"Gladys' dedication to the veterans is admirable," said Supervisor Ken Yeager, President of the Board of Supervisors. "The Board of Supervisors is pleased to present her with the 2010 Friend of the Veteran award."

Bemis was born in Chicago and has been a Santa Clara County resident for 52 years. During World War II, she served in the US Navy in the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).

"I feel really honored to receive this award," said Bemis. "I enjoyed my service in the Navy very much and am glad I have been able to help my fellow veterans."

Bemis started to volunteer with the VA Palo Alto Hospital 27 years ago, following neck surgery at the hospital. Since then, she has contributed thousands of hours helping the veteran patients there. She helped to create the Women Wellness Clinic and veteran programs for women. Before these programs were started, only male veterans could be admitted to the hospital. She organizes events and invites speakers to address women veterans' concerns. She has also volunteered extensively at the Fisher House, a WAVES unit that helps military families in need.

"We're touched by Gladys' efforts and commitment for veterans," said Ken Kershaw, Director of the County Office of Veterans Services. "She takes patients' needs to the heart and has made a difference for many veterans."

As a representative of WAVES national at VA Palo Alto Hospital for 25 years, Gladys has organized many fundraisers to meet veterans' needs. Her efforts have enabled the hospital to purchase special equipment for the patients. These include a special sewing machine for the blind ward, microwave for the patients in their day room, comfort pillows for bed and wheelchair patients, television and video recorders for patients confined to bed and tools for paraplegic patients to enter and leave the swimming pool. The funds have also made it possible for some veterans to go to ball games or to purchase living necessities.

"Gladys has an amazing capacity to help," said Gloria Farwell, Bemis' nominator and Founder/President of Bay Area WAVES of Northern California. "I'm happy she has been chosen as the 2010 Friend of Veteran because she truly deserves this honor."

Bemis is actively involved at many veterans organizations, including the Women Veterans' Health and Advisory Committee, where she helps reach out to women veterans about healthcare, reviews VA programs and activities and makes recommendations to management for improvement. She was a major contributor for the idea, design and construction of the stained-glass window at the VA Palo Alto Hospital chapel.

The "Friend of the Veteran" award was established in 1991 to recognize community members for their outstanding support and dedication to veterans in Santa Clara County.

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