From the rice paddies of Vietnam to the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, American soldiers made great sacrifices for this country.
They were recognized and honored on Veterans Day in South Jersey with solemn ceremonies and thanks for their military service. Those events were also an opportunity to reflect on veterans after their service, especially those disabled and unable to drive.
Members of the E.J. Newton Memorial Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter Four have done just that since 2019, when they purchased a van and offered free transportation to veterans in Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties who needed rides for medical attention or to claim benefits.
But that service could end in January because of a lack of funds.
“We take veterans to the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital and VA office in Philadelphia, to the VA community-based clinics in Sewell, Gloucester County, Camden City in Camden County and Marlton in Burlington County,” said Commander Patrick Watson during a meeting last week at the Haddonfield American Legion Post 38.
“We also take them to private medical appointments and to go shopping at the supermarket,” added Watson during a subdued meeting with post Adjutant Gerald Carter, Treasurer Rick Paulus, Senior Vice Commander Larry Smith and member Vinnie Baehr of Gloucester City.
“We made 150 trips per month during COVID, and took 500 boxes of food to veterans during the pandemic,” Watson added. “We are all volunteers, but we do not have enough money to keep going.”
Between the price of gasoline and maintenance on the 13-year-old van, the DAV Chapter Four – with 960 members in the three counties — needs about $1,200 per month to keep the free shuttle going. The van was purchased with the help of a $5,000 grant from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.
“We are going to have to cut back on services. We don’t have the money,” acknowledged Watson, a driver on many of the trips with veterans, many from the Vietnam War, Persian Gulf conflicts and Afghanistan who have PTSD, were exposed to Agent Orange and toxic emissions during wartime, and suffer from drinking contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“Veterans, especially those who are unable to drive, need our help,” Watson said.
To donate, make checks payable to DAV Chapter Four and mail them to Treasurer Rick Paulus, 7 Fox Chase Drive, Marlton, 08053.