Ted J. Costello, an Air Force veteran who served in the Vietnam War, received The American Legion Veterans Affairs Volunteer Service Worker of the Year Award during the Legion's Washington Conference this week. Costello, an American Legion volunteer at the VA Medical Center in Orlando, Fla., spoke with the Legion about his service.
Q: Why did you become a VA volunteer?
A: I have been volunteering at the VA for more than 10 years. The military and VA have both been very good to me. I'm a disabled veteran from the Vietnam War. So, when I retired, I told my wife I wanted to find a way to help veterans. I approached the Orlando VA Clinic, and after getting clearances I began volunteering at the nursing home. I did that for about eight years before I lost my leg in an accident. Now I volunteer at the information desk at the Orlando VA Medical Center.
Q: What is most rewarding about volunteering at VA?
A: It makes me feel really good inside when a veteran thanks me for the little I do to help them find their way through the hospital. Some come in very sad shape, and it lifts me up to see them sometime later leaving the hospital with smiles in their faces. A smile, a thank-you and a handshake is reward enough for me.
Q: What does the Volunteer of the Year Award mean to you?
A: I feel honored. We have more than 300 volunteers on staff at Orlando. All of them care, as do VA volunteers across the country. To be singled out among thousands of VA volunteers is very humbling. I accept the award on behalf of every volunteer who puts in countless hours and expect nothing in return, except knowing that what they are doing is helping veterans.
Q: Is it true that your wife is also a volunteer?
A: Yes. My wife Christine volunteers at the Claremont hospital. She enjoys what she does, as do I. When we retired we both agreed that we wanted to give back. I know I speak for both of us when I say it is a good feeling to know that we are doing something to contribute somebody's happiness.
Q: What do you say to Legionnaires who are thinking about becoming a volunteer?
A: Don't hesitate. Do it because the rewards are immeasurable. If they want to have a sense of reward and accomplishment, then volunteer. They will not regret a minute of it.