DAV rides on volunteer power

Moore County’s Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 83 raised funds to replace an old van to transport disabled veterans.

Phill Guzzo is the transportation coordinator and a volunteer driver for DAV.

“Some vets are stuck, and for us, it’s a way to say, ‘Thanks,’” Guzzo said about transporting disabled veterans to medical appointments.

The chapter raised a third of the funds for a new transport van. Ford donated another third, and a trust supplied the balance for a 2020 Ford Transit van.

“Service to veterans is my heart,” volunteer driver Marc Phillips said.

The drivers transport disabled veterans to Veterans Affairs’(VA) medical facilities in Durham, two different facilities in Fayetteville, and Sanford’s clinic. They also drive them to private physicians’ offices for referred care.

When a spouse accompanies a disabled vet, the spouse must show a letter to board the van to meet VA guidelines.

The VA operates the transportation system and owns the van, and the DAV operates under their guidelines.

“During the pandemic, there were more telehealth appointments, but the care online is limited,” Phillips said about a decrease in calls.

They transport an average of six DAV each month.

Because volunteers are usually retirees with active lives, they are searching for up to four more volunteer drivers. The drivers are not paid.

Not all veterans are aware of the transport services. Call 910-949-4155 for transport. Veterans must be able to navigate getting on and off the van by themselves or with a spouse with a letter from the VA. The van is not wheelchair accessible.

“Vets need to know not to request travel pay when using the transport service, and they must show a postcard with their scheduled appointment,” Guzzo said.

“Technically, we meet at a central point, such as Walmart, to pick up vets. Sometimes we drive forty-five minutes to the van, thirty minutes to pick up the vet, and over two hours to the medical facility,” Phillips said about volunteering as a driver being a full-day commitment.

As the transport coordinator, Guzzo said he tries to schedule transport where appointment times are close together.

“There are one hundred counties in North Carolina, and we are in one of the fifty counties with a DAV chapter,” Phillips said about DAV citizens in Moore County being fortunate.

Guzzo and Phillips served in the United States Armed Forces, but a volunteer driver does not need to be a veteran.

Call (910) 949-4155 for details on how to apply to be a volunteer driver.

Feature photo: Marc Phillips (left) and Phil Guzzo discuss needing volunteer drivers for transporting disabled veterans to medical appointments on April 10, 2023, at Pete’s Family Restaurant in Carthage.

~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Journalist Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected]

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