Two Volunteers at Erie VA Team Up to Save a Veteran’s Life

two male volunteers standing side by side

Greetings — Volunteers Ron Lord (left) and Dick Irish usually spend their time greeting visitors who arrive at the Erie VA. But one morning both men faced an unexpected crisis, and handled it like pros.

Sometimes life comes at you fast. Just ask Ron Lord and Dick Irish, two volunteers who were working the greeter’s desk at the Erie VA Medical Center on the morning of February 28, 2013.

The morning started out quietly enough as Ron Lord settled in at the greeter’s desk for the day. But all that changed around 7 a.m. when a Veteran experiencing extreme chest pains entered the lobby. Lord quickly took the Veteran over to a bench in the lobby to make him more comfortable.

At that moment, volunteer Dick Irish arrived and Lord immediately asked him to call 911 for a Rapid Response Team. Lord and Irish then worked together to direct visitors away from the congested area so Response Team members could stabilize the Veteran.

“There were three nurses from the VA Rapid Response Team,” Lord said. “They got here in less than five minutes.”

At one point during the episode the Response Team was suddenly in need of towels, which Lord was promptly able to provide thanks to a plentiful supply stored at the greeter’s desk.

“Our VA team helped get the patient on a stretcher, and then the Veteran was transported,” Dick Irish said. A few short minutes later, the ailing Veteran was in the capable hands of emergency room personnel.

 Those two guys are heroes. They both reacted quickly and, most importantly, remained very calm during a crisis. 

“The whole incident only lasted maybe 15 minutes, but it seemed a lot longer,” Lord observed.

“It’s 15 minutes you don’t soon forget,” Irish agreed.

Not surprisingly, both Lord and Irish happen to be Veterans themselves. Lord served in the Army in the late 1960s; Irish served in the Navy from 1959 to 1963.

“Those two guys are heroes; they saved the day,” said Karen O’Neal, the Erie VA Voluntary Service Chief. “They both went above and beyond the duties of greeter’s desk volunteers. They both reacted quickly and, most importantly, remained very calm during a crisis.”

National Volunteer Week — April 21-27

Each year, the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) joins the nation to observe and celebrate National Volunteer Week, when we formally recognize and honor the profound impact and contributions of VA volunteers for their service to Veterans and their families.

VA’s Voluntary Service has provided over 66 years of service to America’s Veterans seeking care in VA health care facilities. Since 1946, volunteers have donated close to 750 million hours of their time.

As VA has expanded its care of Veteran patients into the community, volunteers have continued to be involved. They assist Veteran patients by augmenting staff in such settings as hospital wards, community living centers, outpatient clinics, community-based volunteer programs, end-of-life care programs, respite care programs, adaptive sports, creative arts, Veteran outreach centers, national cemeteries, and Veterans’ benefits offices.

During fiscal year 2012 nearly 84,000 active volunteers contributed more than 12 million hours of service to Veterans.

To learn more about VA’s Voluntary Service (VAVS), go to

National Volunteer Week began in 1974 to recognize and celebrate the efforts of volunteers. Since then the week has become a nationwide effort to urge Americans to volunteer in their communities. President Richard Nixon established National Volunteer Week with an Executive Order in 1974. Every sitting U.S. president since has signed a proclamation promoting the week, as have many U.S. mayors and governors.

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