by Jon Persson
Bud McAllister volunteers for many things, and back in May of 1968 it was for a tour in the United States Army. The conflict in Vietnam was at its desperate heights at home and in theater, yet for Bud the experience would ultimately become a cornerstone of his life and work to this day.
In pure Army terms, Bud’s MOS was Communications Specialist, his training in radios, telephones, field telephones; the technology of relaying messages across distances to coordinate the movements of separate groups. After basic training at Fort Dix, he was stationed at Ft. Gordon for his specialist training before being sent to Ft. Lewis in Washington. There he taught communications technology skills to ROTC cadets.
During his deployment to Vietnam in 1969 and ’70, Bud spent time with a communications unit, relaying coded messages intended to limit the ability of all but a few to understand the messages. Bud was not responsible for the encoding process, nor is the technology of communication his calling today.
Indeed, the very notion of Bud McAllister today sending encoded messages for a select few would no doubt amuse those who know him best. Rather, Bud says, “my communication skills, being able to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime” is the primary skill learned in the Army that he employs today. These skills were acquired incidentally as a result of teaching technology, and working with fellow soldiers in the line of duty.
Much of Bud’s time these days is spent in voluntary service to the cause of building a healthy community. He “meets regularly with more than 25 organizations in southeastern Connecticut” while heading up his own Partners In Healthy Communities organization. His objective is to “connect the dots, bring people together, build community,” Bud says. “There is no ‘I’ in cooperate,” he adds.
Bud is also a volunteer coordinator between area veterans and the Ledge Light Health District. Bud’s role is to connect veterans with the agency, while determining how they are faring healthwise. “There is a high prevalence of heart disease, diabetes,” he reports. “Healthy diet and exercise has a 30-year payoff in lower healthcare costs,” Bud says, adding “this is the whole point of Partners In Healthy Communities.”
Indeed, says Cindy Barry of the Ledge Light Health District, Bud “has been a member of the Achieve New London County Coalition which works to prevent chronic disease by changing policy systems and conditions that affect our health,” She continues, “he has worked to help connect Achieve New London with the risk factors that veterans are reported to have in terms of chronic conditions.” And, he “gives us connections with people that understand the veteran’s population and some of the needs they may have in the community.”
Cindy concludes that “he is very beneficial to have on a coalition because he really helps connect people who need to know other people, and he knows everyone!”
Another of Bud’s volunteer activities is with the Ten Year Plan On Homelessness, a regional plan aimed at ending homelessness by addressing root issues and finding practical and lasting solutions. This is a plan which recognizes the human and financial costs of cycling people through a system without resolving the underlying causes. And, says Bud, “25 percent of the homeless are veterans.”
Bud McAllister can be regularly seen around New London, riding his bicycle or working on his laptop at one of his favorite downtown haunts. He remains persistent in his efforts to build a strong community in New London, which he says “has tremendous assets that ought to be taken advantage of.”
As for all his volunteer work, Bud says “the more I serve the more satisfaction I get from the service.” Given the scale of the projects Bud is addressing, he will have many opportunities to serve and many more openings for connecting with the community.