Volunteering For Veterans, DAV Van Drivers Needed

Hundreds of veterans across Texoma rely on volunteers to take them to medical appointments at the V.A. Hospital in Oklahoma City.

But volunteer drivers in many towns are dwindling.

Newschannel 6 Lindsey Rogers found out of the 50 counties served by the OKC hospital, the most volunteers each day come from Wichita Falls, but, more are still needed.

"About half of our veterans are too old to drive in the traffic to OKC, about a fourth of them don't have a vehicle and about another fourth are in the mission trying to get back from problems with drugs or alcohol so their appointments in OKC are very important," volunteer driver Chuck Nordstrom said.

There are three veterans clinics in Texoma, Lawton, Altus and Wichita Falls. But many services are only offered at the main V.A. hospital in Oklahoma City.

The Disabled American Veterans Transportation Program provides vans to each chapter. Without them, many of the men and women who rely on the service would not be able to see their doctors.

"If I took you to some of these vehicles some of these poor veterans can't get to Oklahoma City a minority don't have vehicles this is the last way they can get to the OKC health care system," DAV Chapter 41 Commander Joel Jimenez said.

The drivers of those vans are all volunteers.  In many towns, DAV chapters are finding it harder and harder to get people to commit.

The Lawton van is making trips less often and the Altus one isn't being used at all.

Although our volunteers in Wichita Falls have one of the farthest drives, hospital officials say we are sending the most volunteers.

"They're the ones who stepped up to the plate, they gave their service to the nation. They did what the government asked of them and now they're doing more by helping their fellow veterans and not leaving them behind," Jimenez said.

We currently have 12 consistent drivers who volunteer anywhere from a few days a week to once a month. Most of them are veterans themselves.

We caught up with the men at an appreciation dinner the Wichita Falls DAV hosts for them every few months.

"I especially like it when I get a WWII guy because you learn stuff that ain't never going to be in the history books. Never has been never will be. You can hear some real deal stuff," volunteer driver Doug Wittaker said.

"It's just giving back. This country's given us a lot our veterans have given us a lot and it's just my way of giving back," Nordstrom said.

The Wichita Falls DAV van makes one trip a day Monday through Friday, helping more than 1,500 veterans a year.

Many of them suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and say just sharing stories with each other helps.

"That's what I really enjoy is the comradery and fellowship with the guys I carry up there," Wittaker said.

"We got a great bunch of guys who are very passionate. They believe in what they're doing. They believe in giving back," DAV Chapter 41 Coordinator Tom Bursey said.

Wichita Falls DAV Chapter 41 serves veterans from Decatur to Childress.

While we have more volunteer drivers than many areas, because some can only commit to once or twice a month, there is always a need for more.

For more information on how you can help call 940-636-7577 or click here.

Lindsey Rogers, Newschannel 6