During World War II, Petty Officer 2nd Class Gene Lister served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Wisconsin, an Iowa-class battleship. Almost 70 years later, Lister continues to dedicate his life to service. Today, he supports injured veterans through the DAV Transportation Network, ensuring that his fellow veterans in and around Huntington, W.Va., have access to the care they earned by shuttling them to and from medical appointments.
“DAV’s voluntary services are successful because of volunteers like Gene Lister,” said National Director of Voluntary Services Ron Minter. “He is a veteran helping veterans, enabling our nation’s heroes to receive essential health care.”
Prior to the war, Lister was a tugboat operator, so serving in the Navy as a boatswain’s mate was the perfect fit. After an honorable discharge, Lister volunteered with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary whose commanding officer recommended him to Hospital Service Coordinator Rush Williams. Williams welcomed him aboard in 1999, and the two have been working together ever since.
“Rush gives me the assignments and provides the equipment, and I go from there,” said Lister. “None of this would be possible without his leadership and guidance Lister volunteers with the Transportation Network five days a week, donating 10 to 15 hours of his time every day. “Mr. Lister honorably served his country and continues to serve by supporting his fellow veterans,” said Minter. “His commitment to empowering veterans is an inspiration.”
“The need for services like the Transportation Network is so great, and Mr. Lister is helping to fulfill that need as are hundreds of other volunteer drivers all across the country,” said National Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski.
Lister transports veterans in his native West Virginia, as well as neighboring Kentucky and Ohio, to hospitals and clinics throughout the region. Lister notes the difficulty of finding the homes of veterans in some of the rural, mountainous terrain—areas that his GPS does not even recognize.
“I am given directions from the veterans like, ‘Take a left at the sycamore tree and then a right at the saw mill.’ We deal with that on a daily basis. It makes things interesting,” said Lister.
On one particular day, Lister picked up a veteran near Huntington and drove him to an appointment in Lexington, Ky. “I brought him in. I’ll sit and wait and then take him home when I’m finished. That’s my day—over 300 miles,” stated Lister, matter-of-factly.
“I put 231,000 miles on the last van and 235,000 on the one before that,” said Lister. “My new van has 21,000 miles on it after a month and a half.”
As of September, Lister had transported 11,304 veterans and accrued 756,855 miles but said he won’t slow down until he reaches his goal of 1 million miles. Despite these impressive numbers, the spry 86-year-old does not view himself as a hero or as doing anything too special.
“It is my meager effort to give back a portion of what I have received. This is a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” said Lister. “These veterans are people in need, and I am able to help them. I can supply them with something they can benefit from, and that’s the reward—being able to help.”
“Volunteer drivers like Mr. Lister are fine examples of DAV’s commitment to serving veterans in our communities,” said National Adjutant Marc Burgess. “I’m confident he will meet his goal of 1 million miles.