Since 1987, the Bristol Fourth of July Committee has presented The Hattie Brown Award to a worthy Bristolian who demonstrates the spirit of community service as that of the late Hattie Brown. 2018 recipient Steve Skuba has always enjoyed volunteering. He served the last ten years as Secretary of the Bristol Veterans Council and established the Veterans Assistance Program, which helps veterans with health claims, disability reimbursements, and death benefits. Chairman of the Monument Committee, Steve also plays taps at ceremonies with his treasured 1 Value G Bugle.
Following high school, Steve attended electronics school and spent four years of active duty with the United States Navy. After his military service, he pursued three degrees, including a master’s in Education. He taught Industrial Arts for 24 years at Mount Hope High School and then spent 11 years with the US Department of Veterans Affairs as a veterans service representative. He and his wife Cheryl have two grown children and two grandchildren.
"I started volunteering when I was in the Navy. At boot camp, the first thing they tell you is ‘never volunteer’ because you’re probably going to get some lousy job you don’t want. I use to say that’s ridiculous. When the ship was heading to Vietnam, it was going to take 45 days to get to the Philippines. A lieutenant who was the education officer wanted to put together a program for guys to get their GED. Back then you didn’t need it to get in the Navy. I said, ‘I’ll teach math and science.’ I was working 12-hour days and I would tutor two hours a night, three nights a week. To me it was relaxation from the 12 hours. I had fun doing it. Guys would be come up to me on the ship and say, ‘Hey, I got my GED.’ They were thrilled.
I focus now on veteran issues. The third Monday of the month I go to Benjamin Church Senior Center in the morning to noon, and at night I come here [Reynolds School]. I meet with veterans and explain the benefits package. Maybe they were injured in service and need help applying for a disability or to use the VA hospital. A lot of veterans may not realize they may be eligible for death benefits. I had a wife call me crying because her husband had received back pay after I had helped with some paperwork. Filling out the forms is easy, I love listening to veterans and getting a history lesson from them.
Whether it was Little League, high school band, Saint Jean’s Parish, volunteering always broke up my day. You meet a lot of different people and it’s very enjoyable. If all you’re going to do is sitting at home all night, get out and do something. You will be amazed at how wonderful it is. When you’re done, you’re tired but you feel good because you did something for somebody. I was shocked when I got the phone call [about the award]. The honor is just tremendous."
To learn more about Veteran Assistance contact Steve: 401-787-6763