Most military veterans share a sense of pride after serving their country.
U.S. Army veteran Frank Robinson is no different, but these days, that sense has a different focus.
Robinson, who serves on the board of directors for Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial, is proud of all the work done by volunteers at the site.
“I am so pleased what I see with the volunteers and particularly what I see in the volunteers’ eyes,” Robinson said. “There’s different reasons that people come here to volunteer, some because they want to find a way to give back to the world, some because they are veterans, some because they want to get out of the house — It’s any and all the above.
“What I see happening is, once somebody volunteers here and their experience with the veterans, what they see and do with the veterans how that is so satisfying and rewarding for them that I see pride coming out of the volunteers and this feeling of satisfaction that they are doing something to help people out.”
The MNVM site is home to a full-sized exact replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., along with an Honor Flag Memorial, a military history museum and a welcome center for hosting events.
The 47-acre site is a lot of ground to cover, and volunteers have a hand in almost everything.
According to MNVM director Nancy Guth, the memorial typically has about 25 regular volunteers, a number that can climb to around 60 during special events.
Even so, she said, they can always use more, especially as the number of visitors has picked up since the site’s official grand opening in May.
“We have about 100 visitors a day,” Guth said, “and close to 1,000 a week.”
Volunteers at the site typically work three-to-four hour shifts, doing everything from escorting visitors to the wall, working in the gift shop, greeting visitors, helping locate names on the wall or anything else that needs doing.
Becoming an escort requires special training on the history of the Wall and other memorials at the site. Volunteers complete several hours of training and must pass a test to be assigned escort duty.
Senior volunteer and Wall escort Nancy House said that training serves a simple purpose.
“The training helps get them through the nerves,” House said, “you know, ‘What do I say?’ and ‘What should I really know?’”
Guth added that if volunteers aren’t comfortable with that, it’s never hard to find an alternative.
“We can always find a niche,” Guth said, relating a story about one volunteer who wasn’t totally comfortable dealing with guests.
“We got real busy,” Guth said, “and I think it just overwhelmed her. I thought, ‘Oh, I bet she would be good with the Tuesday coffee group.’ So we’ll find a niche for them. We will find something for them especially now with the museum getting ready.”
As for Robinson, the number of people who want to lend a hand is inspiring.
“We’re lucky that we have the volunteers that we have and the interest in the place that we have, that have the time and the willingness and the desire to help people when they come,” Robinson said. “That’s so unique. “
Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to contact volunteer coordinator DeAnna Kluender at 573-605-6112 or at email@example.com.