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Finding rides for veterans

During his long career, Milt Batson has seen a lot of hurting fellow vets, going back to the Vietnam War. These days, he is seeing them pour into the county from conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle East hot spots.

Some of these returning warriors can have their medical needs taken care of at the clinic on Morro Street in San Luis Obispo. Many others, however, need the broader level of care provided at the clinic in Santa Maria. Still others need to go to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles.

But there isn’t always a way for them to get there.

Batson, the commander of the San Luis Obispo Disabled American Veterans, Memorial chapter 45, wants to change that. “I want to make it as easy as possible” for them, he says.

With that in mind, he is issuing a call to veterans to volunteer in a program under which they would take their comrades to — and from — veterans’ clinics.

Volunteers need a standard California driver’s license, with insurance; the VA will handle maintenance and gas. 

He is asking volunteer drivers to donate a minimum of four consecutive hours once a week, at the same time each week. Drivers will be assigned to their closest VA clinic.

This is not a small matter in San Luis Obispo County, which has a large number of veterans — Batson puts the tally at 23,000, close to 10 percent of the population.

Like those he seeks to help, Batson is a veteran, from the Vietnam era. He worked in missile silos in the Dakotas during the height of America’s Cold War with the Soviet Union. Being around death-dealing missiles at that time was potentially an “end of the world as we know it” job, and it left Batson with hypertension.

But he would just as soon not dwell on his own service to the country, which is ongoing. He wants to help his comrades.

To that end, he is also involved in the “job and resource fair and homeless stand down” Thursday. It is designed to help veterans find work, claw their way through the government’s bureaucracy, and even get haircuts.

The stand down is an all-services-provided affair for veterans. It will take place at the Veterans Memorial Building, 801 Grand Ave. in San Luis Obispo, with VA assistance beginning at 7:30 a.m. The job and resource fair will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Batson is the point person for the chapter, at 788-2687. Meanwhile, he continues to seek drivers for the clinics. He needs 20 in all and had six or seven committed last week.

So, all you veterans out there, what do you say? Four hours a week to help a comrade-in-arms? It doesn’t seem like that much of an effort, and in addition to helping folks who deserve help, you might make a few new friends.

If you’re so inclined, contact (oh, what a surprise) Milt Batson at 481-2622 after 6 p.m., or email him at milt.batson@edd.ca.gov.

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