BURLEY – Veterans, your ride is here. Because so many sick and disabled veterans lack transportation to and from Veterans Affairs medical facilities for needed treatment, the Disabled American Veterans van is ready to take them to VA hospital appointments in Twin Falls or Boise.

One day a week, driver Larry Cottom volunteers his time to take veterans to their monthly or weekly appointments at the VA Hospital in Boise. Cottom is a Vietnam Veteran who served from 1962 until 1966. He said duty does not end with military service. “I want to give something back to the veterans,” he said. “They served for all of us. We need to help them now if we can.”

Cottom explained that our nation’s heroes travel around the globe to protect our freedoms — it’s only right that we return their dedication. Volunteering to drive a vet ensures that even those living remotely from VA hospitals can make their appointments and never go without the treatment they need.

Paul resident Jesus Torrez, a Vietnam-era veteran, said the DAV van is very important and a great program. “It’s the best thing that’s happened to us, because when you depend on others or family members—you become a burden,” he said. Torrez is required to have monthly checkups at the VA facilities and cannot drive long distances without discomfort. The van relieves most of his stress and discomfort as he doesn’t have to drive. He always gets there on time for his appointments. “Those volunteers that help with the driving should be appreciated,” he said.

Cottom and a fellow Vietnam veteran and retired U.S. Navy Commander Jim Jensen are members of the Mini-Cassia DAV Chapter in Rupert. DAV stepped in to help veterans get the care they need when the federal government terminated its program that helped many of them pay for transportation to and from medical facilities. They, along with other veterans, saw a need to assist disable veterans in making their appointments without worrying about finding a ride.

With donations, grants, and a big break from the Ford Motor Company, the Mini-Cassia DAV Chapter purchased their first van. They made an agreement with the VA hospital. The DAV Chapter will drive it to Boise, wash it, and keep in storage, and turn it over to the VA. The VA provides the maintenance, tires, and repairs needed to keep the van operational. “We’ve had this van for three years, and it has 104,000 miles on it,” said Cottom. “It’s good for hopefully another two years.” When the time comes, the van will be sold and the profits will go toward a new van purchase. “Plus the Mini-Cassia Commissioners are good at helping us,” said Cottom. So far, the DAV has owned six vans to date.

Georgia Greenwell of the Veteran Service Office for Minidoka and Cassia counties said about six passengers a week travel to the VA facilities. The vans are driven by volunteers, and the rides are coordinated by her. Georgia schedules the weekly trips for veterans, and wishes she had more drivers. Cottom is the lone driver. “We’re so lucky to have Larry Cottom as our driver,” she said. “I thank him so much for those days he drives.”

At 72 years old, Cottom, who has driven the van for 15 years, is looking for a replacement or help. “If we had three or four drivers, the DAV van could make trips to Boise four days a week,” he said. Cottom is concerned that without the van, veterans won’t be able to make their appointments.

One does not have to be a veteran to be a driver. All that is required is a driver’s license, proof of insurance, background check, and pass a physical. For further information contact the office of Veterans Service Officer at 208-678-3599. DAV operates a fleet of vehicles around Idaho to provide free transportation to VA medical facilities for injured and ill veterans.