A cup of coffee and conversation: How a VA volunteer can brighten a Veteran’s day


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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.

Rudy garcia holds a coffee warmer

VA Texas Valley coastal Bend Volunteer, Rudy Garcia at the Harlingen Texas Outpatient Clinic.

 

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/.

Author

Reynaldo Leal

– Reynaldo Leal recently joined the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System as the public affairs officer. He is a proud Marine Corps Veteran who deployed to the Al Anbar Province with 3rd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment in 2004 and 2006. He also took part in some of the heaviest fighting during Operation Phantom Fury in 2004. Before coming to Continental South District he worked on the VA’s Digital Media Engagement team and was the State Public Affairs Specialist for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is glad to be back home in his native South Texas, and looks forward to working for his fellow Veterans. He also looks forward to introducing his two sons to all the great fishing and outdoor opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley.

Comments

  1. Jim Volstad    

    Keep up the good work!

    MSG Jim Volstad
    US Army Retired

    VA Volunteer
    Audie Murphy VAMC

  2. Tom Cook    

    You are a good man to volunteer your time for a good cause. Keep up the good work and make one person smile!
    Tom Cook

  3. Amanda Funk Marshall    

    I think this is just wonderful. This is what makes not only the Veterans happy, but you bring happiness to yourself because the main man is happy, God. No matter what we do in life, if it makes God happy, that’s all that really matters.i have spent the last 4 years of my life making a Veteran happy.This was very important to me to give this Veteran a real life.One he had never had.I put my life on hold so he could have one.He passed away 14 months ago and died thinking I would be took care of. So in a sense I have to be grateful for his thoughts but little did he know about a surviving spouse.During the worst part of my life,not only was I grieving my heart out but I was getting form after form after form to fill out and send back to the VA, and I have yet to hear any encouragement, anything beneficial, from any department. I am unemployed, with no income. I would love to be able to Volunteer my time again but you have to have a means of supporting yourself to be able to do so. All I can say is it’s a good thing the decesed Veterans don’t know about what happens after their death.They would not be happy and I feel sure God’s not happy either.But for the ones of you who can afford to volunteer some time to comfort a Veteran, my hats off to you! It’s a wonderful way to give back to them and make yourself and God very happy.Hopefully in the near future I will be able to do what I so dearly miss and that’s to help any Veteran that needs me.I thank you all for your sevice!! God Bless all of you and your families!!

  4. Kevin Goodwin    

    Thank you for your service and for your continued commitment to our nation’s veterans!

  5. Robin V White Cole    

    Would love to serve as a volunteer in suicide prevention.

  6. Manuel Cabrero    

    Rudy has had this same spirit for decades; that’s why God has allowed him to remain behind so long.
    – Manny Cabrero, NYC MOPH Chap #3, VVA #126

  7. Richard Duhamel    

    I have had the opportunity to meet you at the Harlingen VA. I have seen the smiles on the veterans faces when they speak to you. It isn’t the coffee or cookies, it is you that makes their day. Thank you MR. Garcia for all that you have done. God Bless You…………..Richard Duhamel 1959 – 1965

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