102-year-old WWII hero becomes first veteran at Missouri VA hospital to get COVID vaccine


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — A 102-year-old World War II veteran became the first veteran at a Missouri VA hospital to receive his COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.

Melvin Rehkop survived World War II, and he’s determined to survive this pandemic, too.

“I’m just glad I got the vaccine because we’ve been waiting for it,” the Army combat veteran said.

“These are our heroes, and here at the VA, this is what we work for,” said Dr. Christy Mears, chief of pharmacy at the Kansas City VA Medical Center.

Rehkop, who has received three Bronze Star Medals, is thankful for the vaccine, but he said his life has been the greatest gift.

“I’m just thankful that I made it all through the war and had a normal life. I got married when I came home, and my wife and I lived on the same farm for 70 years,” he said.

He encouraged others to get the vaccine when they can.

“That’s the only way we’ll get it under control,” he said.

The VA hospital has already started vaccinating its frontline health care workers, and this weekend several hundred veterans will receive their shots as well. The goal is to vaccinate 1,000 staff and veterans by the end of the weekend.

“I told our staff last week on a call — I think we’re going to have vaccines for Christmas, and every one of them said, ‘We’re ready for this,’” Mears said. “So it’s just so great for our staff and our patients.”

KCVA is encouraging all veterans, even those who are not involved with the hospital, to contact them and see if they are eligible to get the vaccine.

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