VA St. Louis Health Care System
Temptations Review Treats St. Louis Veterans to Free Concert
Leroy Edwards lay in his bed grinning, eyes shining and humming a familiar tune. He seemed far too happy for a Veteran who had spent the last few days in the hospital as he lovingly clutched a booklet with five signatures on the front.
“I got to sing with them,” Edwards crowed. “Back in the day, my brothers used to listen to the radio and try to harmonize along with them, but I got to sing, here in this room with them.”
Leroy Edwards got to meet and sing The Way You Do the Things You Do with Dennis Edwards, lead singer of the Temptations and lead singer of the Temptations Review, a tribute group performing all of the Temptations hits. For the second year in a row, the group played a free concert to a packed house of Veterans at St. Louis’s Fabulous Fox Theatre as part of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) National Salute to Veteran Patients. However, well before the group lit up the stage at the Fox, they were lighting up faces at the St. Louis VA Medical Center as they went to visit the hospitalized Veterans that would be unable to attend the concert in their honor.
“Oh, I’ve met astronauts, news celebrities and congressmen staying in this medical center.” Leroy Edwards added. “But meeting and being able to sing with the Temptations, now that just takes the cake.”
The Temptations Review consists of Dennis Edwards, David Sea, Mike Patillo, Chris Arnold and Paul Williams Jr., son of the Paul Williams who was an original member of the Temptations. The group brought sunshine on what turned out to be a very cloudy day to all the Veterans at the medical center as they went from room to room serenading, speaking with and signing autographs for the always appreciative patients.
“Well that just blew me away,” said Veteran James Evans. “I’ve been a huge Temptations fan since the 60's. I know and love all of their songs, but I certainly didn’t expect them to come walking into my room.”
For the Temptations Review members, who have played three different concerts in the past week for Veterans in Detroit, Birmingham, Ala. and now St. Louis, the trips to the medical centers can be one of the best parts of the day. “The VA brings us back this year to honor Veterans and we love it,” Dennis Edwards said. “It’s a wonderful thing to do these performances. We can’t give them enough for what they did to serve us and I’m proud to see how the St. Louis VA and the local community really banded together to make this event special.”
For Edwards and group member David Sea, honoring Veterans is very personal as Edwards served in the Air Force where he once guarded a World War II crematorium in Germany and Sea served in the Army as a civil engineer in Vietnam. “They love coming to see the Veterans. We would go to every nook of the medical center if I didn’t have to keep them on time,” said the group’s Road Manager Donny Finley. “When they walk in the room, the patient’s eyes brighten up and when they sing … we actually had a patient on oxygen take off his breathing mask to sing along with them. It’s powerful stuff.”
The nurses at the St. Louis VAMC who were caring for the patients agreed about the positive effects on the patients. “Some of these Veterans stay in the wards for a long time and never get visitors,” said Nurse Desiree Coleman, who remembered a Temptations concert as her first date though she wouldn’t say when that was. “To get a visit from the Temptations though, I see the change in their spirits as soon as I go in to check on them. God bless the Temptations for doing this.”
The National Salute to Veteran Patients happens every year during the week of Valentine’s Day. Free concerts for Veterans became part of the salute in 2009 and the program has expanded each year. The Temptations Review playing at the Fox Theatre packed the house with more than 6,000 Veterans attending making it one of the biggest concerts of the Salute this year.
“We hosted 17 different concerts this year which are up from 11 last year,” said Laura Balun, VA's Director of Voluntary Service. The events are funded by Help Hospitalized Veterans and community sponsors, but the events are staged by armies of volunteers who regularly give time at the medical center. “It is outstanding to see the level of community support across the U.S. as people volunteer and want to embrace these events for Veterans.”
In the packed Fox Theatre, Dennis Edwards quieted the cheering crowd after The Temptations Review’s opening number. Decked in a blue tuxedo suit sporting a rainbow accent, Edwards dedicated the performance to the Veterans he had visited in his plain clothes earlier yesterday morning. The thoughts of the patients and staff in the St. Louis VAMC were still with the Temptations too.
“I’m up in cloud nine,” said Brenda Moore, a sister visiting her Veteran brother, Charles Floyd, when the Temptations came in the room and sang My Girl to them and fellow Veteran patient Lee Walter. “I’m already getting great care here,” Walter added. “The nurses and staff here are all so great and caring. But then they go and do something like this, bringing the Temptations to see us. That is just wonderful.”