EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It’s an exciting day to be a veteran in Eau Claire County.
Eau Claire County veterans will now be transported to the Minneapolis VA for their medical appointments for free. The new means of transportation for the vets is an 8-passenger van.
Monday night, Veteran Services, the Chippewa Valley DAV, and other organizations that spearheaded the program that will help vets get to their medical appointments gathered to show off the new van to some veterans that will utilize the service.
“Anytime I can save a few cents: that means I can buy a little more food,” James McBee, a veteran of the Vietnam War, said about the brand new van that will help him and other Eau Claire County veterans immensely.
“This way, I don’t have to take my car all the time,” McBee said.
The project was started a couple years ago and has now become a reality.
“We raised over 62,700 for the van,” Roderick Anderson with the Chippewa Valley DAV Chapter 21 said. “It’s an endless thing; as long as they need us, we’ll be there.”
Some veterans have to rely on family members or friends to get to their appointments; this service will make sure they’re getting the care they need.
“These appointments are crucial to a lot of these veterans,” Tim Moore, the director of Eau Claire County Veteran Services, said. “Sometimes, they forgo them because they have no means to get there. This is the answer. This is going to help them do that.”
“We certainly have the need for it,” Adam Kohls, the assistant director of Eau Claire County Veteran Services, said. “We’ve got 8,500 vets in Eau Claire County. We’re just getting with the times. Chippewa County has had one for a while.”
Kohls says they want to have around 15 volunteer drivers to drive the van. They need to be certified by the VA before they get behind the wheel.
"There is a really big need for this and that's why we ended up getting it,” Tim Hillary, a volunteer driver, said. “We should be busy. We do need drivers to keep our program going."
“A couple years ago, we noticed a real need that veterans couldn’t get to their medical appointments and the VA, their services are only as good as they are accessible,” Moore said. “So in order to get them there, we had to find a way.”
The complex problem of having no means of transportation for the veterans is solved with a relatively simple answer: a van.
“It means having the accessibility to what they need to get taken care of medically speaking,” Moore said.
The van will run on odd numbered weekdays and leave from the Eau Claire County government building at 7 a.m. and leave the VA at the latest at 3 p.m. The first ride will be Wednesday, March 1st.