It Takes a Community
By Joseph R. Chenelly
Left, Dean Ascheman, former DAV Department Commander, Erik Stolhanske, actor and veterans’ advocate, Reg Chapman, event emcee and CBS reporter, Chuck Foreman, former Minnesota Vikings player, Barry Jesinoski, DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director, and Stu Voigt, former Minnesota Vikings player.
Expressing appreciation for community leaders who show support for veterans, DAV in the fall began a series of events around the country called “A Community of Heroes.”
These events brought together community leaders, celebrities and organizations supporting veterans, to thank them for their work and discuss how we may work more closely to best serve veterans.
DAV leaders spoke about the various services the organization offers at the community level, including free assistance with claims for VA benefits and our Transportation Network.
Department-level programs were also highlighted, such as the event in Minneapolis where the Minnesota Donor Connection Program was detailed. That program connects the public with veterans in need of durable medical equipment.
In Nashville, DAV’s Mobile Service Office program was explained, describing how it allows the organization to serve veterans in rural areas of the country, providing services they have earned but may not have been able to otherwise access due to living far from VA facilities.
DAV’s Transportation Network was among the services highlighted at the event in San Diego as well. Some 9,400 veterans were transported free of charge by DAV volunteers to and from VA medical appointments in San Diego, an area known for its vast, spread-out landscape.
“The pieces to empower injured and ill veterans that often go unnoticed are the many people and organizations who play important roles in helping them readjust to their new lives,” National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson said. “This is an opportunity for DAV to ensure they know we appreciate them and want to work even more closely with them.”
DAV announced at these events that it is launching an exciting digital initiative to collect stories of veterans transitioning back to civilian life.
“Collecting stories is a way to honor our nation’s veterans,” Adjutant Wilson said. “The road back to civilian life is often challenging, with many obstacles. By preserving these stories, we pay tribute to their perseverance and strength of spirit. I encourage veterans to submit their stories at MyStoryDAV.org.”
DAV plans to share the stories to “inspire and empower other veterans to overcome their challenges as they transition
to civilian life,” said National Headquarters Executive Director Marc Burgess. “We will also share the stories with the public to raise awareness about the challenges veterans face.”
“These special events are part of DAV’s larger awareness campaign,” said Burgess. “We need to do this now because our work is becoming more challenging. There has been a 31percent increase in the number of service-disabled veterans since 2000 - that’s 3.3 million from all generations who are receiving VA compensation. It is expected that more than half of the 2.4 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will need assistance to reach their full potential after sacrificing to defend our way of life.”
“DAV is here for all veterans, ensuring that their rightful benefits are preserved,” said actor Erik Stolhanske. “As a community working together, we will never let veterans down.”