When 15-year-old Paxton dePingre volunteered at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center (OBVAMC) in the summer of 2015, she didn’t realize the impact her experience would have on her personally and two of her biggest role models.
Paxton enrolled in the OBVAMC Summer Youth Program to share with her community and give back to those who have given in the service to their country.
The OBVAMC has also celebrated the VA’s “Summer of Service” initiative recognizing its volunteer staff and providing volunteer opportunities throughout the year.
“It is important to volunteer because you make a difference,” said Paxton. “Some of these Veterans may have no family and I may be the only person to spend time with them. A lot of times they need an ear to listen.”
Paxton joins more than 150 active volunteers at the hospital, but two stand out the most from her point of view.
Her father, Paul dePingre and grandfather, Bill dePingre, both Marines, also volunteer several hours a week. It wasn’t until Paxton devoted most of her summer break at OBVAMC that her father and grandfather became more involved.
“I love it,” said Paul, her father. “I get to spend time with my daughter on a different level. She is growing up and it is hard for me to see her not as a 9-year-old little girl. She has grown into a good person and l love that she is volunteering in her community. Her volunteering with Veterans gives her a whole new appreciation for Veterans and her grandfather, and of course, I am a Veteran, too.”
“It is important to volunteer because you make a difference.”
“This has made me grow closer to them as people, not just as my family,” said Paxton. “Stories that I have heard them tell, I now understand them better.”
“I really enjoy it,” said Bill, her grandfather. “We spend a lot of time with Marines but we see all the Veterans regardless of their service. I try to make a difference up here. There is a big support group in the Veteran community, if more people would get involved it could be better.”
The dePingre family joins thousands of VA Volunteers throughout the Nation who joined in the Summer of Service. The Summer of Service is designed to increase volunteers in the VA and show future volunteer opportunities serving Veterans and local communities.
“This has changed my perspective about the military and the hospital,” said Paxton. “My confidence level has gone through the roof being around this happy energy and being able to make all these veterans happy. It feels really good to be able to say I met ‘so-and-so’ today and they served in World War II. It is not a chore. It is dozens of small conversations that are fascinating and I want to hear more.”
“People donate money to support Veterans issues, but time is probably something that could be used more,” said Paul. “Visiting and getting involved makes a difference. It keeps these Veterans engaged in life.”
Paxton concluded that her experience does not presume she intends to follow her family’s steps as a Marine, but she does hope to have a career in medicine and will consider the VA as a future employer. She also said, she plans to continue volunteering and her younger sister is “itching” to sign up next year.
This article was originally published by Shannon Arledge at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center.