The Kansas City's VA Medical Center helps heal veteran's wounds, but a local military wife wants to make sure their hearts are taken care of as well.
Suicides among veterans have increased 22 percent between 2007 and 2010. That is 22 veterans a day. The Department of Veterans Affairs says outreach and prevention programs are helping.
Jackay Smith is doing her part to help those who once served heal. She is also the wife of a veteran who was wounded overseas and making sure no veteran is forgotten on Valentine's Day with a program she calls "Operation Share the Love."
Smith says the Valentine's Day gifts are a nice surprise for the veterans at the medical center.
She also takes the time to tell the veterans face-to-face that their service is not forgotten long after their tour of duty ends.
Her husband, Kevin Smith, joined the military in 2006 for one important reason.
"He went in because 'I'm doing it for my family' but I'm staying in for my country," Jackay Smith said.
While he was sleeping in his bunk in Iraq, life for the heavily decorated man quickly changed.
"They were hit by 12 rockets. I think over 50 were aimed at them. One hit a few feet from my husband," she said.
He now has a traumatic brain injury from the attack.
"You just feel you need to do something," she said.
Because holidays can be tough, she decided Valentine's Day was the holiday she wanted to surprise veterans at the medical center.
The military family and their friends are a small army of their own. They're preparing about 350 Valentine's Day gifts for veterans.
"To help the veterans here, the ones I see at the VA. The ones I know don't have a home to go to. The ones I know they don't have a family," she said.
Jackay Smith asks anyone who wants to help thank veterans meet at the VA, located at 4801 E Linwood Blvd., at noon on Valentine's Day. She needs help passing out hundreds of gifts.
"Every time I hug a veteran it is like giving my husband a hug because they went through the same thing," she said.
She hopes teaching her kids to show appreciation will keep this tradition going.
"So maybe when they are men and see a veteran on the street, they'll reach out their hand and say, 'thank you,'" she said.
Jackay Smith said she was inspired to start the program after a family friend lost his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and chose to commit suicide.
That man's wife started a program called Cupcakes for PTSD.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
Wednesday, May 22 2013 3:40 PM EDT2013-05-22 19:40:35 GMT
Minutes after the tornado reduced an Oklahoma elementary school to rubble, a photographer captured the courage and selflessness that overcame adults at the school in the moments after the devastation.More >
Minutes after the tornado reduced an Oklahoma elementary school to rubble, a photographer captured the courage and love as a scared little boy jumped into the arms of his next-door neighbor. More >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 10:42 AM EDT2013-05-22 14:42:42 GMT
Everyone has seen food permits hanging inside restaurants, but what does it really say about the establishment. Now, people can check if their favorite hotspot made the grade faster than they can cutMore >
Everyone has seen food permits hanging inside restaurants, but what does it really say about the establishment? Now, people can check if their favorite hot spot made the grade faster than they can cut into a steak.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 3:29 PM EDT2013-05-21 19:29:04 GMT
For months, concerns had been raised about the welfare of Lucas Webb. Born Jan. 3, 2008, Lucas knew much pain and suffering in his four short years. More >
State records released Monday show how Missouri social workers failed to adequately pursue allegations of abuse involving a preschooler. Lucas Webb, 4, would die five days after the state closed the abuse investigation.More >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 4:53 PM EDT2013-05-22 20:53:49 GMT
(RNN) - British officials are saying one man is dead and two others were injured in a possible terrorist attack in London on Wednesday.According to BBC News, eyewitnesses said man was attacked in a streetMore >
British officials are saying one man is dead and two others were injured in a possible terrorist attack in London on Wednesday.More >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 2:56 PM EDT2013-05-22 18:56:54 GMT
(RNN) – Of the 24 killed in the EF-5 tornado that decimated Moore, OK, 10 are children - two of which are infants according to a release by the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner's Office. All the childrenMore >
Six people are still unaccounted for in Moore, OK. Ten children, which includes two infants, were killed by the EF-5 tornado, according to the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner's Office.More >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 2:30 PM EDT2013-05-22 18:30:34 GMT
ORLANDO, FL (RNN) – A man with possible ties to a Boston Marathon bombing suspect was shot and killed after the FBI interviewed him early Wednesday. The FBI confirmed a special agent fatally shot a manMore >
A news release from the FBI Boston division stated the shooting took place early Wednesday when Ibragim Todashev, the shooting victim, started a "violent confrontation."More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 7:16 PM EDT2013-05-21 23:16:48 GMT
MOORE, OK - The Oklahoma County Sheriff's office tweeted a photo of a frightened, muddy dog Monday after the deadly EF-5 tornado ripped through the town.The comment accompanying the photo said, "scared,More >
A heartbreaking photo of a little dog guarding the body of his owner, who was killed in the Moore, OK, tornado, is going viral.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 5:50 PM EDT2013-05-21 21:50:06 GMT
Shawnee police searched along westbound Interstate 70 in Kansas City, KS, Tuesday afternoon, looking for a gun used in a murder that occurred three years ago. Captain Bill Hisle with the Shawnee PoliceMore >
Shawnee police searched along westbound Interstate 70 in Kansas City, KS, Tuesday afternoon, looking for a gun used in a murder that occurred three years ago.More >