Volunteers are often what moves a project from failure to success.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, Veterans have continued to receive health care services at the hospital.

As the medical center staff began to transition to the challenge of implementing a vaccination plan, the need for volunteers to assist with the effort became evident.

Charlie Tupper and Mary Fraggos are two of those volunteers. They both have deep ties to serving Veterans and the Charleston VAMC.

Tupper, a nurse (pictured above), retired in 2017 from his position as emergency manager at Charleston VA. Fraggos led as nurse executive for more than 13 years, before retiring in 2017.

Retired nurse executive Mary Fraggos

Answered the call and volunteered to help

Both Tupper and Fraggos have over 40 years of service to the nation, in uniform and out. They were well on their way to enjoying the next chapter of their lives when the pandemic hit. They both then answered the next call and joined with medical center staff to help with vaccination efforts.

Immediately volunteering to take shifts distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, Tupper reflects on a younger time in his life. He remembers being in the lines for the Polio vaccine in New Jersey.

“Standing in line with my parents waiting our turn to become vaccinated, I knew this is where I needed to be,” he said. With years of experience in nursing, Tupper relishes giving back to the Veteran population.

“Why would you not come back?”

Fraggos’ experience was much the same. As she reflected on her nursing career, she mused that, “If you have the skills, why would you not come back during this time?”

It is this drive and determination to help each other and the community, which medical center staff and volunteers share, that is on constant display.

The staff has administered over 62,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. With so many, it’s easy to lose track of the countless hours of service they’ve given.

With a volunteer team that includes individuals like Tupper and Fraggos working alongside the amazing staff, the rollout for the first dose was completed smoothly.

The second phase of the vaccination rollout is moving quickly. The goal is to offer the vaccination to every Veteran along the Georgia and South Carolina coast.

Volunteers like Tupper and Fraggos play an integral part in helping to keep their fellow Veterans healthy and safe.

Chad Isom is a public affairs specialist at the Charleston VAMC.

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Published on Jun. 9, 2021

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