Program offers transportation for vets

ESCANABA — Veterans in Delta County will be able to get rides to medical appointments at Iron Mountain’s Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center free of charge through a new program offered by the Delta County Veterans Office. The purchase of a van for the program was made official earlier this month, and the program will be put into place in mid-2017.

David Dziewior, veterans service officer for Delta County, said that the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center used to offer their own transportation program for area veterans. However, this program was discontinued in early 2016.

“Due to constraints in budget … they stopped that bus,” he said.

Because of this, Dziewior said the county decided to introduce another option for veteran medical transport.

“This sparked the need for us to get our own van,” he said.

While the veterans office’s new program is part of an existing initiative operated by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Dziewior said the office still had to raise $14,500 to buy the van. They accomplished this with financial help from the DAV, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Marine Corps League, the Amvets, and the Hannahville Indian Community.

“We had all kinds of organizations that helped to donate to this,” he said.

While the purchase of the Veterans Office’s van — a Ford Flex — was ordered this month, Dziewior said they will not immediately receive the vehicle.

“We don’t get it until, probably, July,” he said.

In the meantime, the office will focus on getting ready to implement the transport program. This process will include establishing rules and procedures for the program and setting up pick-up points at public places around the county.

“We’re going to develop pick-up points for Delta County,” Dziewior said.

Once the program does go into effect, the van will be driven by volunteers in the area. Upkeep of the van will be handled by the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center.

“They take care of the maintenance and the gas … and we drive it,” he said.

Delta County Administrator Ryan Bergman said the transportation program is a testament to the success of Dziewior’s first year with the county. Dziewior began his work as Delta County’s veterans service officer in January 2016.

“I would say that the program is reflective of the positive work that Dave is doing in the community,” he said.

Bergman also noted that the Delta County Board of Commissioners played an important role in making the transportation program a reality. Among other things, they encouraged the Hannahville community to support the program.

“It shows the commitment that the board of commissioners has for our veterans,” he said.

Dziewior said he is optimistic about the office’s new program.

“I think it’s going to be a great program,” he said.

For more information, or to volunteer for driving duties, contact Dziewior at (906) 786-7228.