Two Veterans who once served together and hadn’t seen each other for 16 years met en route to the American Legion Annual Convention in Indianapolis, Ind.
VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation (OPCC&CT) Field Implementation Consultant Matthew Campbell was at the airport gate in Detroit, Mich., awaiting a connection to Indianapolis when he looked over and and saw a Veteran in a wheelchair with his service dog. Campbell noticed one of the Veteran’s legs was severely injured and he was also an amputee. He approached the Veteran in the wheelchair and asked what branch he served in. When the Veteran replied, “Navy,” Campbell said that he, too, had been in the Navy and that he served as a Corpsman. The Veteran responded that he had also been a Corpsman.
Campbell smiled. The Veteran in the wheelchair was his buddy, Joe Worley.
Worley suddenly stood up, and the two Vets embraced one another. It was then they realized they had served together 16 years previous at medical training in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Campbell and Worley shared how they were both going to the American Legion National Convention and agreed to catch up with one another soon. Neither realized how fast the reunion would be. That same afternoon while Campbell was setting up his booth at the convention, he looked up to see America’s VetDogs booth. It was Worley’s booth!
Here they were standing across from each other for the second time in the same day after 16 years, and their booths were directly across from one another.
OPCC & CT staff were slated to present to the American Legion‘s Health Administration Committee. Campbell grabbed Worley and said, “Joe, let’s go, brother, I’ve got an idea.”
At the end of Campbell’s presentation, one of his slides addressed resiliency. One slide, specifically, showed a Veteran, who is an amputee, on top of a hill with his arms raised, celebrating his success of climbing that mountain. On stage, as Campbell began to speak, he asked everyone to take a moment to reflect on the picture.
“Think about all the setbacks, surgeries, rehab, training and specific goals that this Veteran had to set to make it to the top of that mountain.” he said. “That is what Resiliency is! Brothers and sisters this morning that man is here with us today.”
Joe Worley then stood up and shared how VA’s Whole Health program had saved his life. As Worley spoke, members of the crowd began to cry. And then the room burst into applause.
Campbell continued: “Let me tell you. There is nothing more humbling and gratifying than the work I get to do each day with our Veterans. This moment is the exact reason I am in healthcare and here today. I will never forget this, and will forever cherish our brotherhood and remember all things work for a reason, and this story has meaning and purpose.”
With the help of a chance encounter, Campbell’s message was clear to all in attendance.