The money goes to local Disabled American Veterans chapters where it will be used to help veterans get the care, medical or otherwise, they need, said Charles Fisher, a former Alabama DAV Commander.
It’s a yearly fundraiser for local DAV chapters, and one the volunteer organization counts on to help vets in need.
Fisher was joined at the restaurant by the current state commander, Dave Riley, of Semmes. Riley lost all four limbs from a bacterial infection in 1997 while serving as a rescue swimmer in the U.S. Coast Guard.
The DAV is a nationwide nonprofit volunteer service organization that helps vets with various needs.
“Rather than going to tell them ‘goodbye’ we think it’s better to tell them ‘welcome back,’ because they’re going to have problems,” Fisher said.
Service officers in each DAV chapter assist veterans in getting care, whether it’s help with paperwork or providing transportation to doctors’ visits.
A new program started this year called Fully Developed Claims works to speed up the time it takes vets to receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The program is a joint effort of the VA, the DAV and the American Legion in which volunteers help gather the records vets need to get care.
“It cuts down on the time by about a year-and-a-half, minimum, having it all there the first time,” said Chad Richmond, Alabama’s DAV adjutant and a district committee member.
Younger vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are receiving more attention than ever, Richmond said, because “their injuries are not necessarily visible.”
DAV volunteers are seeing many vets with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, Richmond said.
Riley is making it his mission as state DAV commander to help encourage those vets to reconnect with their lives.
“We try to get them off the couch, get them out of the house and talking with their peers. Get them to engage again,” Riley said.
Programs like the winter sports clinic called Miracles on the Mountain organized by the VA each year in Snowmass Village, Colo., help give severely injured vets their lives back, said Fisher.
Riley has participated in the event three times, where vets take part in six days of skiing.
“It’s what turned me around initially,” Riley said.
Riley said he struggled for 10 years after he lost his limbs.
“Life was not fun for me anymore. They got me up there and got me involved. Showed me I can still do things, and there are people with like minds that have the same problems that I have, and that I wasn’t unique,” Riley said.
Today, the former rescue swimmer spends his days speaking to groups about what the DAV can do for vets who, like him, might find themselves in need of a lifeline.
The Oxford Golden Corral feeds vets for free each Veteran’s Day, and allows fundraiser like the one Friday that help keep the volunteer organization going, Richmond said.
From building wheelchair ramps to renovating a vet’s home to better accommodate a disability, or helping homeless veterans find shelter or get them to a VA hospital for care, the money goes to good use, Richmond explained.
“The return that you get from volunteering is worth more than money. I’ve always said ‘there’s nothing better than to see a vet smile,’” Fisher said.
The DAV fundraiser at the Oxford Golden Corral will continue today, from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Those wishing to volunteer to drive for the DAV’s vet transportation service may contact Gary Cobb, commander of the DAV’s Anniston-based chapter, at 256-310-6476.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.