This Air Force Veteran Has Been Volunteering for 53 Years

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Helen Wells, a 94-year-old assistant library volunteer for the 59th Medical Wing, poses for a photo. (U.S. Air Force/Kevin Iinuma)
Helen Wells, a 94-year-old assistant library volunteer for the 59th Medical Wing, poses for a photo. (U.S. Air Force/Kevin Iinuma)

Helen Wells, a 94-year-old volunteer librarian assistant at the 59th Medical Wing on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, recently celebrated 53 years of service.

Before volunteering at Wilford Hall to serve as a library assistant, Wells dedicated 23 years of active duty service to the United States Air Force.

"In 1950, I volunteered to join the Air Force to travel the world," said Wells. "My first duty station was at Scott Air Force Base, which was about 60 miles away from my home."

Having been to about two dozen bases during her active duty career, one base stood out the most for Wells.

"When I was stationed at Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli, Libya, it was a whole different culture," said Wells. "The climate was different. I was there before the days of Gaddafi, it was very pleasant being there. It was all peaceful, and there was no fighting as far as the American troops were concerned."

Before retiring in 1973, Wells' last eight years of active duty was dedicated to teaching future nurses. She taught enlisted members for the first five years, and officers for the remaining three.

"I may have been away from patients, but I had a room full of students," said Wells. "It was nice and I enjoyed teaching."

Wells started volunteering at Wilford Hall in November 1988. Working one day a week, she provided data entry and transfers from written to digital copies and entered approximately 500 records a month into a tracking system.

"I enjoy volunteering here at Wilford Hall," said Wells. "I enjoy the work and I like to contribute. I think people should contribute to those who can't get everything in life."

In the beginning, Wells worked with manual and electric typewriters, wet process photocopiers, and telephone fax systems. As technology advanced, Wells demonstrated her adaptability by learning the emerging technologies. She understood adapting to change is key in life.

"I first learned [to work] on the old typewriters, and now I'm working with modern computers," said Wells. "In high school, I learned typing, and with all of this new technology, the keyboard is still the same that I've learned on. They've just added new keys, but the basic alphabet is all the same. If I have to use , I had to learn it. You have to keep learning, life is about constant learning. As technology evolves, you have to increase your knowledge on new technology."

Throughout her nursing career, from actively working with patients to training a new generation of nurses, Wells was dedicated to service. Her experience continues to benefit the readiness of warrior medics at the current WHASC. After serving the nation for 53 years, Wells wants to continue serving the 59th MDW for many more years.

"I want to volunteer as long as I can. It's a great outlet when you're retired," said Wells. "You got to have a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning. It's nice to volunteer and give your time to an organization that needs help or could use your help. It's good for you and good for the organization."

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