AARP Veterans Volunteer Program Helps Form Friendship
“I can’t say there was a single subject that grabbed us and stayed with us,” Frost said. “But we stretched out to just, ‘Hey, how’s life?’ It worked very well for both of us.
Although they have completed the three-month period scheduled by the program, the two still call each other every two weeks to talk to each other.
Paths to the Voices of Veterans program
Garlic joined the army in 1998 as an armor crewman, operating tanks and touring Bosnia. His military career ended when he was involved in a major car accident after a tank truck lost control and collided with him. Garlic was seriously injured and in a wheelchair.
Prior to the incident, Garlic was a talented athlete who aspired to become a professional basketball player. “Before that, I was just trying to adapt the hard way – on my own, without any outside influence from anyone who knew better. No sports, nothing at all.
He eventually heard of the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which offers a nationally ranked rehabilitation program and, most important to Garlic, adaptive sports such as basketball. Since joining the Shepherd program, he has competed in several sports at the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded and injured service members, and maintains a very active lifestyle.
He heard about the Veteran Friendly Voice program from a VA recreation therapist who suggested Garlic try it “just to see what happens.”
“I was open to it. And that’s what introduced me to Paul,” he said. “I thought it was one of those things where you wouldn’t know where you are until that you would meet people who could hold a mirror up to your face and let you see where and what you are.”
Frost was already active in volunteering with AARP and other organizations when he heard about the new program, which piqued his interest. Himself a former field artillery captain in the army, Frost agreed to help.
Despite an abundance of volunteer experience, Frost said nothing else has “come close to the rewards I get from it. It’s amazing how you can impact someone one-on-one. I enjoy it as much as my veterans.
Another veteran Frost works with is bedridden in a nursing home after losing his wife to pancreatic cancer several years ago. “I can just say he’s really excited about the call,” Frost said.
How to get involved
Volunteers can reside anywhere in the United States and must have the following qualifications:
- Strong interpersonal communication skills
- Computer or tablet with a stable internet connection
- Must pass a fingerprint and background check
- Comfortable with technology and navigating email and the Internet
- Favorite Military Veteran
- Experience with call center management platforms an asset
To apply or learn more about volunteering for the Veteran Friendly Voice program, click here.
Participating veterans must be referred by a physician, therapist, nurse, chaplain, or VA social worker. Although so far the program has only been available at VA Medical Centers in Atlanta and New Haven, Connecticut, the program hopes to soon include Nashville and the Bronx, with plans to expand to the nationwide and incorporate video chats for military caregivers.
Veterans who do not have the appropriate device to make a video call can receive one as a donation.
“Brain health is one of the most important of the five most necessary components of life,” said Rozier of the VA. “The physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritual components of life are all very important and play a key role in the quality of life.”
Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He is also a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered US foreign policy as a correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency’s Washington bureau and worked in news gathering for USA today and Al Jazeera English.