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Drivers needed to help veterans get medical care

A program designed to help local veterans get to crucial medical appointments needs help.

Bill Gleason, a recruiter for the Disabled American Veterans Volunteer Transportation Network, said the service was hit hard by the pandemic. Before COVID-19, the program helped more than 20,000 veterans in 14 counties. While the need is still high, Gleason said the number of volunteers has dropped from 240 to 116.

"We can't work Fridays because we don't have the manpower. We can't work 12-to-4," said Gleason.

Drivers do not have to be veterans, but many of them are.

Ron Capone, who served in the Vietnam War, has been driving veterans from St. Lawrence County to appointments in Syracuse and Watertown for more than a decade. For him, it’s about helping those in need, while making a connection.

"You learn something about them which is nice,” said Capone. “You're talking to people, so you're learning a history."

The DAV is looking for drivers who are over age 21, fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and have a valid New York state driver’s license. Most of the volunteers drive about one shift per week, but schedules are flexible.

Gleason, who was a marine during the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War, said it’s a way to give back to the men and women who have given so much for their country. It’s a lesson he learned during his own time in the service.

"We're part of a team here, and that's how we operate,” he said. “And so, I got out (of the service), I'm working. 'Part of the team' doesn't go away. Once a marine, always a marine, so we help each other."

If you’re interested in volunteering with the DAV or learning more about how you can help, call (315) 425-4343.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.