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Brews, Donuts, and Duty: Veterans Keeping the Spirit of Service Alive

Brews, Donuts, and Duty: Veterans Keeping the Spirit of Service Alive

By Al Colligan, Army, Avow Veteran Volunteer

As the Fourth of July approaches, when our nation reflects on the values of freedom and patriotism, it is crucial to remember the importance of giving back, particularly among veterans. My name is Al Colligan, and I’ve been honored to serve as a Veteran Volunteer with Avow for nearly three years, supporting the non-profit’s veteran-centered events and providing companionship to military alumni. Every month, I gather with fellow veterans over coffee and donuts at two independent living facilities. These meetings are more than social events; they are lifelines.

We share stories of our military history, reminisce about our experiences, and discuss a wide range of topics, from traveling to playing trivia. These gatherings rekindle the camaraderie that was a cornerstone of our time in the armed forces. For instance, one of our attendees, a 101-year-old World War II veteran, shares incredible tales of true bravery and resilience, inspiring all of us. The stories shared by veterans, from World War II to Korea to Vietnam, are fascinating and vital in keeping the spirit of camaraderie alive.

I was drafted in 1969 and served until 1971, with an honorable discharge in 1975. The military instilled a profound respect for those who have served, a respect that I now channel into my veteran volunteer work. This role is not just about helping; there is undoubtedly a mutual benefit. It allows us to relive and share our experiences, creating a space where we are all seen, heard, and understood by those who share a common bond.

The impact of these meetings is more than surface-deep. Life can become lonelier as we age, making us almost feel transparent to others as our social circles become smaller and smaller. For many veterans, this loneliness is compounded by traumatic or shocking experiences unique to those who served. Our coffee gatherings and pinning ceremonies, especially those around Veterans Day, remind these heroes that they are valued and remembered. This sense of recognition is critical, providing emotional support and rekindling that spark of community and belonging.

For veterans considering how to spend their retirement years, I urge you to consider volunteering. The rewards are immense. It is an opportunity to give back, share your experiences, and ensure that your fellow veterans feel appreciated and not forgotten. Our 5-Star We Honor Veterans volunteer program at Avow is small but growing, and we welcome all men and women veterans to join our ranks. Anyone, military or not, interested in volunteering at Avow can email info@avowcares.org or call (239) 261-4404 and choose from dozens of roles to assist with.

This Fourth of July, as we celebrate our nation’s independence, let us also celebrate the bonds forged in service and the enduring spirit of giving back. It is through these connections that we keep the true spirit of patriotism alive.