Veteran makes belts to help others

Veterans Voices

ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) – Our region has a huge amount of veteran retirees. Many of them are finding creative ways to give back to their veteran community. 

Gary Irvin is a belt maker and a volunteer for the James E. Van Zandt Vandt VA Medical Center.

After nearly 30 years in the Navy, in 1998, he retired as an exchange officer and came back to Altoona, where he was born.

For the last 9 years, he’s been working next to the Vietnam Memorial.

Irvin said it brings a great sense of satisfaction to help people who have lost loved ones on the wall.

On many days, inside the Visitors Center at the Vietnam Memorial Wall that heals in Altoona, you can hear a tapping. This is the sound of Gary making belts.

It can be an emotional thing, helping those who are grieving. Gary uses belt making to keep busy and help others.

He says he loves the creativity of making a belt, and the reaction he gets when he presents a belt to someone.

“I basically don’t charge anybody, some people give me money, some people don’t”

Gary Irvin

Most of his custom belts are for veterans and have a military theme. He’s been working with leather since the mid-’80s, and has learned that with the right amount of care and attention, you can make a big difference with anything you do. 

“When I say here, and they go, that’s beautiful, it picks me up. it really does”

Gary Irvin

If you want to talk to Gary Irvin, about belts or the Vietnam Memorial Wall that heals you can find him there most weekdays or call him at 814-505-3446

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