Time for us to repay veterans

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Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day are two notable occasions we pause to honor those who have served and others who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation in the armed forces.
There are other days and other ways.
One is with the Lancaster County Veterans Affairs Office, which is looking for dedicated folks to serve as volunteer van drivers to take veterans to medical appointments in Columbia and Rock Hill.
“Some of our veterans don’t have access to any other transportation at all to get to their doctor’s appointments,” said Dena Adams, who coordinates the local effort.
The number of passengers varies from two to 10 on any given day.
Drivers are required to take a physical, a tuberculosis test and complete a health questionnaire available at the Veterans Affairs office at the Lancaster County Administration Building.
The drivers’ schedules are worked in with their other commitments.
There are no funds to pay the drivers, but they do receive food vouchers for breakfast and lunch on the days they drive.
Those who do perform the task note the rewards are many.
“Just getting to talk to them is something I enjoy,” said Wayne “Hoss” Knight of his riders who are World War II and Korean War veterans. “All of them have stories to tell. They’re laid back and enjoy reminiscing. It’s a whole lot of fun.”
Knight, a Vietnam era veteran with the U.S. Marines, can identify with his passengers because he’s also served his country.
“To me, it’s more like church than anything else,” he said. “The more you put into it, the more joy you get out of it.”
Knight has logged 31,060 miles and 1,694 hours and carried 1,113 county veterans to medical appointments.
Charlie Cheney, a Navy veteran, is a 13-year volunteer van driver and he’s compiled 1,529 hours, 27,766 miles and taken 769 veterans to various medical appointments.
“Jesus always said we were put here to serve, not to be served,” Cheney said. “I really enjoy helping out. It’s very rewarding.”
Despite these dedicated drivers, sometimes there are not enough to go around to fill the need.
“I’ve heard from some riders who had to cancel appointments because there was no one to drive them,” Cheney said.
These people who have served their country are only wanting dedicated folks to step forward now. We urge those who feel a special calling to take the wheel and be a driving force in the lives of those who have already answered the call.