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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Bob Martin’s ongoing mission to serve his comrades

Apr 28, 2024 12:03PM ● By Ursula Nizalowski

For generations, veterans have devoted themselves to serving our country, both domestically and overseas. Their sacrifices are deeply appreciated, yet it’s important to remember that they, too, have personal needs, both mental and physical. 

Recognizing this, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs operates a dedicated healthcare network exclusively for veterans. The VA Medical Center at 2121 North Ave. in Grand Junction, serves a vast community of veterans from 18 counties across Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

Bob Martin’s story intertwines with the VA Medical Center’s mission. At 79, Martin has been a fixture in Grand Junction for four decades, surrounded by his wife Kathy, their three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Before settling down, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968, serving along the Korean Demilitarized Zone during the Korean War.

A decade ago, Martin chose to volunteer at the VA, seeing it as a way to give back to his fellow veterans. He spends four to five hours each week, guiding clients through the hospital. He sees firsthand how veterans value their access to the hospital’s services, particularly those who are in pain or struggling with trauma. 

“Ninety-nine percent of the time they come out of their doctor appointments and they’re happy campers,” said Martin. 

Compared to larger VA hospitals, which some veterans find overwhelming and impersonal, Martin said the center is staffed by compassionate individuals who, along with volunteers—many of whom are veterans themselves—are committed to serving their comrades and helping them receive the attention and care they need. 

The VA offers unique services tailored to meet the varied needs of veterans, including the “My Life, My Story” program, which allows veterans to audibly record their experiences, ensuring their personal narratives and historical accounts are preserved for posterity. 

Martin recognizes the value in this, particularly for older veterans. 

“There are a lot of vets who would like to share their story—especially when they’re getting up in age,” he said. “They would like to leave a kind of legacy or story so their family understands what they went through.”

This service also honors the personal histories of dwindling populations, such as World War II veterans. Martin recalled one such veteran he encountered, who witnessed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

The VA, like many healthcare facilities, has experienced staffing shortages and is in continual need of volunteers. Martin believes that seniors, in particular, would find volunteering there rewarding. 

Volunteer tasks vary, ranging from administrative duties like paperwork to more unique roles. Martin even mentioned a volunteer who assists with medication checks in the pharmacy and another who simply sells popcorn. He suggested that those interested in volunteering contact Volunteer Director Lisa Lewis by calling 970-242-0731.