COVID-19 heroes come in many forms – from frontline workers in hospitals and nursing homes to backyard warriors who are sewing home-made masks to protect their families and communities. Heroes are also found among Veterans, their families, and VA employees who have volunteered to test new vaccines and treatments to fight COVID-19.
U.S. Army Veteran Jeremy Wheeler knows how important that small act of service can be. He says he has been inspired to sign up for VA’s COVID-19 Research Volunteer List by his wife, a clinical scientist who works directly with people who test positive for the novel coronavirus. “Signing up for the registry just means you are raising your hand,” he notes. “It still takes more vetting to see if you are a good candidate for a study.”
Serving in the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq
Wheeler is a combat Veteran who served two tours in Iraq with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division as a military intelligence specialist. He received two Army Commendation Medals for his service in Iraq. He says he spent more time on deployment than he did stateside at his duty station in Ft. Stewart, Georgia.
He is also an accomplished filmmaker and communications expert. Wheeler served as lead executive producer for two seasons on “The American Veteran,” an Emmy-winning television news program that aired for 10 seasons on the Pentagon channel.
Wheeler now works as a congressional liaison officer for VA. Part of his job requires working closely with congressional members and their staff to improve outreach to Veterans about VA services and benefits. In 2019, he served as a VA Congressional Fellow in the office of Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana.
Volunteering to protect others
Volunteering is nothing new to Wheeler – at home he coaches a youth rugby team and mentors aspiring writers and filmmakers. Volunteering to test a new vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is an easy choice, he says.
“I wouldn’t want deaths from the coronavirus to be in vain. Volunteering for research seems to be the most responsible thing that I could do, as an Army Veteran, to continue serving in a small way,” Wheeler says. “I hope other people will volunteer for COVID-19 studies.”
Wheeler says volunteering has another less obvious benefit. It is an act that can help unite families and friends after an extended period of isolation due to the pandemic.
“One of the things we can do as a country – to get back together again – is to work together to create a cure or treatment or even just a vaccine to help us combat COVID-19.”
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.