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Meeting Dec. 8 to organize veteran transport service in Lewis County

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LOWVILLE — Disabled American Veterans is looking to enhance and expand transportation service for veterans in Lewis County, with the donation of a van for use by volunteer drivers.

DAV assists veterans and their families across the country in obtaining benefits and services earned through military service.

Volunteer recruiter William Gleason will be on hand at 2 p.m. Dec. 8 at the village municipal building, 5535 Bostwick St., to speak with local municipal leaders and potential volunteers about putting the most important piece of the program together — the volunteers.

“They’ll be getting a van, that stays there, for use for Lewis County veterans,” Mr. Gleason said of the program, which he hopes will be in place by spring.

Lewis County Veterans Service Director Derek M. Davey said that with approximately 3,000 veterans in the county, there is a definite need for the service, which transports veterans enrolled in Veterans Affairs health care to clinics in Watertown, Rome and Syracuse.

Currently, the need has been met by volunteers from the Watertown program, which has three vans and approximately 15 volunteers.

Organizing a program in Lewis County will help alleviate the extra driving done by Watertown volunteers.

“It’s added about an hour and a half onto their day,” said Fran J. Murray, Watertown volunteer coordinator. “This will be an immense help for us, too,” he said.

Mr. Murray, a retired veteran himself, got involved after being a recipient of services from the Watertown program.

“It’s a real special thing to be a part of,” he said.

While veterans who are transported to the clinic are of all ages, he said he especially enjoys driving veterans from World War II.

“They have great stories,” he said, “things you can’t read about in a book.”

He recalled a recent ride with a veteran who told stories about his younger days playing football in the middle of Arsenal Street.

“You don’t hear about that any more, “ he said.

In Lewis County, the largest percentage of veterans are from the Vietnam War, but Mr. Davey said younger veterans are added every day.

Proximity to Fort Drum means local towns have more veterans than the state average.

“This is a need that isn’t going away,” said Mr. Davey.

The meeting is open to the public. For more information Mr. Gleason can be reached at 425-4343.

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