At 87, Charles Wilson is a spry, cheerful World War II Veteran who arrives at every morning to volunteer at his hometown VA Medical Center in
. Saginaw, Michigan has been a helping hand to VA patients and staff for the past 29 years. Wilson
was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. After surgery, his doctors predicted that he would lose the use of his voice. "I wasn't supposed to be able to talk, but I surprised them," said Wilson . Wilson
The Veteran's successful recovery inspired him to start volunteering at the VA periodically, and he began working a regular 30-hour week in 1981.
"I wanted to give back because the VA did such a good job saving my life and it didn't cost me anything."
Just the Man for the Job
Working primarily as a patient escort,
zips around on his Amigo electric cart delivering documents and snacks around the medical center. He often makes and delivers popcorn, earning him the nickname, " Wilson " Popcorn Man.
His favorite part of the job is getting to see friendly, familiar faces around the VA. He also values the job as a good way to keep himself busy.
Patients and VA staff look forward to seeing
's smiling face every day. Sometimes, he'll share some interesting tales about his time in World War II. He served in the U.S. Army field artillery in Wilson and was just outside Germany when German troops surrendered to the Allies. Berlin
"This Man is a Walking Miracle"
Carrie Seward, VA Voluntary Services Manager in
, calls Saginaw a "walking miracle." In addition to his unexpected recovery from cancer, Wilson had two strokes, but went straight back to work once he recovered. Wilson
"Charlie comes to work in all weather. We get a good share of snow here, but he still makes it into work every morning," said Seward.
Last summer, Governor Jennifer Granholm gave a special commendation to
when he reached 22,000 hours of volunteer time. He is now up to 23,500 and counting. Wilson
"If anyone is interested in volunteering at the VA, I'd tell them to check it out and be sensible. You've got to commit to it, but it's a good thing to do."
By Megan Tyson, VA Staff Writer