BAY PINES, Fla. — Doug Rose spent his 50th birthday in the Bay Pines V-A Hospital getting his knee replaced. The retired Air Force veteran, stuck in a bed recovering, wasn’t expecting a colorful delivery from a stranger.

“These are for you,” said John Pauwels with a smile after placing a clean vase of freshly arranged flowers now sitting on Rose’s bedside table. “They smell nice, too.”

Rose smiled as Pauwels left the room. That delivery was one of many on a milestone day.

“Every day I come in, it’s a joy,” explained Monica Kok, the Director of Mission Fulfillment for the Tampa Bay chapter of Random Acts of Flowers.

The non-profit’s Tampa-area outreach has refurbished and delivered exactly 85,019 bouquets since 2013, according to its website. The big milestone on Thursday was the 7,500th vase directly given to a local veteran.

“They understand that you’ve been through stuff that they’ve been through,” said Pauwels.

He and his wife, Joan, have volunteered to deliver bouquets for Random Acts of Flowers for a few years. Ironically, John spent time in the very same hospital where he now delivers as a patient in the early 1980s.

“I was in the Air Force the whole time,” said the retired veteran, who joined in 1950 and completed his service in 1979. “We do connect.”

The deliveries truly are surprises for most patients. Random Acts of Flowers arranges the vases in the morning with a team of volunteers. The flowers are donated to the non-profit after being displayed at weddings, funerals, and other events.

For someone like Rose, it’s a perfect pick-me-up.

“I’m going to cheer up,” he said. “It’s really cool. This is awesome.”

John smiled as he passed in and out of rooms delivering vases. He walked with a pep in his step while pushing a cart of vases. Each room provided a new opportunity to cheer up a hospital-bound vet.

“This is great,” he said with a grin. “It’s never been this important as today.”

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