Every week we hear about the incredible work DAV volunteers do to help veterans in their communities and at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities.
I like to share those stories as often as possible. I hope it inspires all of you who are leaders in DAV to thank and recognize your volunteers for the work they do. Doing so spurs more people to consider volunteering their time—even an hour—to help our nation’s veterans.
Back in September, the VA hosted its 2023 Customer Experience (CX) Symposium in Washington, D.C. More than 2,500 attended, and a big part of the event was to recognize VA volunteer standouts making a difference in veterans’ lives.
Two of those volunteers are with DAV.
The first is Barbara Brown. She’s the Transportation Network hospital services coordinator for the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The VA named her their Customer Service Volunteer of the Year.
Barbara is an Air Force veteran and member of DAV Chapter 45 in Barrackville, West Virginia. She’s been around her VAMC for more than 20 years as an employee, patient and volunteer.
Two and a half years ago, she started volunteering with DAV by coordinating medical rides for veterans, a role she loves.
“I may not have a whole lot of drivers, but we do have a lot of satisfied customers,” she said.
Michael White, the chief of the hospital’s Center for Development and Civic Engagement, said that Barbara’s efforts kept their Transportation Network running when other facilities had to halt their programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. She created, developed and implemented safety “go bags” for her volunteer drivers and taught them how to sanitize their vehicles and mitigate the virus’s spread.
“With a drive to do whatever it takes to raise the bar on the excellence in the care we provide veterans, Barb motivates us to keep on improving,” he said. “Our VA and our veterans have been changed for the better because they’ve worked with Barb.”
In addition to her Transportation Network responsibilities, she always finds other ways to help, whether it’s bringing a pair of slippers to a veteran or offering a push to help someone in a wheelchair get to where they need to go.
“The appreciation that some of these people give you, it’s wonderful,” Barbara said. “I just feel so blessed that I’m able to bless other people back.”
The other recognized DAV volunteer is Anit Tyagi. In 2021, he received a $7,500 DAV scholarship for his volunteer work at the Rocky Mountain Regional VAMC in Aurora, Colorado.
His volunteering led him to develop Remembering Our Veterans: A Living History Video Memoir Program to capture veterans’ oral histories. The recordings are added to veterans’ medical records to help VA doctors know their patients better. They’re also given to family members and preserved online for the general public to hear their stories.
Anit’s VAMC submitted an award write-up to symposium judges who selected the program as a Veteran Health Administration CX Innovation award finalist.
As a finalist, Anit traveled to Washington to present the program to symposium attendees.
“That really was an honor because it really showed that the program was receiving the recognition we think it deserves,” Anit told us.
Remember Our Veterans caught the attention of senior VA officials in attendance. Among them were representatives from the VA’s National Cemetery Administration. Anit now has a conversation scheduled to discuss incorporating his project into their online Veteran Legacy Memorial.
Anit is currently a research assistant with the VA, but volunteers with the Remembering Our Veterans initiative.
He plans on applying for medical school in the near future.
I am so proud of Barbara and Anit. They represent all of DAV’s volunteers well. Congratulations to both of them on a job well done!
And to all of our volunteers, thank you. We know how precious of a resource your time is. To spend even a little of it helping improve the lives of veterans is deeply appreciated.
If you want to learn more about the community service scholarship opportunities DAV offers, visit davscholarships.org.
Visit driveforveterans.org to help with the DAV Transportation Network. We could use you; there’s a shortage of drivers around the country.