SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — For Veterans who have a disability, like Ed Sandau, it can be hard to get around from day to day.
“My wife takes me when she can but we take care of our granddaughter and our grandson so the days that I can’t get a ride from her, I just call our van coordinator John Hunnington at the VA and say, ‘John help me out,'” Sandau said.
Through the DAV, Vets like Sandau get help with their transportation network.
“It’s a godsend. it saves a lot of headaches and a lot of money all the way around,” Sandau said.
“It’s an outstanding program for the Veterans of South Dakota. We actually started the program here in ’84 – 1984. National picked it up in 1987 and it went throughout the nation, so we’re very proud of this program,” Direcotr of Disabled American Veterans of South Dakota Gene Murphy said.
There are currently 27 vehicles in South Dakota, each responsible for driving Vets to the nearest VA for appointments for free.
“Last year, we had a little over 7,500 veterans we transported. Around 23,000 hours and all the drivers are volunteers,” Murphy said.
Volunteers like Rozanne Dubois.
“I’ve been a volunteer drive now for about three years,” Dubois said.
A hobby which carries its own rewards.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories, personal life stories, their war stories, what branch they’ve served in, when and, to me, it’s humbling. it really is,” Dubois said.
And this weekend, at the DAV’s 15th annual charity poker run, those rewards go farther than any vehicle.
“It gives awareness that says, ‘These programs are available,’ and the bottom line is to help that Veteran. That’s where I thank the 727 for what they do for the Disabled American Veterans,” Murphy said.
It’s $20 to register and you can join in on the festivities and even ride your vehicle in their parade. That money goes toward funding these transports for Vets like Sandau.
“So you got to look at is as, if you’re a veteran, you’re giving a brother or sister a ride to the VA for an appointment, and if you’re just a… common citizen, one that has thanked us many times, this is another way of thanking us: providing us a ride to and from the VA,” Sandau said.
The poker run is Saturday at the Swiftel Center in Brookings. To learn more about the event or to become of volunteer driver, visit the DAV website.