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DAV needs more volunteer drivers

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Disabled American Veterans is looking for more volunteer drivers in Jefferson County to transport veterans to appointments throughout the county and Syracuse.

At its peak, the local volunteer roster had 14 drivers, but that has since dwindled to nine.

“It’s a rewarding experience,” said Carl Disalvatore, volunteer driver. “We talk about their time in service, lives and a variety of things. I’ve had a WWII veteran and a WWII nurse. For some reason, I haven’t seen wounded veterans who’ve come from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

In a way, Mr. Disalvatore can relate to people he transports to medical appointments to the Watertown Veterans Administration clinic, Guthrie Clinic on Fort Drum and the Syracuse VA Medical Center. He was in the Army from 1978 to 1985 and then spent 22 years in the Army Reserves.

“I believe in doing something good to give back,” he said. “You don’t just have to be retired to do it.”

Mr. Disalvatore said county coordinator Fran Murray will work with people’s schedules, whether they want to work one, two or more days per week. Syracuse appointments take up the majority of the day, leaving the Watertown Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1400 at 6 a.m. and returning mid-afternoon. Veterans must be ambulatory and can either meet a DAV bus at its home location at the VFW, 231 Bellew Ave., or pick-up service may be provided.

All volunteers will have to be approved through the VA upon completion of a background check and simple physical.

“One thing I’ve always been surprised about is we don’t have any family members of people in the military doing this,” Mr. Disalvatore said.

He said DAV welcomes all licensed male and female drivers to apply. Drivers volunteered 344 hours of their time transporting 165 veterans during July, according to a brief report from Mr. Murray.

All vehicles belong to the VA. If someone cannot volunteer their time, but wanted to contribute to the cause, donations may be made to The DAV Hospital Service Coordinator, c/o Syracuse VA Medical Center, 800 Irving Avenue, Syracuse, N.Y. 13210.

People who would like to become a DAV driver may call Mr. Murphy at 782-5473.

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