RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Volunteers are taking over the grounds at McGuire VA Medical Center. They are planting what is slowly becoming the Phyllis Galanti Memorial Arboretum.
“Behind every Veteran, there’s somebody supporting them. She was mine,” says Phyllis’ widower, Paul Galanti.
“Only two people have ever addressed the joint session of the Virginia General Assembly,” Paul says. “Robert E. Lee and my wife.”
In 1966, Paul’s jet was shot down. He was captured and held for seven years. Here at home, Phyllis rallied for support and headed a letter writing campaign to advocate for all POW’s.
“Back when there was nothing to organize with, they didn’t have cell phones, they didn’t have anything, and she generated 450,000 letters out of Richmond.”
This Arboretum came to be with legislation sponsored by Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Arizona Senator John McCain, who spent five years in the camp with Paul. It will offer patients and their families a tranquil green space, while recognizing the crusader who Paul calls “the most famous woman in Virginia” during the Vietnam era and beyond.
“When she died two years ago, I started hearing the details of all the things she did and I was just totally taken back,” Paul explains. “If she hadn’t done what she’d done, we’d still be over there.”
The Phyllis Galanti Memorial Arboretum will be dedicated in September, and until then McGuire needs help from the public. It is accepting donations, plants and volunteers.
If you want to help, call the hospital’s Public Affairs Office at (804) 675-5242.