By Michael Isam
St. Augustine, Fla. – The Disabled American Veterans of Florida Chapter 6 is fundraising to purchase a new van to transport Veterans to appointments at VA Medical Center.
Recently, Bill Day, Vice-President of Rolling Thunder Chapter 4, presented a check to DAV Chapter 6 Commander A. J. Sartin to initiate the fundraising effort.
“The VA Transportation Network decides when a van is to be retired from service,” said Sartin. “We have little or no control over when it happens. We just get a notice that time is getting short.”
The van service from St. Augustine to Gainesville began in February, 2005. “It took a ton of work to get the transportation system going,” said Tom Waskovich. Waskovich was responsible for getting drivers for the van. “If we did not have drivers, there was no reason to have a van. Chuckling, Waskovich remembered some of the incidents around getting drivers qualified through the VA system. “Every driver had to pass a stringent set of protocols before they were allowed to drive the van. We joked that Navy Seals would have a hard time passing the protocols, let alone a getting a retired person qualified,” said Waskovich. “We finally got the administration to seriously look at the protocols and modify them into some semblance of reality.”
The chapter was responsible for getting the van. “It was a loaner from the VA,” said Chapter Treasurer Ben Meggitt. “It had a little over 180,000 miles on it. We drove the tires off it and we were given another loaner.”
The chapter purchased a new van through a special program sponsored by the Disabled American Veterans National Organization. “The cost of the first one was about $23,000.00 and the cost has risen about $2000.00 each year,” said Meggitt.
“The time for the purchases begins in November of every year and we have received our vans the following June or July, said Sartin. “Hurry up and wait!”, a statement every veteran knows, still applies.”