Swapping Sea Stories and Other Acts of Kindness

When a staff member of Hospice of Southern Maine called to see if Vet to Vet could find a volunteer to visit a Korean War veteran who was dying, she seemed not at all sure we could get anyone at such short notice.

I had no such doubts. Within a minute of posting the request for a Navy veteran to make the visit, I had a phone call from a volunteer. Within the next 2-1/2 hours, I had received e-mails from another six volunteers, and by the end of the day three more had been in touch. A few Army veterans offered to make the visit if I couldn’t find a Navy vet.

The exceptional caring demonstrated by Vet to Vet volunteers and the willingness to be of service to other veterans are what makes Vet to Vet such a deeply satisfying and worthwhile program. We all feel the loving vibes that emanate from the relationships developed and acts of kindness taken—they bring smiles to Vet to Vet volunteers, the veterans they visit, families and friends of both, staff members, and anyone who hears of Vet to Vet.

Gary O’Connell, a U.S. Navy submariner and the Vet to Vet veteran who was first to volunteer, visited the 86-year-old Navy veteran called Duff at his home the following day. Dressed in full uniform, Gary met the entire family, who had gathered to witness the event. They greeted him like an arriving king and listened raptly as the Navy veterans swapped sea stories for the next two hours. Both thoroughly enjoyed themselves, as did the family members in the room.

“It was a good time all around,” said Gary.

Still smiling, the men bid each other farewell. The Korean War veteran died two days later.

Thank you, Gary and the other nine veterans who volunteered for this act of kindness. And thank you to all our volunteer peer companions for the countless other acts of kindness you do to make the lives of fellow veterans better.

—Sue Gold