Altoona veteran finds new way to volunteer amidst COVID-19 restrictions


ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — An Altoona veteran is finding new ways to interact with other veterans in the area amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Joe Cupples says that he found his purpose in life a few years ago after his wife died by showing his support to fellow veterans and becoming a Red Coat Ambassador at the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center in Altoona. Veterans often see him first coming through the door.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak restrictions caused Cupples to have to stay at home–something the lead volunteer isn’t used to. “It was a shock to me,” Cupples said, “almost like you’re getting fired from your job”

Fortunately, he has discovered a new way to serve his fellow veterans by making Skype calls.

Since veterans are unable to receive visits right now from the public, and many don’t even have family to visit, Cupples says that he has been invited to call veterans on a weekly basis to chat and read the paper. “Basically it makes me feel I’m still part of it, I’m still needed there,” said Cupples, “I feel the attachment. I felt like I’d lose that for a while.”

Cupples also shares stories of his time as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam. Currently there are about a dozen Red Coat Ambassadors at the VA medical center waiting to hear they can return to their volunteer duties.

Joe hopes that someday, there will be someone to do the same for him.

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