I actually used to enjoy talking with the guys. My dad was there so much that he was a regular in the smoker's room. They would sit in there and shoot the breeze and have a good time while "we caregivers" ran our asses off getting their stuff. I heard a lot of good stories and met a lot of good people while I was hanging around there.
The holidays are particularly lonely. If there is a way to discharge a vet for a holiday they do it. So, the guy left there are generally too sick to roam the halls. They appreciate someone taking a minute to stop and talk or maybe giving them a care package with a magazine or candy.
I talked to guys who had fought in every war. Many didn't have families to visit them. I heard many great stories of heroism and lots of stories about not coping too well. I remember one guy in particular telling me he was a sniper in the Vietnam War. He told me he killed so many men that they could stack them end to end and on top of each other and they wouldn't fit in a house. I really think he was trying to shock me.
I just thanked him for doing what he had to do which kind of surprised him, I think. I could see a calm come into his eyes when he saw that I wasn't repulsed by his story. War is hell. You gotta do what you gotta do I told him.
Anyway if you live close to a VA hospital take the time to visit. A little change for a vending machine, or a pack of cigs or a phone card is helpful as well.
When daddy died he had a couple of cartons of cigarettes that he had not smoked. I took them up to the VA and gave them to a vet in the smoking room and told him to give them out in honor of my dad. He said he would take care of it and I knew he appreciated it just as my dad did when others shared their cigs with him.
The man even reminded me of my dad. Obviously too sick to be smoking but refusing to give it up come hell or high water because they were too sick for it to make a difference any more anyway. For some people it is the only pleasure they have left.