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Service in the Blood: Veterans Finding New Ways to Give Back

by Kris Studebaker

It’s in their blood to serve. Volunteers, like John Cox, of Augusta,

Kansas seem to thrive when giving back to their communities.

A Navy veteran, 65-year-old family man, and a Butler County RSVP volunteer, Cox helps people from all walks of life, as well as situations that need attention.

In 1987, Cox befriended George Collins, a WWII veteran and fellow member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VWF). Together, they worked diligently walking the cemeteries and recording plots. The project started as Collin’s vision, but was carried out by Cox after his friend succumbed to Alzheimer’s.

Since 2009, Cox has put in roughly 170 hours recording more than 1,700 military veterans plots, listing names, dates, and branch of service. He has implemented Collins’s simple record system, which outlines the cemetery’s burial sites and if the beholder served in a war. He hopes to continue this journey and log at least five other cemeteries in the Butler County area.

With his help, Butler RSVP has created a new position within the Department on Aging’s workstation called Veterans Serving Veterans. The program was put into place because of Cox’s drive to volunteer his time to his country and his brothers in arms.

How It Began

One Memorial Day weekend years ago, Collins and Cox were walking the Elmwood Cemetery in Augusta when they came across two sisters who had returned to the area for the first time in 55 years to visit the final resting place of their parents.

The sisters, recognizing Collins and Cox's expertise, asked a question that had worn at them for years: If their father started basic training just as WWI had ended, was he still considered a veteran? The answer was yes.

As the sisters watched the two veterans honor their father as a military WWI veteran for the very first time, it became clear that the project was more than just a hobby. It was a way for Cox to continue serving his country.

Honoring Fallen Brothers

Cox’s work has been a valuable tool to organizations throughout the county and is appreciated by families across the nation. His work has enriched the lives of many, helping families pick up the pieces of their lost past and giving them a chance to be reunited with their honored soldiers.

From Cox’s perspective, these are fallen brothers who served their country to keep us safe and gave us the freedom we still enjoy today. They shouldn’t be overlooked simply because no one has put in the time to recognize them. If Cox can continue to serve our country and the fallen soldiers by doing this simple task, then it’s also an honor for him, and his way of giving back.

Butler RSVP is proud to have Cox on its team of volunteers. The volunteers who share his commitment are the very reason that our country is so strong. It is crucial that we not overlook them, or take them for granted. They embrace us as family and friends in our time of need. It is necessary that we continue to be there for them, always reminding them: We appreciate you and need you. Thank you for taking the time to find us, help us – even when we didn’t have the means to help ourselves.

May is Older Americans Month and Military Appreciation Month.

Kris Studebaker is the RSVP Coordinator for the Butler County RSVP in Augusta, Kansas.

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