Lee Becker, a Navy Veteran, fought in the post-9/11 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, he’s eager to take part in another battle: finding a vaccine that will help protect people from contracting the novel coronavirus. Becker has signed up for VA’s COVID-19 research volunteer list and will participate in a clinical trial if selected.
“As Veterans, we have been asked to serve and fight wars and battles to protect our homeland and our allies over and over as long as we have been around,” Becker says. “Now, we’re facing another war–COVID-19–where our country needs our service. I’m honored to support the COVID-19 vaccine and treatment efforts to help win this war by protecting our families, communities, the nation, and the world from this global pandemic. We need to go all in here to get that virus under control.
“This is a civic duty,” he adds. “It’s an opportunity to give back and make sure we have a solution in place for all. This research is going to allow us to do that.”
`It literally suffocated the cells in my body’
Becker knows first-hand how debilitating the coronavirus can be. In mid- to late-September, he began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, which worsened in the ensuing weeks to include pneumonia and difficulty breathing. He still has complications from the disease, such as lung scarring, but is feeling better every day. “It feels like I was held prisoner by this virus so much that I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do,” he says. “It literally suffocated the cells in my body.”
This is the first time Becker has volunteered for a vaccine trial. “As a former Navy corpsman, I’m wired to run into the battle and save my brothers and sisters in arms,” he says. “I see this as another opportunity to do just that, by giving back to the American people who have given me so much since I left the military, such as the G.I Bill, a home loan, and VA health care. To win the war of this virus, it needs to be an all-hands-on-deck effort!”
Becker served in the Navy from 1998 to 2012. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was a chief hospital corpsman serving sailors and Marines. He also helped establish the United States Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment.
`We are honored to work with VA’
After transitioning from the military, Becker joined VA as chief of staff for VA’s Veterans Experience Office (VEO). VEO works to improve the customer and patient experience for Veterans and their families, caregivers and survivors. He developed a system to put customer and patient experience data and insights into strategy and decision-making to deliver the highest-quality experiences in care, benefits and memorial services.
Currently, Becker leads the public sector practice for a U.S.-based company. He helps guide the company’s efforts to improve customer and employee experiences in government agencies – including VA – health care systems, and more.
“We help enable government agencies to listen, understand, and act on the needs of those they serve,” he says. “We are, of course, honored to work with VA and so proud of the progress being made to improve the Veteran’s experience. We are also proud to share best practices and lessons learned to help agencies improve the resident and citizen experience.”
Veteran urges others to participate in vaccine trials
Becker warns that if people fail to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials, and if they don’t encourage others to participate, then the rate of those who contract the virus will continue to rise.
“We’re going to be in a cycle where we’re going to see the numbers keep going up and up and up,” he says. “They may go down for a little bit, but then they’ll go back up. We must be able to get these vaccines and treatments in place, so we can regain the sense of normalcy that we all want. That’s going to require some sacrifice, and each of us to step up. Are you willing to step up and help us fight this war? I am.”
How to sign up: Anyone over the age of 18 can volunteer to participate in VA research by signing up for the COVID-19 research volunteer list. If you are eligible to participate in a study, you will be contacted by a study coordinator who will answer your questions and help you decide if you wish to participate.
Click here to learn more about VA research.
Click here to learn more about VA COVID-19 trials and other research endeavors.