United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
In Gratitude for Help He Received, Volunteer Gives Back
Man hands document in plastic to hospital clerk at desk.
Veteran Jim Berg delivers a package to a VA clerk as part of his escort services duties at the VA Medical Center in Prescott, Arizona.

Army Veteran James Berg has volunteered at the VA Medical Center in Prescott, Arizona for 16 years.

Flash back to 40 years ago when Berg was in Vietnam. He was returning from the Cambodian incursion and tripped on a booby trap which set off a blast that left Berg severely wounded.

With broken bones in his right arm and both legs, a severe blow to the right side of his head that paralyzed his left side, the medical staff told Berg he would not last more than a week.

He proved them wrong.

Berg spent two years at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and persevered through procedures to have a plate inserted in the right side of his skull, two ear drum replacements, and he had to learn how to walk with braces on both of his legs.

He made a stellar recovery but he didn't stop there.

Back and Ready for Active Duty

"When I got out, I went back on active duty." Berg served his country on active duty for an additional eight years and achieved the rank of captain.

"I had so many people from the Pentagon helping me and assisting my recovery, so when I got out of the hospital, I wanted to help others," he said.

A few years later, Berg moved to Arizona and found out about the volunteer opportunities at the Prescott VA Medical Center. He found his niche working at the information desk and in escort services.

As an escort, Berg assists anyone in need, delivering patient information to appropriate departments. While at guest services, Berg provides information and serves as a greeter for Veterans and their families, offering coffee, juice, cakes and water.

His master's degree in counseling has aided him in his job, allowing him to better relate to patients in distress. He gets to be the "eyes and ears" of the hospital and help those in any way he can.

"I volunteer to be of assistance to fellow Veterans and their families, showing military love for others to let them know we care."

Tolerating Pain to Help Others in Need

At age 63, Berg endures paralysis on his left side, severe arthritis, back pain and chronic pain from his long-time wounds.

"I learned to tolerate pain and harness my handicap to help others," said Berg. "Helping others helps me."

In both of Berg's volunteer roles, he gets to work with people and use his military background as a way to relate to fellow Veterans.

"It's important to pay back other people for what they gave me," said James, who works 35 hours a week and sees no reason to slow down. He believes that giving time and energy to others helps expand one's lifespan. "It's a tremendous way to go and you get your best help when you help other people."

"When you volunteer long enough, you become part of a family." There are 15 to 20 volunteers in the escort program at any one time at the Prescott VA, and they have a support system for one another.

Berg then adds with his upbeat voice that will put a smile on anyone's face, "I'm giving back what others gave to me. I am alive because of their unselfishness."

By Megan Tyson, VA Staff Writer