|By Priscilla Sizemore, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"This organization is one of the most important things in my life at this moment because they take care of so many of the things that I need," said Fisher, an
Fisher, who was on active duty from 1977 to 1983 and in the
"I don't know what I would do without this system," she said. "It's important to the life of many veterans, and many of us would be totally out of luck without it."
The group's three vans, which hold six people, travel to
But it takes more than vans to make the program work.
"There are just not enough drivers and volunteers" said
Carty makes the schedules for the drivers.
She also is the one who has to tell some veterans no.
"I'm the one who has to call to turn down rides for veterans because we don't have enough volunteers," she said. "Last month, 70 people did not have a ride, and my notes have gone back as far as October showing 200 rides canceled."
Many veterans have two to four appointments in one day, Carty said.
"Some appointments are not as serious, and some are more life-threatening," she said.
"Some veterans can get a ride, but most have to pay an astronomical price to get to their appointments," Carty said. "We give access to the van in a first-come, first-serve bases. If the van is full, that's it; we don't choose favorites."
Fisher has used this service for five years and has been turned down several times before because they didn't have enough drivers.
"I have been turned down when I have had appointments that were very important to my health and well-being. Most of the time, I could reschedule, but there has been at least two occasions where my daughter has had to get off of work just to take me." Fisher said. "These drivers provide a truly valuable service for disabled veterans and their families."
"For me, I know what they have gone through and their struggles," he said. "I don't feel like I am extending myself. It's a pleasure to be in their company, and it's actually quite addicting to build relationships with them and share war stories of our past experiences."
Arata drives four days a week, keeps up all maintenance and detailing of vans, and does all the paperwork of mileage and who rode.
"These veterans, who have been involved in doing something for our country, need our help, and I feel I owe it to them to help those who have been seriously injured or can't afford transportation or are too sick to go themselves." Arata said.