“Loneliness and lack of social connection can have a huge impact on a person’s health,” said Molly Vespa, RN, director of the Center for Community Health Improvement’s Connect to Wellness Program.
“Religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity – none of that matters when you go to war,” said retired Col. Dan Arkins, director of Development at Home Base, a partnership of the Red Sox Foundation and MGH. “Every branch of the military is colorblind. At the end of the day, I know everyone out there with me would have my back and I would have theirs. All that matters is getting the job done.”
Arkins – who spent 33 years in the Army, 30 of them as a military intelligence officer – was the keynote speaker at the MGH’s annual Veterans Day Breakfast Nov. 12 at the Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation. Arkins was deployed for 14 months of active duty in Iraq in 2003 and to Afghanistan in 2011 for nine months.
“I found the military community was a place I could thrive,” said Arkins, who initially joined the Army as a way to pay off his “seemingly insurmountable amount of student debt” after graduating from Boston College. “My somewhat selfish beginning turned into something I am truly passionate about. I found a group of similarly mission-driven people who care about the flag, country and democracy – and doing what’s right to protect all these things.”
Also at the breakfast was Max Lane, a former offensive lineman for the New England Patriots. Prior to his time with the Patriots, Lane was a three-year starter for offensive tackle at the U.S. Naval Academy. Attendees were given the opportunity to meet with Lane, who posed for pictures and signed autographs.“Today’s breakfast is a very small expression of the hospital’s appreciationfor the sacrifices you and your families have made to protect the freedom weenjoy here in the United States,” saidJovita Thomas-Williams, senior vice president of Human Resources. “We recognize that the freedoms we enjoy in our daily lives are a direct result of your love for and dedication to this country.On behalf of myself and the rest of the MGH community, please accept our thanks.”
The MGH Military Veteran Partners group – formed five years ago – supports active-duty military members and their families year-round through volunteer programs at the MGH and throughout the community. One of these programs is the annual MVP Scholarship, given during the breakfast to a veteran employee seeking to further their education.
This year’s scholarship went to Shona White, a senior radiation therapist at MGH and Newton-Wellesley Hospital since 2008. White and her husband, an Army veteran, both are active in their local veteran community as part of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association and are raising a 2-year-old son. She also is going back to school to earn a master’s degree in health care administration.
“It has always been a great opportunity to be able to help our community and to help our patients,” said White. “This scholarship will help me to continue to do just that.”
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