Where did you serve and what did you do?
On April 10, 2020, I drove the VA VTS van back to Bonham’s VA Department of Transportation to end, at least for now, a project that started in September 2014. When an interim college student working with Lisa Mussett, then of the Oklahoma Employment Security Office in Idabel found out that we could get a vehicle to transport veterans from local areas (McCurtain County and the Pushmataha-Choctaw Counties) to the Bonham VA Medical Center. With Steve Webb’s assistance, they brought the need to me at the VFW Post 3658, Antlers OneStop center (we held them on Thursday).
I, along with Rocky Woolman, talked to the Bonham’s Transportation Department’s Tom McClure and found out if we could find five volunteer drivers, who could pass a physical and background check, obtain a VA full funded, maintained, licensed 12 passenger van to drive those veterans from our locations to Bonham VAMC (and to the regional hospital in Dallas via a larger bus) and back again to the veterans’ locations.
We, Rocky and I, rented out the side room of the buffet dining room for a meeting of all that were interested in volunteering for such a need and included Tom McClure and top personnel from Little Dixie Transportation office. We had over twenty attended, although I only found four willing to take the physical from Antlers. All from my VFW post 3658. To get to the five I volunteered too.
We, Rob Biden, Will Edds, Mike Bray, Connie Wilburn and I with Rocky being the coordinator started this service in January 2015. Through the years due to illness, injuries and competing family issues the crew turned into one until James K. Smith from the Hugo VFW joined. And the number of veterans needing our service decreased too until we had no veterans in the Antlers area and a few in Choctaw County.
Now veterans have numerous choices for Veteran Healthcare; A clinic in Idabel, another clinic at the McAlester Regional Hospital, the Bonham VA Healthcare Clinic, Six Community Providers within 40 miles of most places in our area and 8 urgent care providers. Telehealth provides mental health and routine VA Primary Care appointments thus actual transportation to the Bonham VA clinic is rare and only when labs results, or regional VA hospital care is needed. And at that time an employee of the Bonham VA Transportation Department is sent out to pick up the Veteran (and only the Veteran) to drive him or her to Bonham VA Clinic or transport them to Dallas VAMC and return them to their home afterward.
Will the service come back where the two of us, James K. Smith and I drive the VA VTS van again? I doubt it, given the number of veterans in this area that need the service has decreased even with transportation to those community providers.
A project started by Lisa Mussett, and Steve Webb completed successfully yesterday April 10, 2020 as I drove the VA VTS 8 passenger GSA Dodge Challenger Mini Van back to Bonham’s VA Transportation Department for the last time.
So, I want to thank Rob Biden, Will Edds, Mike Bray, Connie Wilburn, Rock Woolman, James K. Smith for their volunteering spirit by saying we, the VA VTS Volunteers completed our mission successfully.
As I want to also thank Jason, Joey and the Transportation Department Crew at Bonham VAMC.
How are you #StillServing?
Still writing weekly local newspaper column passing the word on VFW, AL, DAV, VA, Military Veteran News to those that cannot afford a computer, smartphone or the internet (or social media) to get their information on what Veterans need to know, 340 articles to date.
Why do you do it?
Because I can and the veterans of this area (the poorest county in OK and the 25 poorest in the US) need the information.