Although Buddy Checks already were happening prior to the coronavirus pandemic, American Legion Family members recognized an even greater importance over the past year. The results: thousands upon thousands of phone calls, emails, social media posts, postcards and safely conducted in-person visits were made to fellow veterans in the midst of COVID-19.
American Legion Post 512 in Carmel, Calif., has made Buddy Checks an ongoing program during the pandemic – and recently saw just how critical one phone call can be.
Husband and wife Mario and Anastasia Gonzales, both officers with Post 512, were making Buddy Check calls when Mario reached Vietnam War veteran and fellow Post 512 member John H.C. Chipley. Anastasia, Post 512’s finance officer and a member of the executive committee, was in the same room when she heard Mario say “let me let you talk to my wife about that.”
Anastasia took the phone and found out that Chipley’s wife is house-bound and he is her caregiver. Chipley had been struggling to find information about getting COVID-19 vaccinations for him and his wife.
“I thought ‘there’s got to be something we can figure out here,” Anastasia said. “So I got on my computer, and (Chipley) happened to be in front of his. And I kind of slowly walked him through what I was doing on my end.”
Anastasia found a link to schedule a local vaccine appointment and emailed it to Chipley, then stayed on the phone until he’d received the email and clicked on the link. “Then I knew that he was on the page that I need him to be on … so he could see the dates where he could get registered (for the vaccine),” she said. “I think we were on the phone maybe for about 15 or 20 minutes. Once he found the link and started going through it, he felt comfortable enough to say ‘OK, I know where I’m going now.’”
Before hanging up, Anastasia asked Chipley to call when he got registered. “He did, and we followed up as well with a phone call to check on them,” she said. “Before I knew it, they were going to the (Major General William H. Gourley VA-DoD Outpatient Clinic) out in Marina, and they got their shots. They’re all set now.”
Chipley posted about the phone call on Legiontown.org, calling the Buddy Check “a breath of fresh air because they were able to put me in contact with the right people, and we were able to receive both the first dose and second dose of the vaccine. Needless to say, we are relieved to have been vaccinated and know someone is watching over us.”
Anastasia said she recently spoke with Chipley by phone about she and Mario going to Chipley’s “to formally introduce ourselves from a distance. It’s not very easy for them to get out and about. So we’re going to check on them later this week … and we’ll stay in touch with them and see if there’s anything else they might need.”
Since the outbreak of the pandemic Post 512 has been making period Buddy Check calls, breaking up phone lists between members of the executive committee. Their impact has convinced Anastasia of their need beyond the coronavirus. “We try to make the initial phone calls, and then we try to follow up later on,” she said. “We should be doing that throughout the year anyways. I’m hoping we can do better than that, as an organization, to not just (conduct Buddy Checks) through a pandemic.”