You would think so, but that’s not always the case, according a top official with the Disabled American Veterans, an advocacy group for veterans. The Wyoming DAV held its annual convention in Powell Friday and Saturday.
Ron Hope of Clemmons, N.C., is the DAV’s senior vice commander. He made his first trip to Wyoming to attend the convention, where he delivered a speech Saturday night.
“It’s our job to serve veterans,” Hope said.
The DAV lobbies Congress, appears before committees and, when needed, battles the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of its members, he said. It’s a fight that increasingly must be waged.
Ellen Timmerman, the national junior vice commander of the DAV Auxiliary, also attended the convention.
Timmerman, who lives in Farmington, N.M, has been involved with the auxiliary since 2005. Her husband Timothy has been a DAV member for 40 years.
“We support the DAV,” Timmerman said. “We stand behind them. We stand with them, side-by-side.”
The auxiliary makes sure that veterans’ families are supported, she said. They, and the veterans, are losing access to programs as facilities are closed, denying many access to the care they need.
“We go out and fight for the veterans’ rights,” she said. “The promises that were made need to be kept.”
“We’re here to help the veterans,” Hope said. “We’re the No. 1 service organization in the country.”
The DAV will mark its 95th year in existence in August. Any veteran who suffers a wound or injury while on active duty, or falls ill to a debilitating disease such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis while in service to their country is eligible. If they qualify for veterans’ benefits, they can join the organization, which has 1.4 million members.
Hope, 66, qualified for the DAV when a round entered the helicopter he was piloting over Vietnam in 1969. He lost his left arm up to his shoulder.
But he said he would not let that stop him from leading a full life. Hope met his future bride while he was in a San Antonio hospital recovering, and she visited with a church group. Their daughter became a nurse.
He had a long career in oil and gas land development in Texas and also worked for the DAV.
“It took me some getting used to,” Hope said. “I’ve always been really independent. It was just another phase of my life.”
One of his goals now is to increase public awareness of the group. They have never sought a lot of media attention, Hope said, but that is changing.
The DAV rents space from the Powell American Legion post and that is where the convention was held. Hope said few DAV chapters own a facility.
“We’re going to try to fix that,” he said. “We have always focused on service, not on our home.”
While the DAV and Legion have worked well together over the years, Hope said he is not convinced they need to merge.
“They’re two different organizations,” he said. “They do two different things.”
Hope said he is proud of an effort the DAV makes to take wounded veterans to Snowmass, Colo., where they ski and do other outdoor-oriented events. They even used to take over a rifle range and take a few shots, he said.
Hope said hundreds of paraplegic veterans, as well as those who were blind or had other disabilities, took part in the program.
“We teach them they can do the things everybody else does,” he said. “You can do anything you want to if you put your mind to it.”
He said that’s a message the organization wants to spread to its members as well as prospective members. There are about 80 DAV members in Powell, and Hope said he’d like to see that grow.
To learn more about the local DAV chapter, call Gary Lucus at 754-2346 or 202-2061.