Smithsburg boy serves those who serve in military

May 03, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
  • Jacob Epstein, a student at St. Mary Catholic School, volunteers at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer,

SMITHSBURG -- Jacob Epstein said a "briefing" by his mother helped prepare him for volunteering at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

He learned he might see unsettling injuries as they served dinner to veterans returning from combat and their families.

"He said, 'Mom, I want to try it,'" said his mother, Leigh.

Jacob, 11, said last week he was shocked and nervous at first when he saw people who lost body parts, but he has adjusted.

Jacob and his parents, Steven and Leigh, who live in Smithsburg, volunteer at the medical center as a family.

Their connection is the Armed Forces Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that, in various ways, helps active-duty, reserve and retired service members and their families.

As a RE/MAX Realtor, Steven helped someone in the military modify a home loan. He later worked with other service members and became the Armed Forces Foundation's director of homeowner assistance.


After attending a foundation gala in Washington, D.C., in March, the Epsteins decided to do more.

Jacob said he likes helping service members and considers it a tribute to his grandfather, who flew B-17 and B-29 planes at the end of World War II.

Jacob and his parents have volunteered at the National Naval Medical Center three times and plan to do more for the foundation.

They have served food buffet style and delivered meals to service members' rooms. Jacob also has kept children of service members company.

Patricia Driscoll, the president of the Armed Forces Foundation, said Jacob is one of the youngest volunteers. At first, she grouped him with some teenagers who pitch in, then realized that while Jacob acts older, he's only 11.

Watching him, "it gives me hope for our younger generation," Driscoll said. "It really warms my heart."

He's eager to help and he has no fear, she said.

Jacob, who attends St. Mary Catholic School in Hagerstown, said math and science are his favorite subjects.

He has a brown belt in tae kwon do and is learning vocal music through an extracurricular program at the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

Asked what he would like to do when he becomes an adult, Jacob said he keeps two goals at the same time.

One is to be an eye doctor, like his grandfather.

The other goal changes often -- possibly create video games, possibly play pro basketball, possibly study marine life and other animals, or whatever interests him that week.

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