Disabled veterans in need of volunteer drivers

Disabled veterans in need of volunteer drivers
Updated: May. 23, 2023 at 5:00 AM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A nationwide program for disabled veterans that originated in South Dakota is vigorously searching for volunteers.

Army veteran Mike Kramar served a deployment in Germany from 1972 to 1974. Kramar’s transportation was arranged for him when he served his country overseas, but not when he needed hip surgery nearly 50 years later.

That is, until Kramar called the Disabled American Veterans Transportation Network and they connected him with a volunteer driver.

”Back in 2019, I had to have hip surgery. So, I called him up. He was the one who was able to go and get me down there for my surgery. When I was all done with my surgery, he was able to go and take me back. Not all people can have the honor to have that done,” said Kramar.

The DAV Transportation Network is a nationwide program, but it has South Dakota roots.

“Rather than leave a veteran unattended, unable to get to a medical appointment, it went nationwide. One individual got that program started in Sioux Falls, and now it’s nationwide,” said Mark Wolf, the Aberdeen shuttle coordinator for the DAV Transportation Network.

The program relies on volunteer drivers to help veterans in need get to and from medical appointments.

“Not all veterans can drive. Mainly because if they’re on certain medications, they cannot drive. They might not be able to afford to drive. If there’s a need, the DAV is there to help. We’re an all-volunteer organizations, so we need drivers to fill in those slots,” said Wolf.

When the pandemic began, however, those volunteer numbers began to dwindle. Now, the DAV is in need of more help.

“Milbank, Sisseton area, they need volunteers. West river, Mobridge needs volunteers. You go down south, Watertown needs volunteers. Just about every community that has a DAV vehicle, needs extra drivers. There’s communities out there that have vehicles, but they don’t have drivers,” said Wolf.

Wolf is aware that the DAV isn’t the only organization in need of volunteers, but he says the program isn’t a large time commitment, a vehicle is provided and the experience has a special reward.

”Everybody needs a volunteer. It doesn’t take that much time, one day a month, to drive a veteran. What drives a lot of people to become a driver is one, they feel like they would like to contribute something back to the heroes that actually helped them out,” said Wolf.

Giving back to veterans is exactly why Paul Wallien began volunteering three years ago.

”I like to drive and I really respect the veterans. I’m not a veteran, but I appreciate what they do. I think if I can do something to make their lives a little better, it’s worth it for me,” said Wallien.

Find out more on becoming a volunteer driver for the DAV Transportation Network by calling 605-333-6806 or emailing VHASUXVoluntary@va.gov, and find a DAV shuttle driver in your area here.