Latest News

Phyllis Galanti, whose tireless campaign to free U.S. POWs in Vietnam brought international awareness and ultimate success, will be memorialized at an arboretum at McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The Phyllis Galanti Memorial Arboretum will be established through legislation sponsored by Virginia’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Mark R. Warner and Timothy M. Kaine, and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain. McCain was a prisoner of war for more than five years with Paul Galanti, widower of Phyllis Galanti.

Phyllis Galanti, who died in April 2014 at the age of 73, became a national advocate for the estimated 600 American POWs when her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Paul Galanti, was shot down over North Vietnam on June 17, 1966. During her husband’s 2,432-day incarceration in a Vietnamese POW camp, Phyllis Galanti advocated for humane treatment and release of American POWs, serving as national chairwoman of the National League of Families and Friends of POWs and MIAs in Southeastern Asia.

Paul Galanti, former commissioner of the state’s Department of Veterans Services, said he “came home to the most famous woman in Virginia.” He gave her credit for “all these little things that came into my life. Phyllis was the one who made it happen.”

News of the arboretum naming “came out of the clear blue sky. I’m not sure who had the idea first. It think it’s wonderful. ... Phyllis loved the outside. She was big in gardening. It’s a real honor.”

He and Phyllis had strong connections with McGuire, where he still gets his medical care, Galanti said.

“McGuire happens to be an outstanding hospital. I’ve known it ever since back at Vietnam. She felt the same way about it. She was the biggest booster the VA had.”

Warner said he remembers Phyllis Galanti speaking at a program for schoolchildren at the Virginia War Memorial in September 2013. “I spoke and she spoke, and she captivated them. I have this memory of Paul standing in the back, just beaming with pride.”

When he called Paul Galanti to tell him about the arboretum, Warner recalled, “he said that, for a guy who’s never speechless, he was speechless.”

Warner said Phyllis Galanti’s life was “a tremendous testament to what is possible through unselfish service to others.” Naming the arboretum for her will “continue sharing her story of perseverance and patriotism for years to come. Her role in fighting on behalf of all our POWs and MIAs reminds us that our military families also sacrifice for our country.”

McCain remembered her dedication “to advocating for American soldiers missing in action, or held as prisoners of war, including her loving husband and my dear friend Paul who spent nearly seven years as a POW during the Vietnam War.”

Assuming that the legislation is adopted, the Galanti Arboretum will be in the back of the VA property. It’s near the Fisher House, which provides lodging for families of McGuire patients.

“We try to make sure that we have places to help our veterans on their journey back to health, sometimes physical, sometimes psychological,” Warner said. “I think this will be a place of tranquility.”

What’s in the garden now is just a beginning, said Darlene Edwards, McGuire spokeswoman.

Young trees planted on open ground will one day give shade to a walking trail that already exists. Black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, phlox and bee balm are beginning to create a splash of color at one side.

Volunteer groups or veterans organizations will be welcome to help develop and maintain the arboretum, Edwards said. An official dedication is likely to come later this year.