Vet to Vet: Changing Veterans’ Lives for the Better

Men and women who have served or are currently serving in the military are making a huge difference in the lives of older veterans and veterans with disabilities through SMAA’s Vet to Vet project.

Using ingenuity and the spirit of volunteerism that has made our country strong, Vet to Vet helps reduce the risk of suicide among our veterans, fights social isolation and loneliness, and connects veterans to benefits and services that can make their lives better.

Trained Vet to Vet volunteers visit with fellow veterans in their homes at least twice a month, swapping stories, providing much-needed companionship, and developing a bond strengthened by their shared military service and common interests. The volunteers link veterans to services and programs of Southern Maine Agency on Aging and other social service organizations, Maine Veterans Services, and the VA when needed.

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging recognized Vet to Vet for its ingenuity and life-changing results by presenting the program with its 2016 Aging Achievement Award. Learn more.

Vet to Vet Veterans Receiving Visits

For the veterans who receive visits, the Vet to Vet project has meant veterans have someone to talk to, a friend who can share stories and spend time with them, easing the isolation many have felt as their friends have died or moved away. For some, it may be the first time they have been able to talk about their war experiences. Because they are veterans, too, the volunteers already have common ground with the veterans they are visiting. The veteran pairs may go out for coffee or lunch, participate in activities and interests they both share, or simply sit and talk.

Qualifying for a Vet to Vet Visitor

Applicants must have served in the military. This includes Reserves, Merchant Marine, and all other branches of service, combatant and noncombatant.

Applicants must be an aging veteran or a veteran of any age with disabilities who lives at home in York and Cumberland counties, male or female. In some cases, Vet to Vet volunteers visit veterans who are in an assisted living or other facility.

Vet to Vet Volunteers

The Vet to Vet program provides a meaningful volunteer opportunity for veterans wanting to have a more fulfilling life and looking for ways to help other veterans. For the veteran volunteers in the program, the experience has been life-changing. Most have said they are getting as much out of the program as the veterans they visit.   

Becoming a Vet to Vet Volunteer

  • Volunteers must have served in the military. This includes Reserves, Merchant Marine, and all other branches of the service, combatant and noncombatant.
  • Volunteers commit to visit a veteran in his or her home at least twice a month for a year.
  • Volunteers receive training in communications skills, social services available for veterans, and other pertinent information.
  • Volunteers can attend a bimonthly case review to discuss their volunteer work and receive advice and support from other Vet to Vet volunteers.

Volunteer Experience

As a Vet to Vet Volunteer your opportunity will be just as unique as you and your fellow veteran are. Here are just a few examples of experiences from our Vet to Vet Volunteers.

Vet's Wish Granted

Franklin Stover visiting his wife's graveFranklin Stover finally got his wish to see his wife's grave thanks to his Vet to Vet buddy, Jeff Reinhold. Grace Stover died in June 2016 and was buried at the Southern Maine Veterans Cemetery in Springvale.

After the death of his wife, Franklin lived alone in his Portland apartment. His health issues required him to transport medical devices with him whenever he traveled—making the trip to Springvale on his own nearly impossible. His Vet to Vet buddy, Jeff, learned about the equipment Franklin needed and how to operate it, and together the two veterans traveled to Grace's grave.

For Franklin, the pilgrimage was a precious gift from a man who became a close friend. For his part, Jeff said, "I feel blessed that I am able to visit with and help my friend Franklin."

100 Visits

Eric Mihan and Vernon Huestis logged their 100th visit together on November 30, 2016. The two veterans met for the first time in June 2014 when Eric signed on as a volunteer in SMAA's new Vet to Vet program. As a member of the first team of new Vet to Vet volunteers, Eric had little inkling how the visits would go.

Once total strangers, the two have developed a strong bond over their service ties—both had served in the same division in the U.S. Army—and their love of reading. For their 100th visit, Vernon and Eric celebrated with coffee and muffins and a discussion of David McCullough's Book 1776.

Eric and Vernon are also "stars" in a video about the Vet to Vet program that can be viewed online: "Vet to Vet Voices.”

Tommy Ewing and Karl Smith, his Vet to Vet volunteer100th Birthday

Tommy Ewing and Karl Smith, his Vet to Vet volunteer, celebrate Tommy's 100th birthday with a 5lb. lobster at the Maine Veteran's Homes in Scarborough. Friends, relatives, and dignitaries including Senator Angus King and Governor Paul LePage came to the celebration held in July 2016.