Admiral James Winnefeld (ret) Delivers Keynote Remarks, "We are Stronger together than apart."

On August 30th, 2018, veteran residents, their families, employees, key partners and volunteers were invited to take part in a special event at the Lincoln Theater. With the event also airing live on KVET. The attendees were briefed on Home Administrator Fred Just’s Five-Year Plan for the Yountville Veterans Home –including progress made over the past several months.

The event was produced to reenergize the community and remind people of what’s truly important – and further – how how each person plays a key role in the betterment of the home. The recurring theme throughout the morning’s event was all about “coming together” and how each voice matters, each job matters and every inch of support received from our partners and volunteers matters… and only by coming together will significant progress take place.

As guests filtered into the Lincoln Theatre that morning, Army Veteran, Chef Melody of Heroes Café served up tasty homemade muffins and pastries using fresh ingredients from the Tug McGraw Brain Food Garden. The State of the Home event then began with our Veteran’s Home Color Guard saluting the flag, followed by a singing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” beautifully led by veteran Muriel Zimmer. After Rabbi Ira Book delivered a thoughtful event blessing, an impressive video montage [produced by Tug McGraw Foundation] showed footage of our Veteran’s Home’s history – juxtaposing images from the 1800’s and 1900s with more recent decades, and of course, present day. The video reminded us of the tremendous progress made since the home’s inception but also how the sense of community has remained a constant – and its critical importance for the home’s forward-moving progress.

5 Conflicts of Veterans

Admiral's Top Gun Surprise

Part of this day was also about including our veterans into the actual event from the Color Guard and veteran singer Muriel to WWII, Korean, Gulf and Global War on Terrorism veterans who helped introduce the distinguished guest keynote speaker, Admiral James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld, Jr., U.S. Navy (ret.) Made possible by the Tug McGraw Foundation and American Airlines, Admiral Winnefeld and his wife Mary (both longtime supporters of the YVH) flew out from D.C. to take part in this 1st annual event.

Admiral and Mary Winnefeld were honored by the invitation, and the Admiral delivered an inspiring keynote that spoke directly to the importance of cultivating a team and its unique culture – emphasizing that we are stronger together than apart. With the Admiral’s storied and remarkable career spanning decades in the Navy and as the 9th Vice Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff to co-founding with his wife Mary, Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic (S.A.F.E.), he brought an amazing depth of experience and insight to his keynote. And for those guests who wondered why the Top Gun soundtrack theme song played as the Admiral took the stage – he was in fact the ‘other star’ of the blockbuster movie – performing the pilot stunts for Tom Cruise’s “Maverick” character!

Cue AC/DC “Thunderstruck” music and next up to the stage was YVH home administrator Fred Just, who might’ve missed his true calling as an electric guitar player (okay, air guitar). After his lively entrance onto the stage, he quickly explained the significance of the song and how it’s always energized him – which is exactly what he wanted to do with his address.

Communication is Key

Fred then covered recent progress at the home – from elevators being fixed and a new bus ordered to a comprehensive and community-wide safety and security plan. Frequently mentioned was his commitment to communicating clearly [and often] with the entire veterans home community. Walking all over campus to speak with residents, staff, and partners is something he will continue to focus on… so that everyone has a sense of where the home is headed and what improvements to expect. His five-year plan covered issues as serious as lockdown security procedures and plans to fixing all of the cracked roads to understanding the entire inventory of home equipment and what they needed to plan for in the next five years. Also discussed was the imperative need to develop philanthropy programs that will be effective (and legal) in bringing additional support to the home.

Staff is the Key to the Success

Also noteworthy was Fred’s recognition of his exceptional staff. Making a point to thank the individual heads of departments (and their staff) for the important work they do each and every day. He went on to add it is also one of his priorities to create a meaningful staff recognition program that celebrates accomplishments and teamwork.

Teamwork and Patience

Throughout his address, there was a reminder that not only was teamwork essential but also patience. Not all of the initiatives discussed can happen overnight and prioritization will play a key part of the process in moving this five-year plan forward. Fred ended the address with a series of pre-selected questions (for time’s sake) from residents and staff. Questions ranged from the Pathway Home building and overall safety to skilled nursing facility plans, battered flags and locked bathrooms. Fred went on to ensure that all 60 or so questions that were submitted would be answered over the course of the coming weeks (if they weren’t already addressed during the event).

With nearly 400 staff and residents in attendance at Lincoln Theater and more watching via KVET, the goal to reach as many people at YVH campus as possible was accomplished – with hope that our community continues to see improved and continual communications on all topics regarding the home.

A Special Thank You to the Following

A special thanks again to Admiral and Mrs. James Winnefeld, CalVet, American Airlines, Vintage House, Heroes Café, Jelly Belly, First Data, CalVet Yountville Archives, Activities Office, Admin Support Team, KVET, and the Lincoln Theater for making this special event possible.

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