By Mason W. Canales
The Cove Herald
TEMPLE - When the Military Order of the Cootie and its auxiliary volunteer at Olin E. Teague Veterans Affairs Hospital, members see it as a continuation of their civic duties.
"Our main function is to support the veterans at a VA hospital," said Lex Atnip, a Copperas Cove Cootie member. "Each of our pup tents has a hospital they watch over and ours is in Temple."
Every year the group participates in a number of the hospital's volunteer programs for holidays, including Christmas in July, Valentine's Day, Christmas, the Fourth of July and Veterans Day.
The group has wrapped Christmas presents, delivered Valentine's Day cards and supported several other holiday activities, said Bobby Zimmerman, chief of volunteer services at the hospital. But they are also called upon to help provide other activities and make donations as well.
Recently, the organization donated $1,500 worth of outdoor equipment - grills and picnic tables - for veterans staying in the domiciliary.
"It is very heartwarming to see others that care," said Zimmerman about what the Cooties do for hospital patients. "They come in with these donations and (the patients) know they are thinking about them."
A regular activity Cooties organize for the patients is bingo games, which greatly benefit the patients, said Tommy Sanders, the hospital's recreational therapist.
"One of the things that is very difficult for veterans here is boredom," said Sanders. "When (the Cootie members) come out and provide something like this, that is something to look forward to."
Playing bingo provides patients a social outlet. "It really means a lot to them. It uplifts their spirt and gives them a sense of self worth," said Sanders.
To make the night a little more special, the Cooties bring popcorn for the veterans.
"Believe it or not, they bring between 10 and 20 trashbags of individual popped popcorn, and that is a big thing," Sanders said.
Cooties volunteer for several reasons; Atnip said it is just a continuation of his military service.
"We do it because it is an obligation, and because it needs to be done," said Atnip, who served nine years in the military and has been a Cootie for about 35 years. "I am supporting these individuals that are not as lucky as I am. Mainly, it is because these individuals don't have the opportunity to get around like the rest of us do."
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7474. Follow him on Twitter at KDHCoveEditor.
What is a Cootie?
The Military Order of the Cooties is an honor degree of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of those who have served in a post's command and been invited into the organization.
For its pup-tent 13, members come from the VFW posts in Killeen, Copperas Cove, Harker Heights and other Central Texas cities.