DAV Reaches Out to Recent War Veterans
Commander Patricia McKinney, Auxiliary Unit 101, packs boxes to send to deployed soldiers. The joint effort by the DAV and DAVA made recent war veterans more familiar with the DAV’s free services.
Forward Operating Base (FOB)Gardez, Afghanistan, is more than 7,000 miles from Florida. But to the soldiers stationed there, it might as well be another planet.
Located at the junction of two strategic roads that cut through a valley in the Hindu Kush mountains, combat operations there are constant. There’s no PX or commissary. It’s a place American men and women go to engage the enemy.
In spite of the distance and the grind of the mission, many of the soldiers recently stationed there were reminded that they weren’t forgotten and wouldn’t be left behind.
The members of DAV Chapter 101 and Auxiliary Unit 101, Venice, Fla., kept the home fires burning and the care packages flowing. They’ve sent electric hair clippers for the men and shampoo for women stationed on the FOB and just about everything else the soldiers needed.
“This was a project that Past Chapter Commander R.C. Lettner was really passionate about,” said Ken Wolfe, Chapter Service Officer. “It feels good to support people while they’re deployed, but the biggest benefit is that we’ve made sure that they know about the DAV and will get the free services we offer when they need our help.”
While Lettner passed away shortly after the troops’ return, the legacy of support he began within the Chapter continues as its members “adopt” deployed service members.
“The Sunshine State’s impressive efforts add to the hundreds of special outreach initiatives that DAV Chapters are undertaking throughout the country to engage future members and make veterans aware of the services the DAV offers,” said National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson.
In addition, members of the National Amputee Chapter 76 frequently meet with recent-war veterans and injured active-duty members at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
With a membership of mainly Vietnam War veterans, their goal is to spread information about available resources, answer questions and build relationships. Their program has been ongoing for generations.
“We call it amp-to-amp this was started in the days of Vietnam when World War II veterans would come down and visit us. Now we’re doing the same thing,” said Don Sioss, past National Commander and Adjutant of Chapter 76. “A lot of people visit the hospitals, but not many of them can identify with the younger veterans’ experiences. We’ve been there, we’ve done that, and we know what they are going through.”
Members of the Chapter have built enduring relationships with recently injured combat veterans and mentor them as they transition to civilian life where they will face the same hurdles the older veterans have faced.
The Department of Minnesota, like others throughout the nation, has hosted or supported outdoor events to help provide rehabilitative opportunities for disabled veterans of all generations.
“We’ve had hundreds of veterans learn about and get involved in the DAV through different hunting and outdoor events we’ve held throughout the state over the years,” said acting Department Adjutant Dean Ascheman. “It’s a way you can connect with someone on a deeper level to assist them and showcase the sense of community we share as veterans.”
Gordy Smith, a life member of Chapter 50, Chesterfield, Va., has initiated a program called Operation Dining Out that responds to the needs of patients at the Richmond Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Virginia.
“As in virtually every ward, Polytrauma has a wish list,” said Smith. “Their wish lists are my marching orders.”
Through the program, individuals and businesses donate funds and gift certificates that are directed to meet the specific needs of veterans in their local area. From free meals to event tickets, the program boosts the morale of hospitalized veterans and those surviving with multiple service-connected disabilities.
Individuals who facilitate events to help disabled veterans and their families are often credited through the Local Veterans Assistance Program for their support and participation. In doing so, they are recognized as DAV volunteers and help the organization quantify the value of its support and outreach on a national level.
“The DAV is known foremost as a service organization. No one understands the needs of veterans like the members who are on the front lines providing grassroots support and outreach to our fellow veterans,” said Marc Burgess, National Headquarters Executive Director. “The more we do to reach out, the brighter the future will be for the DAV and the men and women whose lives are touched by our efforts.”