The Disabled American Veterans Chapter 31 transport service has been serving local veterans for 13 years, taking them to important medical appointment at Veterans Associations hospitals in Atlanta and nearby cities.
“If we didn’t have the van service to take us where we need to go, it would make it very difficult for us to get the help we need,” said David Todd, a retired U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam. “Without this service, a lot of us wouldn’t get there.”
Dave Lyons, also a retired U.S. Army veteran, began the local service in 2002 and said that it is in need of a new van to help transport veterans in need of medical help. The Veterans Association does not provide funding for the van used by the DAV, and Lyons said that there is no stimulus money available to help purchase a new one.
“The van we’re currently driving has 170,000 miles on it,” he said. “By the end of the year, it will have over 200,000 miles on it. We’re asking anyone from the community to help with donations for us to purchase a new van.”
Lyons has run the service for the past eight years, along with the help of his wife. The van averages 3,000 miles each month while transporting more than 100 veterans to appointments in Atlanta and Tuskegee, Alabama.
“We must fund one third of the new van, while the DAV will fund one third and a holding company will fund the remaining one third,” said Lyons. “The amount we need to raise (locally) for the new van will be $16,000.”
The van that the service is currently using is a 2010 Ford E-350 Econoline, an eight-passenger van. Lyons said that funding for the purchase of a new van will be difficult for members of DAV Chapter 31 to produce, and without the van, many local veterans will not be able to receive the medical help they need.
“We’re lucky to have as many drivers as we do to help get these guys where they need to go,” said Lyons. “We have about 20 to 25 drivers working for us right now, but we’re always accepting applications from potential drivers.”
Allen Smith, retired U.S. Army veteran, has been working for the local DAV transport service as a driver for the past 10 years.
“It’s my way of giving back to these guys,” said Smith. “This is a great service because it’s hard for these guys to get up there.”
Troup County has more than 5,000 veterans, with about 12,000 veterans living in surrounding counties served by the local DAV chapter. Lyons said the service is free of charge to the veterans it supports.
“We have several pickup points,” said Lyons. “We will pick guys up in LaGrange, Hogansville and Newnan on our way to Atlanta three days a week.”
Lyons said that there is a serious need for the program to continue, especially with the many veterans coming home from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He used to handle all of the logistics himself, but has recently hired a new operator to answer all of the calls he receives about transports.
“This is a great service to us,” said James Walker, retired U.S. Army veteran. “We greatly appreciate the drivers that work to help us get where we need to go.”
Lyons said that any donations made to the DAV for the purchase of the van would be tax deductible.
“We have a lot riding on our country today,” said Lyons. “There is also a lot riding on our old 170,000 mile van, also.”
To contribute to the purchase of a new van for the DAV Chapter 31, contact Dave Lyons at 706-882-7825, or mail in donations to DAV Chapter 31, P.O. Box 4023, LaGrange, GA 30241. The chapter requests that checks be made payable to DAV Chapter 31.
Donny Karr is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at [email protected] or 706-884-7311, ext. 2154.