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Driving on

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LOW RIDER: Miami County's new DAV van sits lower to the ground for easier access for veterans.
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NEW WHEELS:Miami County Veterans Service Officer Jay Kendall and assistant Debby Raber stand between Miami County's old and new DAV vans.

BY Paige Conley - pconley@perutribune.com

The Miami County Veterans Service Officer's office received a second Disabled American Veterans vehicle to provide transportation for veterans who need help getting to and from Department of Veterans Affairs appointments.

The new wheels are a 2015 Ford Flex and was originally given to Jay County by the VA.

The VA then gave it to Miami County when Jay County didn't have enough use for it, according to Miami County Veterans Service Officer Jay Kendall.

“The DAV saw that we needed help so they have given us this van,” Kendall said. “So we're saving the county from purchasing a new van right now.”

Currently, the Miami County VSO's office has 175 veterans on their transport list who need rides to their appointments. On average, they transport five to six individuals a week.

“Miami County is number one in the percent of veterans that are in the VA,” Kendall said. “We're over 50 percent. The state average is 22 percent.”

The additional van is going to open up the VSO office schedule so it will be able to offer help to more veterans.

“This is going to increase our capabilities to help Veterans go to VA hospitals,” Kendall said. “It gives us increased flexibility.”

According to Kendall, the VSO office can take veterans to any VA-approved appointment whether at a VA center or not, as long as it was an appointment scheduled by the VA. There is no distance limit on these appointments.

While the majority of the veterans the office transports are from Miami County, Kendall said they are willing to help veterans in other counties who need it, as long as it's not too far out of the way.

“We will help other counties, though,” Kendall said. “We help each other out.”

Miami County received the van on Thursday and its first trip was to pick up a veteran in Indianapolis on Friday.

Miami County's other DAV van has over 200,000 miles on it, which means they'll be using the new van quite often, according to Kendall.

“It's so much nicer,” Kendall said. “It's so much easier to get into and out of, you know, for the older guys,” he said.

The only restriction that has arisen with the new van is the county needs more drivers to transport the veterans to and from their appointments.

“We need more DAV van drivers,” Kendall said. “We need volunteers.”

One van requires three or four drivers so one person isn't overburdened with transporting all of the veterans throughout the week. Kendall said they have enough volunteer drivers for one van right now and are in need of more for the new van.

It's volunteer only and drivers receive a meal during their transports. According to Kendall, anybody is welcome to be a volunteer driver, if they feel up to the task.

“It's not just veterans that can be volunteers for the DAV van,” Kendall said. “It can be anybody that wants to help veterans.”

If anyone wants to be a volunteer driver, they can visit or call Kendall to get started on the process to become one.

Veterans in need of transportation to an appointment are required to call Kendall or his assistant Debby Raber as soon as they know their appointment date to schedule a transport. The ride is completely cost-free to veterans.

The Miami County Veterans Service Office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and their contact number is 765-472-3901 ext. 1860 or ext. 1271.