Brooke Army Medical Center staff and patients look forward to a friendly greeting from someone wearing a volunteer vest on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the Garden Entrance to the hospital.
John Scanlon, an Air Force retiree with 50 years of combined military and civilian service under his belt, makes it his mission to brighten the spirits of those he encounters.
“When I retired, my wife told me I couldn’t just sit around the house,” he said. “She was already retired and was involved in numerous church and homeless charity activities.”
When Scanlon started volunteering at BAMC more than four years ago, he asked two things; “I didn’t want to be in charge of anything, and I didn’t want to use a computer.”
He began working at the Medical Mall information desk where many patients come for directions to get to different locations within the hospital. He quickly realized that people often needed a little extra help navigating to their destination.
“I decided early on, that if it took more than two turns to get to where they needed to go, I would just take them there,” he said. “Because a lot of people would get lost.”
Scanlon soon moved to the Garden Entrance, and he couldn’t be happier.
“I get to greet the staff in the morning when they come in and when they leave, so I get to know them a little bit better,” he said. “At my age, 77-plus, it’s like meeting all my kids and grandkids.”
Scanlon says he tries to pick out something specific about each person, so they know he sees them and they are important. It might be the color of their shirt, their rank, or their favorite sports team.
“They look up, and they know that I know a little bit about them,” he said. “Particularly with the younger people. I try to see their names but sometimes it’s hard.”
“Mr. Scanlon consistently makes me feel welcomed into the building,” said Sabrina Hernandez. “He greets every staff member and is such an uplifting presence at the Garden Entrance. He may not know our names, but he does recognize staff members.”
Hernandez said one day Scanlon surprised her when he said, "’There you are. I was looking for you! Have a great day.’ He brings a smile to my face on Tuesday and Thursday. His positivity is contagious and I truly appreciate him.”
Scanlon still guides patients to their appointments, many times escorting them through the hospital to get them to where they need to go.
“If you have to come into the hospital for any kind of medical procedure, you’re already anxious about it,” he said. “If I can make their life just a little easier; start their day off just a little bit better, I’m happy. I have had people come back and thank me for helping them.”
Scanlon said he finds it particularly interesting when a new batch of students come into the hospital and they have to complete their in-processing checklist.
“I see a group of them standing around looking bewildered about where they need to go, so I help them get started,” Scanlon said. “It makes me feel like military medicine is in good hands when I see these young people. Most of them are pretty enthusiastic and I just love to see their happiness, and sometimes in the most interesting ways a relationship will form.”
“Mr. Scanlon is one of the genuinely nicest people I have ever met,” said Army Capt. (Dr.) Crystal Forman. “Hearing him greet everyone with enthusiasm at 0600 (6 a.m.) brings a smile to my face and warms my heart! While I do not know him personally, I’ve felt his presence throughout the halls of BAMC and truly believe he makes our organization an overall better place to work.”
Erick Lundberg agrees.
“The upbeat spirit and positivity that Mr. Scanlon displays really sets the tone for my day, and I would assume many others,” Lundberg said. “Each day I find myself trying to follow Mr. Scanlon’s lead, by trying to be as gracious and welcoming as he is to others as I walk down the hallways here at BAMC.”
“I love it; I really do,” Scanlon said. “Life is too short not to help people.”
“He is the smile that welcomes you to BAMC,” said Army Lt. Col. Deanna Settelmeyer. “He is a staple in my morning routine. It is a pleasure to be greeted by him each morning. I look for him as I am coming through the sliding doors, quietly checking on him from a distance as he greets the patients and staff in the morning. I’m happy to have him at BAMC.”
Admittedly, Scanlon doesn’t like to be in the spotlight. “There are so many other volunteers and people who work so hard here. I just try to make each person’s life a little better a moment at a time,” he said with tears in his eyes.