Selfless Service Takes Flight
One Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employee has taken President Lincoln’s charge to care for Veterans and their families to new heights—literally. Gloria-Ann Vieira, an IT professional supporting three VA health campuses in Boston, accompanied a Veteran from her community on an Honor Flight—at the Veteran’s special request.
Ms. Vieira works as an Administration Officer, helping VA staff and clinicians navigate VA’s digital tools as they provide health care to Veterans. On weekends, she gives back to Veterans in lifechanging ways.
In 2017, while participating in the Boston-area Operation Thank a Veteran, Ms. Vieira met Jose Cambara, an 86-year old Korean War Veteran, who lives across the street from a Boston VA Medical Center (VAMC). To Ms. Vieira’s surprise, Mr. Cambara shared that he had never used the VA services that lay just across the street! The Cuban-born Mr. Cambara had not tried to access his earned benefits because he assumed that VA staff did not speak Spanish. Ms. Vieira took it upon herself to reassure him that there were always Spanish-speaking staff on hand and personally guided him through the process to formally access his VA benefits. Mr. Cambara now uses VA services regularly thanks to the outreach and outstanding customer service Ms. Vieira demonstrated.
With his permission, Ms. Vieira nominated Mr. Cambara for the Honor Flight Network, which sponsors and organizes memorable trips to Washington, D.C., free of cost to Veterans. When Mr. Cambara was selected in 2019 and Ms. Vieira asked who his escort would be, assuming it would be one of his daughters, he responded with a grin, “You’re taking me, don’t you know!” The two explored the nation’s capital together and Mr. Cambara was able to visit the national war memorials while being honored by passersby.
When asked what she wanted others to learn from her experience, Ms. Vieira said “Something as simple as walking through the halls of VAMCs and thanking Veterans for their service can make all the difference. We’re here to serve them because they’ve earned it.”
Ms. Vieira also encourages everyone to participate in annual VA Stand Downs. She has been helping organize the Boston area Stand Down for over 25 years and has seen their impact first hand. Stand Downs offer all Veterans a vital opportunity to access VA health services, free haircuts, discounted municipal services, and much more, all while surrounded by a supportive community of dedicated volunteers. Bringing together over a hundred Veteran Service Organizations, Stand Downs are groundbreaking collaborative efforts to provide Veterans with the services they need and the benefits they deserve.
VA’s Homeless Veterans webpage has more information on upcoming VA Stand Downs and Operation Reveille events.