AUGUSTA, Ga.—Two Fridays a month, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Wayman J. Johnson leads a group of his fellow Knights of Columbus on a special mission.
The men walk the halls of the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, visiting the more than 300 veterans regularly treated there.
Johnson and his crew offer coffee, baked goods, toiletries and magazines that they serve up from rolling carts. The other gifts they bring can’t be counted by monetary value but are even more important — with these men come smiles, handshakes, conversations and compassion for the veterans and their families.
Johnson has been the leader of this effort for 14 years, and for this and other volunteer work he does at Charlie Norwood, he was recently named the national Knights of Columbus VA Voluntary Services Male Volunteer of the Year for 2018.
The award is given annually to a Knight who shows outstanding dedication and support for a local VA hospital through the Veterans Administration Volunteer Service program.
For Johnson, a Vietnam War veteran, the hours spent serving his military brothers are simply a logical part of the patriotism and deep Catholic faith that are central to his life.
“For me, the work at the VA is a way of putting prayer into action,” he said. “Our reward for what we do is the smiling faces of the veterans, the thank yous and the God bless yous we get from those we meet.”
Along with the visits to the rest of the Norwood complex, Johnson and his fellow Knights have specifically adopted Ward 2B, also known as “Heroes’ Walk.” This is the hospice ward for patients facing terminal illnesses.
Over the past 10 years, the Knights have provided a recliner, coffee maker and other supplies for the ward.
“I know I can always count on him and his group to be there,” said Kelli Moore, recreation therapist on Ward 2B.
She said a prime example of Johnson’s dedication is the yearly banquets he and his fellow Knights plan for the residents and their families on Father’s Day, Christmas and during Salute the Veterans Week.
“Mr. Johnson and the others spend hours going through the whole hospital each time they visit — they spend a lot of time interacting with the men and the vets really look forward to their visits,” said Donna Ingram, volunteer specialist with the medical center. “He is the type of person I can call up if they’re out of coffee on 2B. By the end of the day, they will have their coffee. It’s incredible how available he is to the veterans and how he meets their needs.”
Johnson is a member of Assembly 1074 in Aiken and attends St. Gerard Church in Aiken, where he has served as chairman of the pastoral council and is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. He has been married to his wife Rosa for more than 55 years and they have four children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.