In an effort to expand veterans health care coverage in Taos County, one local group is hitting the road and inviting Albuquerque-bound vets to tag …
In an effort to expand veterans health care coverage in Taos County, one local group is hitting the road and inviting Albuquerque-bound vets to tag along.
The North Central New Mexico Veterans Transportation Network will begin providing rides to vets from Taos to Albuquerque for appointments to help some vets who might not be able to make it south. After several years of planning and fundraising, the organization is ready to start and is looking for vets who need a ride and drivers to help out with the miles.
"It's been a long time coming," said president David Doolittle.
Doolittle and the board have been building on local World War II vet, and vice president, Jerry Laughlin's dream of helping veterans in the community. According to Laughlin, he now has the support of a hardworking board who was able to cross the T's and dot the I's to purchase a seven-passenger van for a new era of troop transport.
The van is scheduled to make its maiden voyage south on Monday (Sept. 17), provided veterans sign up for the ride. Rides for medical or administrative appointments are free to veterans as part of the service from Taos and will depart from the VA clinic in Taos. Passengers are allowed to bring along one caregiver for the drive and must give 72-hour advance notice for rides.
"We're just asking for community support," said treasurer Lawrence Vargas. "All we need is the help of the community."
The organization is a registered nonprofit and is taking donations for the services. According to Laughlin, the board gathered the funds to purchase the vehicle, but not to maintain it and is asking the community to help.
Veterans affairs services date back to the earliest American conflicts by providing pensions to those wounded or disabled in wars. In 1921, Congress created the Veterans Bureau to consolidate services provided to World War I veterans under the federal umbrella. Since then, the U.S. has expanded its coverage for veterans and families and has built the Department of Veterans Affairs to serve veterans in a vast number of ways.
For more information, or to schedule a ride to Albuquerque, visit the group's website at vetrides.org or call (575) 779-5517.