'Decorate a Vet' Brings Holiday Cheer to Vets' Homes

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Sometimes acting on an idea is all it takes to be a part of a blessing. A business man in Northern Virginia knows all about that.

His volunteer project is bringing Christmas cheer to veterans and their families, one decoration at a time.

A group of young volunteers gathered on a chilly December morning at a townhouse in Falls Church, Va., with boxes full of holiday decorations, lights, and two Christmas trees.

The home belongs to Tony Kennedy and his wife, Sylvia Lagarda.

Kennedy is a 15-year veteran of the United States Army and the Marines. He fought in the Iraq war.

Since leaving the military, Kennedy has spent his time advocating for veterans. He's not used to being on the receiving end of service, but he is now, thanks to a volunteer project called Decorate A Vet.

Decorate A Vet was founded three years ago by Jeff Jones, the owner of a landscaping business. He was motivated to start the non-profit because of his father's and grandfather's service in the military.

The mission of Decorate A Vet is simple, to beautify veterans' homes.

"We do everything from cleaning the yards, simple things like leaf blowing and mulching to installing patios, walkways. Even last year we did as much as replacing windows and doors and gutters," Jones told CBN News.

"We probably did a house last year, may have been about $80,000 or $90,000 worth of work. It really ranges from simple leaf clean up to a full-blown yard renovation," he said.

A lot happens behind the scenes as well, like fundraising.

Home Depot donated $2,000 worth of Christmas decorations. Jones also organizes volunteers, like the members of the "Shark Tank," a swim team based in Northern Virginia who are helping to decorate Kennedy's home.

Jones spent time as a missionary and said the skills he learned on the mission field help him in this endeavor.

"It actually gave me a leg up on how to do it - how to find people, how to select people, how to organize people, and find donations and volunteers. And mission work definitely was a step into doing this," Jones said.

Decorate A Vet dresses up about six to eight homes each Christmas season.

Kennedy's wife, Sylvia, saw a local news story about the non-profit and submitted her husband's name, hoping to lift his spirit.

"I just thought, you know, maybe if I could bring some holiday cheer to my husband this Christmas season, I wanted that opportunity," she said.

The volunteers cleaned up the yard, made Christmas wreaths, hung lights, and decorated two Christmas trees. One tree was set up on the front porch, the other inside in the living room.

"These kids were moving with the precision of a military unit getting this place together. I was really impressed with that. I was like, wow," Kennedy said.

Kennedy and Lagarda weren't sure what their Christmas was going to be like this year because Kennedy has been out of work. But the project has helped them both to look forward to the holiday.

"I just feel so blessed that people are so giving of their time," Lagarda said.

"This is probably one of the best Christmas presents I've ever gotten in my life," Kennedy said.

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