VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Chaplain Jackson Celebrates 15 Years with Chorus
Chaplain Jackson faithfully visits the Men's Trauma Recovery program every Tuesday afternoon for rehearsal. The Menlo Park Patient Chorus gathers in a designated room, sitting in an arrangement that looks like an open rectangle, allowing her to sit at the open end on a stool. Several of them have dogs provided by the Paws for Purple Hearts program. This is her 15th year directing the chorus since she was assigned by her predecessor, Chaplain Bastille.
"It warms my heart to see the transformation taking place amidst caring for the animals, singing, laughing, socializing, and supporting one another in a safe, non-judgmental environment," said Chaplain Virginia Jackson, D.Min. "For some, it is a spiritual experience."
For nine years she has enjoyed sharing the unique experience of leading this group of Veterans in a one-hour rehearsal every week, as well as taking them out to perform on various occasions throughout the community. They have competed nationally in the Creative Arts Competition each year, and always place at least second or third in one of the categories.
When Chaplain Bastille retired in 2006, Chaplain Jackson became the sole director of the chorus until recently being joined by Chaplains Wilson and Tittle. Ron Mancini has been volunteer guitarist for 10 years.
"It is not about how well they sing but more about singing in the midst of their struggle with PTSD and other life challenges," said Chaplain Jackson.
She expressed being privileged when one hour of rehearsal time provides a freedom to laugh while at the same time being able to personify love and grace to Veterans with the invisible wounds of trauma.
Reflecting on her 15 years, Chaplain Jackson shared words of wisdom, saying "Music is a language that transcends all boundaries. It can seep into those cold, dark crevices of the heart and spirit, catching them unaware and thereby be blessed with an unexpected joy as they are transported and lifted to a lighter place."