Person of Interest: David Stokes Nov/Dec 2019

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Named Outstanding Veteran Volunteer by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution

Involvement:

  • President of local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter
  • Co-founder of weekly veteran gatherings at Monument Terrace
  • Member of Lynchburg Area Veterans Council
  • Master Gardener who donates produce to Cancer Center & much more

We hear you are the first person from Virginia to receive this award. That’s a big deal! What was the awards ceremony like in June?
It was very formal—lots of pomp and circumstance. They put me up in a 5-star hotel in Washington and I had a page who escorted me to their Continental Congress. There were photographers everywhere and about 3,700 hundred people in the audience. Usually when I get nervous I speak really fast, but for some reason that day I was calm when I accepted the award.

Why do you think you kept your cool? I was drafted right after high school and was quickly put in charge of the demilitarized zone in Vietnam. I was 19 years old and had to give briefings about every day. One time I had to go downtown to the headquarters and give a briefing to mostly high ranking officials. That was much more overwhelming!

When did you start to get involved with the local veteran community? In 1997, we had our first Vietnam veterans reunion at Monument Terrace. I didn’t even know there was a monument with names from those in Lynchburg who were killed.

I saw some names I recognized. A few years later I joined the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter.

When did things really kick into high gear? After I retired from a 41-year career at B&W in 2009, I became president of our local VVA chapter. I’ve really worked hard to build the membership up, and it’s now the second largest chapter in the state. I also helped form the Lynchburg Area Veterans Council, which helps provide support to local veterans and their families—from transportation to housing. We’ve just successfully moved a second homeless vet off the streets and into our new house on Garfield Street. I average 950 volunteer hours a year and 8500 miles on the road. I tell people my truck is my office!

You could be enjoying retirement. Why do you do this? My wife says I need to go back to work so I have more free time! I am a workaholic. I’ve got to be doing something all the time. I don’t do this for the recognition… I do it because it comes from the heart. I see a need and I come out and get it done.

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