Veterans Outreach Ministries Center held the Presidential Volunteer Awards Banquet in Harding’s Founders Room on Tuesday Oct. 3, awarding 52 individuals with presidential medals for their service to the Veterans Outreach Ministries. The banquet hosted U.S. Army veteran Mark Diggs as a guest speaker at the reception.
Veterans Outreach Ministries was founded in 2007 by Paul Bunn. When Bunn returned from Iraq in 2005, he worked closely with the Veterans Administration (VA), and saw holes in the way it was being run. Bunn founded the Veterans Outreach to do more.
“This is what we live by: the only way that you are going to honor the dead is by helping the living,” Bunn said. “When we get people to volunteer, we call it healing by helping, and that is the story of this outreach center.”
The Veterans Outreach educates veterans on potential health issues they may have from deployment, and assists them in getting help. They can place a veteran in the VA medical system, educate them on benefits available to veterans and use the platform to spread the love of Jesus.
“When you come into the outreach, we are going to talk about Jesus,” Bunn said.
For a volunteer to receive a medal, they must accumulate a set number of hours of service within a year. To receive a gold medal, kids in the 8-12 age group required a minimum of 100 hours, young adults in the 13-26 age group required a minimum of 200 hours and everyone else required a minimum of at least 400 hours for gold.
Diggs and Bunn met three weeks prior to the banquet and quickly hit it off. Diggs is the co-founder of the Veterans Villages of America, a nonprofit organization that assists veterans by helping repair houses and find houses for veterans in need. Bunn and Diggs connected through their mutual desire to give back to veterans, so Bunn asked him to speak.
“I firmly believe that if you are breathing and your heart is beating, God has something important for you to do to further his kingdom,” Diggs said. “and the most rewarding thing about paying it forward is knowing I am doing the exact thing that God has equipped me to do in both physical and spiritual ways.”