Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Corps Veteran Joe Cupples, a former Marine and nationally recognized volunteer with VA’s Red Coat Ambassador program.
Joe Cupples is a proud Marine Corps Veteran who served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1970. He was a combat engineer in the Vietnam War, notably during the time of the Tet Offensive, which involved Northern Vietnamese forces making over 120 coordinated attacks on cities, towns, government buildings and bases occupied by Southern Vietnamese and U.S. forces.
Cupples’s service earned him a Vietnam Service Medal with two stars for his campaigns. He was honored to serve his country in the Marine Corps and he uses that experience today to help him relate to and comfort fellow Veterans as a volunteer with VA’s Red Coat Ambassador program at the James Van Zandt Medical Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Red Coat Ambassadors are named for their easily recognizable red coats or vests. They are volunteer greeters positioned near front entrances of VA buildings, and are tasked with greeting everyone who enters with a smile, offering information and assistance, giving directions to different locations, personally escorting Veterans to their appointments when requested, contacting an escort or wheelchair service when necessary, and building community by compassionately offering a listening ear to people who speak to them.
Cupples says that volunteering provides him with a sense of purpose and community. Before he began volunteering, he felt adrift and lost. Today, his volunteer work has become the best part of his life. His top priority is making Veterans feel comfortable, welcome and appreciated in his community.
When the pandemic prompted new restrictions that affected his ability to volunteer in person, he felt that “It was a shock to me, almost like getting fired from your job.” Despite the new limitations, he taught himself to use Skype and has since been making Skype calls, phone calls and other communications to Veterans instead. “Basically, it makes me feel I’m still part of it, I’m still needed there. I feel the attachment.” he said.
For his exemplary volunteer work, Cupples was recognized by American Legion Post 126 and was named National Volunteer of the Year in 2020.
We honor his service.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Kim McAdams
Editors: Nicolas Nunnally, Brooke Wolfenbarger
Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley