In 2005 – after more than 27 years as a Sears employee – Rudy Garcia and his wife were looking for more than a hobby to spend their retirement. The U.S. Army Veteran (1960 – 1963) wanted to give back to his community in South Texas, and serve his fellow Veterans. Garcia found his new calling as a volunteer at VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VATVCBHCS).
Garcia, who is also the chaplain of American Legion Post 205 in Harlingen, Texas, has volunteered more than 10 hours a week for the past five years at the Harlingen VA Outpatient Clinic (HOPC). He can sometimes be seen playing TAPS on his bugle during commemorative ceremonies, but most visiting Veterans would recognize him as one of the volunteers who give out refreshments in the lobby of the clinic.
“I love spending time here,” Garcia said with a smile. “I really want to stress how dedicated all the volunteers here are…and how much [Veterans] appreciate what we do for them.”
While the snacks can be seen as just a simple gesture of gratitude, Garcia said he’s seen first-hand how a cookie, cup of coffee and a conversation between two Veterans can have a positive effect on a person. He said nurses have stopped by the volunteer’s table at HOPC to thank them for brightening up a Veteran’s day on several occasions.
And they’re not alone. VA recently urged family and friends of Veterans to “Be There” for Veterans during last month’s suicide prevention campaign. One of the options for being there was grabbing a cup of coffee, and having a conversation.
“Each of us has the ability to positively impact the life of another,” said Dr. Jennifer Wood, associate chief of staff for mental health at VATVCBHCS. “Whether it be through a kind word, a welcoming smile, an ear to listen, or a cup of coffee, actions of support show you care. One act has the power to make a difference.”
Rudy Garcia agrees, and encourages Veterans, family and friends to give a little bit of their time to volunteer.
Veterans serving Veterans, like Garcia, send a powerful message of camaraderie and support that underscores VA’s commitment to the health and well-being of our Veterans. If you would like more information on how you can volunteer at a VA facility, check with your local VA Voluntary Services office or visit http://www.volunteer.va.gov/.