Having relied on DAV’s Transportation Network for rides to and from his medical appointments since 2008 veteran Kenneth Hughes knows the importance of DAV’s volunteer drivers.
“If I wasn’t getting the treatment, I wouldn’t be alive today,” said Hughes, a Tallahassee, Fla., resident.
“The van helps me a lot because I don’t drive, I don’t have any other means of transportation,” said veteran Shelton Norton who has depended on volunteer drivers since 2006 to attend his VA appointments. “It’s very important for me to receive my treatment because it helps me stay healthy and stay alive.”
For those who volunteer to drive a DAV van it is an optional activity, but for the veterans counting on them for reliable transportation it is much, much more than that. It can mean the difference between life and death or identifying a health issue in a timely manner.
With so many veterans living on fixed incomes, travel costs often gives way to shelter and food. Health needs are sometimes sacrificed for everyday necessities.
“What we lack are volunteers to drive them,” said Joseph J. Schneider, the DAV hospital service coordinator at the VA in Rome, N.Y. “If you can spare a few days a month, we need your help. You can make all the difference in these veterans’ lives. These were and are our nation’s heroes,” Schneider said. “They traveled the globe to protect our freedoms. Suddenly they may be hard pressed to travel the distance from their homes to VA medical centers. Those who gave so much for our country will be unable to get the medical treatment they so justly deserve.”
Allen Manning, a DAV volunteer driver and life member of Chapter 55 in Madison, Ind. has been driving since 2006.
“I look forward to getting up in the morning and picking up a veteran or two,” said Manning.
Manning is one of only four volunteer drivers for Chapter 55. The program has about 300 locally registered veterans looking for rides to their appointments. Manning says more volunteers are desperately needed.
“If we could have a driver just do one day a month to take the load off the others, that would help out immensely,” said Manning.
Clyde James is also one of the four volunteer drivers. He’s logged more than 50,000 miles in the van since 1995. In some situations, he says a lack of volunteers has lead to missed appointments.
“It’s unfortunate, but we do have to turn them away occasionally. Not too often but occasionally. But, one time is too often,” said James.
Manning, who spent 28 years in the Air Force, says one day a month isn’t asking for much considering many veterans have given much of their lifetime to serve.
“It’s one of the most important things I do,” Manning said. “I think anybody that did it would find the same thing.”
If you or anyone you know would like to get involved and volunteer to drive a DAV van and assist veterans in getting to and from their medical appointments please visit dav.org/help-dav/volunteer/.