AARP AARP States

Service on a Welcome Home Veterans Committee

Gilchrist photo from Facebook

John Henkel is a VOCAB in Maryland who devotes his time to making sure veterans and their families know how much their service and sacrifice is appreciated. The committee on which he serves is responsible for planning and funding a major fundraising event every year for Gilchrist, the largest hospice organization in the state of Maryland. This welcoming celebration, which began with 400 veterans and families only three years ago, is probably going to serve 1300 veterans and families in 2020!

"It’s a self-funding event, which means we work all year getting donations and sponsorships to make it really special. We want each veteran and family member to know that they can come to this event without charge, hear some great speakers, and be honored for their service by current members of several branches of the military," John writes.

John is a service-connected disabled Vietnam Era veteran who has been working with veteran advocacy for nearly 40 years. He was injured in 1974 while on active duty at a U.S. military base in Spain. As he describes it, "Along with 55 other men, I operated the boilers on a repair ship that kept America's missile submarines operational during the Vietnam War. It was one of only three such ships in the world."

John received the Senator Decatur Trotter Humanitarian Award from Maryland's Governor Lawrence Joseph Hogan, Jr. in 2017. The group that requested the award was the National Association of Black Veterans (NABVets), of which John is an active member. "With our network," John says, "I can contact most any veteran out there, and make sure they are getting the benefits to which they're entitled. If I can help a veteran's caregiver find a group that will let him or her take seven days vacation from the life duties to that veteran, I feel true satisfaction. If I can help a veteran’s family get some small amount of recognition for their service at home during the years their loved one was away in the military, I have done my job." Thank you for your many decades of service, John.

Each month we’ll feature a story from the field about a VOCAB like you. We encourage you to complete this impact form so that we have a current record of the wide variety of roles our volunteers play on commissions and boards.

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