(119) Loving our Veterans: Volunteering with the VA

Miss Molly profile

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


From Working Girl to Volunteer 

Quite by accident, Miss Molly discovered volunteerism on her last visit to the Denver Veterans’ Administration (VA) Hospital. It began when our alarm screamed to life at 6:30 am. From the minute we rose from slumber until we hit the road, we fought the clock to make our two-hour commute. In the pandemonium, we forgot Miss Molly’sMolly is dressed in her service vest service vest. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) does not require a service animal to wear a vest or display any working insignia; however, we dress her because when she dons the vest, she knows she works.

Molly never ventured out without her service vest so on this visit, we held our breath, hoping Miss Molly would behave as a service animal. Unfortunately, we found out just how cantankerous she can be in public without her vest. She dragged William across hospital floors, drooled at snacks in bags and on laps of Veterans, and lounged when William needed her for brace and balance.

Do Not Pet on service vestIt was not all bad, however, as we discovered Molly’s talent for comforting and cheering Veterans. Because she did not wear her vest displaying the “Do Not Pet” patch, Veterans and hospital workers felt free to rub her head, scratch her ears, and even encompass her with a hug. We gave up trying to keep her at a distance from Veterans. I handled her much of the day because William’s appointments called him into rooms too small to accommodate him and Molly. Many people commented, “It’s wonderful of you to bring her into the hospital to comfort us.” I could not bear to explain she serves as a service dog for only one Veteran. After all, on this day, she became a volunteer, whose only purpose was to calm, cuddle, and comfort the Veterans around her.

How Humans can Support Veterans 

I knew the VA used volunteers to shuttle patients around the hospital, as William often receives that service. I did not know, however, how big and well organized the volunteer network is within the VA. The VA lists plenty of opportunities to volunteer at http://www.volunteer.va.gov/index.asp. Specific volunteer listings include corporate volunteerism, student volunteer program, National Salute to Veteran Patients, President’s United We Serve, Volunteer Transportation Network, Homeless, National Cemetery, Pet Therapy, and Welcome Home Events. (For an inspirational volunteer message by actor Gary Sinise, click on the video on the volunteer webpage.)

The VA makes it easy to volunteer by contacting the Volunteer Coordinator at any VA Hospital or through an on-line contact form. You can also donate directly through this link. One hundred percent of donations go to programs for Veterans.

We needed our warriors and other members of the military to serve and protect our nation. Now, our Veterans need us to serve and care for them. Join Miss Molly and the VA’s volunteers in supporting our Veterans.

Post your Comments: 

Can you think of a way your employer might help Veterans by supporting a volunteer event or project? Please reply below. 

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.