Known simply as Ms. Clara, Clara Lewis has given more than 43,000 hours of her most precious resource – time – to the Veterans of West Texas. The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the West Texas VA Health Care System’s George H. O’Brien, Jr. VA Medical Center staff recognized Ms. Clara’s volunteer service in a December 4 ceremony.
Former national DAV commander Dennis Nixon presented Lewis the DAV Volunteer of the Year Award.
The widow of a retired Air Force Veteran, Ms. Clara began volunteering more than 44 years ago and has served in nearly every capacity a volunteer can in the medical center.
“I’m here for the Veterans,” said Lewis. “When my husband was receiving care here, I saw the need and I vowed then to do all I can for our Veterans.”
Having served in mental health services, the community living center, the domiciliary and a host of other positions, Lewis can now be found every weekday morning at the main reception desk greeting every Veteran with a smile and asking, “How can I help you today?”
“She is an inspiration”
Lewis was due to receive the award earlier this year at the national DAV conference in Orlando, but weather conditions fouled her travel plans. That’s when Nixon stepped in and made a personal trip to West Texas to make the presentation.
“I’ve known Ms. Clara for many years, and she is truly a legend,” said Nixon. Nixon presented Lewis with an engraved silver chalice (pictured above) memorializing her service. “She is my friend. She is an inspiration.”
Nixon remarked on the impact Ms. Clara has had on generations of Veterans over her four decades of service: “More than any other person, Ms. Clara has done more to improve the West Texas VA through her generosity, her sincere love for our Veterans and her warmth.”
In 2018, the West Texas VA dedicated the medical center’s main waiting area in honor of Lewis, naming the space the Clara Lewis Outpatient Waiting Area. Fittingly, the staff held the ceremony in Lewis’ waiting room.
“Some call me an angel,” said Lewis. “They only see that side, but believe me, I am here to see that our Veterans receive the best we have to offer. They deserve nothing less.”
The West Texas VA Health Care System proudly serves Veterans in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. That area includes 33 counties across 53,000 square miles of rural geography. More than 23,000 Veterans receive their health care from the George H. O’Brien, Jr. VA Medical Center, which is located in Big Spring, Texas, or one of its community clinics, which manage more than 170,000 outpatient visits annually.
Michael Cole, a retired U.S. Navy Veteran, is a public affairs officer for the West Texas Health Care System.