Vet to Vet: Building Connections that Span Generations

By Brian Turner

A thousand thank-yous, whether you are a veteran or not, for taking the time to read this article and learn about a great organization that helps heroes. Let’s take a moment to highlight the organization: Vet to Vet, which connects veteran volunteers with fellow veterans, providing companionship, offering assistance with benefits, supporting independent living, fostering friendships and mentoring
amongst veterans.

The Vet to Vet program was conceived of by the Southern Maine Agency on Aging’s (SMAA) volunteer services manager, Carol Rancourt, and developed by VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) member Susan Gold under SMAA’s auspices. Vet to Vet launched its first team of 13 veteran volunteers in May of 2014, matching them to fellow veterans based on branch of service, shared interests, work and volunteer history, and other considerations. In August of 2018 Vet to Vet was set up as a non-profit with Susan Gold as the executive director.

The veteran’s organization also looks to combat social isolation among veterans by linking veterans in need of a friend, as well as connecting veterans with veterans’ support networks that specialize in services and benefits to which vets are entitled while promoting and supporting independent living.

Vet to Vet also fosters beneficial relationships and friendships and provides peer-to-peer mentoring among veterans, as its goal is to provide worthwhile and meaningful volunteer opportunities for interested veterans.

Speaking from experience as a former volunteer with the program, I have witnessed firsthand how powerful and professional this organization is. While I was a volunteer with Vet to Vet, I was paired with a World War II Coast Guard and U.S. Navy veteran, Clarence “Mike” Hall. I also had a chance to become friends with Mike’s wife Eleanor.

He was an extraordinary individual who passed away in 2016. Not only was Mike a decorated war hero, he was a champion boxer, he was a star football athlete at Michigan State who was on the first team in college football history to take a flight to an away football game, and he was the ultimate family man.

Mike also suffered from the late stages of Alzheimer’s, and as the disabling disease can be stressful for the caregivers, Vet to Vet provides relief to the spouse or caregiver. Whether it’s getting the veterans out for an afternoon or making space for a spouse who has listened to a story one too many times, Vet to Vet looks to lessen the emotional strain partners
may face.

Sometime after Mike, Eleanor and I had become friends via Vet to Vet we were at a veteran’s ceremony where different veteran’s groups were being organized to work together. In an effort to honor Mike’s service, we created a cane that displayed Mike’s service record, which was carved into the shaft of the cane. The cane’s handle was adorned with a
bald eagle.

The governor’s wife, Ann Lepage, the mayor of Sanford, Tom Cote, and the commander of the South Portland Coast Guard were in attendance, making the ceremony
more substantive.   

While the ceremony was wonderful in many ways, what made it even more special for me was when I overheard Eleanor tell a story about when she and Mike where in New Zealand on vacation. This story stuck in my brain for a while when I realized I had the same story. I met Mike and Eleanor Hall in Rotorua, New Zealand in October of 2004. You seriously cannot make that up.

Here is where I digress from my relationship with the Halls and inform the reader of how they could help a veteran by helping with Vet to Vet Maine. There are two methods of helping: You can help by volunteering with Vet to Vet Maine or you can choose to support Vet to Vet Maine with a financial donation.

For more information visit their website: vettovetmaine.org or

Contact: P.O. Box 1205 Biddeford,
Maine 04005

Email: office@vettovetmaine.org

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