Vietnam veteran finds sense of purpose as Red Cross volunteer

By Diana Rodriguez-Beaugrand, Staff Contributor, American Red Cross 

Jerry White vets day 1In a room full of Red Cross staffers and volunteers trying to deal with a disaster like the floods in Austin, Jerry White is easy to find.

He’s the gentleman in the room with the white hair who is missing his right arm. He’s laser focused on what he’s doing, which happens to be a pretty big job; he is the Transportation lead for the disaster relief operation following the Central Texas floods. He manages the vehicle fleet that helps the volunteers get to the people who need their help.

“It gives me a feeling of self-worth, which is a problem that is very big with people that go through the experience that I did.”

The “experience” that White, a Vietnam Veteran, is talking about could be the subject of a book or even a movie.

“I’m a twenty year veteran. I served three tours of duty in Vietnam and when I was done with that I worked for Blackwater during the Sandinista Revolution.”

White says he and a group of his colleagues were ambushed when a bullet went through their vehicle and struck him in the back of the arm. He nearly died after gangrene took over his body, and it took five days to get him out of Nicaragua on Christmas Eve 1979.

Jerry White vets day 3“I had to live without my right arm. I had to start over again, and my marriage ended,” he says quietly. “My therapist at the Veterans Administration told me that I had to do something that would make me feel productive. I went through several avenues to do that and finally found the Red Cross.”

White has been a Red Cross volunteer for 12 years now. “You can get ankle deep, or you can get waist deep in the Red Cross. Me, I’m up to my neck. I like it that way because it accomplishes two things. It occupies me, and I get to help others. That’s the reason I spend holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving helping out at disasters like Hurricane Sandy.”

On this Veterans Day, Jerry White is easy to find in a room full of Red Cross workers. He’s a standout–the one “up to his neck” in the Red Cross. One of the many Veterans we should all take time out to thank for their service today.

Vietnam veteran finds sense of purpose as Red Cross volunteer

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