Vietnam veteran Jim Doty retired in 1983 after serving 22 years in the Army, but it was nearly 25 years after his retirement he found his calling—or his calling found him.
“After my service I thought I had everything I needed,” said Doty. “I was 59-years-old when a co-worker mentioned that they thought I should look into my benefits from my service.”
With those words still fresh in his mind Doty went through DAV to file his claims and was able to secure a rating for his service-connected disabilities.
From that day forward, Doty has made it his mission to give back—no matter what obstacles may be standing in front of him.
“I saw a real need to get involved when DAV helped me,” said the life member of Chapter 7 in Fredericksburg, Va. “I have been volunteering with DAV ever since.”
“He’s just one of those guys that even when he’s hurt he still helps,” said DAV Chapter 7 Commander Lisa Gregory
“Jim is the epitome of what DAV volunteers are all about,” said DAV National Voluntary Services Director John Kleindienst. “He was able to utilize DAV’s services, at no cost, to obtain his earned benefits and has been paying it forward ever since. It’s particularly inspiring that he has been able to push through his own health concerns and show the fighting spirit that served him so well during his more than two decades of service to his country.”
“Jim doesn’t say ‘no’ to anything,” Gregory said. “If he can help he will be there and if they’re a veteran he will make sure they know about all of the benefits they have earned.”
Since securing his benefits in 2007, Doty has spent three-to-four days a week volunteering in numerous ways through DAV’s Local Veterans Assistance Program (LVAP).
“He volunteers at all of our events,” Gregory said. “When people see him out there volunteering they want to help too.”
After his heart attack in 2016, Doty spent 92 days in a nursing home while rehabbing—where he found another way to give back to veterans in need.
“While he was in rehab to recover, he realized there were many other veterans there as well,” said Gregory. “He has made it a point now that he can get around on his own to continue visiting those facilities to make sure the veterans there know they have someone thinking about them. That has been a huge help for the chapter in our outreach services. We’ve been able to reach those veterans that can’t get out to make sure they have everything they need.”
“Most of them just want someone to talk to,” Doty said. “I go to hospitals every other day now, and when you talk to them they start to open up. Once you get them talking you never know the stories you’ll hear and how we might be able to help.”
During one of Doty’s stops at the hospital to visit with veterans he met a fellow Vietnam veteran who hadn’t left the facility in three years, but after speaking with the veteran a few times Doty started to see him come out of his shell.
“You could see him start to regain his personality and enjoy life again,” Doty said. “It’s one of the reasons I volunteer.”
“He is a very strong advocate in the community for veterans,” said Gregory. He makes sure they know where to go and who to see for help.”
Doty has been married to his wife, Katharina, for over 50 years. They have five children, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.
“My family constantly tries to get me to slow down,” Doty said. “If I didn’t get out and help I would probably be dead. It makes me feel good. I give back because I am blessed. It’s our job now to help any veteran in need. If they are homeless we want to find them a home. If they need benefits we want to help them file claims. You don’t need money—only your time.”
According to Kleindienst, volunteers often use DAV as an opportunity to stay active while giving back to those who served. He said most of the volunteers he encounters offer common sentiments.
“They tell us that their service does more for them than the veterans they help. They tell me the ‘thanks’ they get from the veterans makes it worthwhile. And many tell me they see health benefits and shorter recovery times from illness. It’s amazing how helping others can give you a sense of purpose and enhance your outlook on life,” he said.
If you or anyone you know would like to get involved and volunteer for veterans please visit www.volunteerforveterans.org.