In the midst of a global pandemic, Erie VAMC youth volunteer Brooke Jackowski wanted to do her part to help local Veterans. Her heart for service led her to the front lines of the medical center. There, she serves as a screener to safeguard the health of those entering our facility.
“By helping Veterans, I also feel like I am helping my own family in some way,” said Jackowski. Jackowski is the daughter and granddaughter of Air Force Veterans. “I feel a sense of ease knowing that I am on the front lines serving our Veterans. I feel like I can do the most good being the first person the patient comes in and sees.”
Jackowski, a senior at Maplewood High School, began volunteering at the Erie VA Medical Center May 12, 2017. She has since dedicated 235 hours of volunteer service to Veterans of the Erie VA Medical Center. She has served in various assignments, including working with the facility’s interior designer and helping to renovate the facility’s Patriot Café.
Jackowski also performs clerical duties in the executive suite, conducts patient escort duties and, now, volunteers her time twice a week to screen Veterans, staff, volunteers and visitors for COVID-19 at the Erie VAMC main entrance.
Able to overcome obstacles
For Jackowski, having both a father and grandfather who were in the military helped her form a true appreciation of life and sacrifice and, as she says, helped her understand that “life isn’t always perfect.”
“Constantly moving around and leaving my friends gave me the ability to deal with undesirable situations and overcome obstacles, both large and small. Not always having the opportunity to see family members in person, but rather over video, helped me realize that time is precious and to be thankful for what you receive, because in an instant it can all be gone.”
That important life lesson has served her well throughout this pandemic. The Veteran influences in her life taught her strength and perseverance, even in difficult times.
Embrace flexibility in life
“From my father, I learned two things. Flexibility in life is something you must embrace. And war affects people – both those who leave and those who stay behind – in different ways. My grandfather taught me that patience is always needed. If something doesn’t work right, either try again or find another way to do it.”
These experiences have helped shape her into an advocate who works to better her community and all those she encounters. She continues to demonstrate outstanding dedication to serving Veterans at the Erie VAMC and in her community.
Jackowski was recently recognized by DAV as a recipient of a $7,500 Disabled American Veterans Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship for her commitment to making a difference in the lives of Veterans.
Sarah Gudgeon is a public affairs officer at the Erie VA Medical Center.