Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center
Vietnam War Combat Veteran Mike Zorn’s Mission
Vietnam War Combat Veteran Mike Zorn’s mission didn’t end 50 years ago in the jungles of Vietnam or Southeast Asia. It didn’t end in the troubling years back in the States after the war was over either. Fast forward to 2018 and during the decades since America’s own political struggle and failures, this former U.S. Army warrior turned “Man of Faith and Family” has become well known in Spokane and throughout the Pacific Northwest as a devout servant and volunteer, especially for Veterans.
During Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center’s annual 2018 Volunteer Recognition & Awards Ceremony in April, Mike Zorn learned his countless and consistent efforts of donating his time serving Veterans, no matter their crisis or need, had earned him recognition from the nation’s Commander in Chief. Mike Zorn, a proud, yet humble Veteran stood with Dr. Robert J. Fisher, VA Medical Center Director to receive the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteerism, signed by President Donald Trump.
As a VA volunteer, Veteran advocate and Chaplain of International Point Man Ministries, Zorn says he’s been blessed with the support he receives through VA, especially those who empowered him when he himself, was homeless. Standing with Dr. Fischer before a packed Mukogawa Institute Commons on the grounds of the famed Ft. George Wright in Spokane, Mike Zorn posed for a photo and turned towards a standing ovation of praise from volunteers, Veteran Service Organizations, and VA leadership.
The annual Volunteer Recognition & Awards Banquet recognizes and honors many of the 300 VA volunteers assisting Veterans and operations at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC. The facility in Northwest Spokane celebrates its 70th Anniversary July 21st this year, and is grateful for all Volunteers committed to VA’s mission of providing Veteran-centric health care for more than 32,000 individual (unique) Veterans throughout North Central and Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho Panhandle, and Northwestern Montana. “I don’t normally come to these events, because I participate in a group [therapy] on Wednesdays,” quipped Zorn, who wished he would have invited his Dear wife Valerie to the banquet, not realizing he was being honored in such a surprising manner. “It’s amazing, unbelievable really,” he said.
A humble servant to Veterans, families, and communities during more than 100 outreach, counseling, and support missions at Veterans Stand Downs in the region, Zorn accepted the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award with grace and humility. He praised all volunteers, especially many of the “younger one’s” in the audience. “This country is going to need more and more people to volunteer, and as Veterans and leaders, we all have an obligation to help them understand the value of it.” Zorn is rarely without his military “colors” which typically, includes his leather vest, maybe a camo shirt or sweatshirt, and at times, his worn “Chaplain” baseball cap. He wears patches that resonate with those who’ve served, who’ve “been there” – in combat. “Not all Wounds are Visible” reads one patch. The other, below his Vietnam Campaign Ribbons reads, “Saved to Serve.”
Mike understands first-hand the truths behind both messages. Zorn lost his own military Son, a U.S. Marine in 2008 and draws some of his inspiration from that terrible reality. A strong proponent of helping Veterans through Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Zorn is adamant about his belies PTSD is not limited to Veterans. In fact, he believes PTSD is a built-in defense mechanism we all possess to help us prepare and endure serious trauma. But what separates most of course, are America’s combat Veterans. “The reality of what happens and how life changes when you go to a combat zone and come home and those wounds they don’t give you medals for those kinds of things. But they (traumatic war events) stick with you and who you are for the rest of your life.” Zorn admits registering as a VA Volunteer helped advance his personal mission of helping Veterans transition from military to civilian life. He’s hosted Memorial Day BBQ’s in Spokane, volunteered and mentored Veterans seeking diversion through Spokane’s Veterans (Court) Forum, and been guest speaker at numerous events, including providing the “Missing Man” table and symbolic honor for Prisoners of War and Missing in Action ceremonies at MGVAMC.
Quietly, Mike Zorn will admit awards are nice to receive, but the real satisfaction lies in his purpose – helping and serving others. Case in point came just 24-hours prior for him. “Yesterday, I was able to go to the thrift store across from VAMC where they have stuff for Veterans. We had a Marine who ended up homeless, and now thanks to a (SSVF) grant, he got a place to live. But, there was nothing in it [new place]. I simply enjoyed being able to take my truck over there and help him have a couch, a desk and some chairs. Stuff like that helps me remember where I was once… and kind of brings it full-circle. And, that is the real reward. Not, plaques or politics or things. The reward is I was there once, and now I am able to help somebody else who is there.”